“The art of life is a constant readjustment to our surroundings”.
The transition from team member to team leader is not easy. Managing the people who used to be your colleagues or even friends can be challenging, intimidating and overwhelming. There always be a chance that your former co-workers will not give you the support or the respect you deserve or they will feel awkward being honest and open with you. You are not anymore their buddy, but a person who will judge their work, review their performance, discipline them and have high expectations in accordance with the organizational needs. It might even be difficult to hit all the roadblocks that will come along the way while you are trying to adjust to your new role. You might find yourself being isolated and confused.
How can you smooth the transition from team member to team leader?
1. Be self-aware and reflect on your new role.
You have suddenly entered a different zone from a team member to a person that has to take decisions in a way that you have not imagined before. Effective leadership begins with being self-aware. Self-awareness is about being honest with yourself about the things you are good at while acknowledging your weaknesses and what you still have to learn. Building your self-awareness is the most valuable skill that you can acquire as a new promising leader. It will save you from confusion and prepare you for the challenges that will come up. It will let you understand what you need for your team, it will explain your successes and failures and it will be a strong fundamental to effective leadership. In order to start being more self-aware ask yourself a set of questions that will give you more clarity on your new role like:
-What does this role mean to you?
-Which are your limits and what can you accomplish in a finite period of time?
-Where do you need to pay attention to?
-What old behaviors will you have to leave behind and what new behaviors or approaches will you adopt?
-How will you manage conflicts, give feedback, handle difficult conversations and how will you help your team to excel?
-Are you resilient enough to deal with new demands, changes and adversity?
- How will you expand your skills to be adequate for your new position?
2. Get some support or mentoring from your manager.
When you make a career transition, it will be useful to get some support from your own manager. Seek out the knowledge and wisdom of your manager as he will not only help you to think your new role and responsibilities, but will also help you to develop your leadership approach and style. Your success or failure is his responsibility because you are a reflection of his leadership as well. Challenge your manager to articulate what he wants for you and how to be more effective. Observe him and ask questions like:
-What is the most difficult part of being a leader?
-How does he perceive people who challenge his abilities and leadership qualities?
-What does he think would be the best approach to a matter that concerns you?
-How would he handle a difficult situation if he was in a similar position?
3. Set up new ways of working with your team.
Stepping up to a new role means that you need to identify what will remain the same in the way you work and what will need to change. You might need to set up new processes on the way you work and you might need to involve your team in thinking how you will better work all together. Tackle new skills and refine the abilities of the team all the time. Learn and grow by challenging yourself and your team.
4. Be clear.
As a new team leader, you need to have clear guidelines on the culture and the objectives you want to achieve and how you will tackle performance issues. In order to build a solid relationship with your former co-workers, you need to clarify the roles and the expectations you have in the beginning. Show your team how you expect them to work. You are not their buddy anymore and your expectations are different. Together with your team clarify:
-How will you be organized to accomplish your goals and your targets?
-What planning and problem-solving process are you going to use in case of a failure or conflict?
-How will you make decisions?
-How will you keep up to date on the team’s progress?
-How will you communicate between meetings?
-Do your team members need any special training and what will you do to provide it?
5. Communicate with your team.
Nothing can be achieved without an ongoing and efficient communication strategy.Communication is more than just talking face-to-face with your new team. It entails a lot of different components to achieve trust, strong bonds and a sense of loyalty. Although you got a new position, it does not mean that you will be isolated from the rest of the team. Remove barriers and encourage an open environment, where everyone is welcome to discuss issues, concerns or suggestions for improvement. Have coffee breaks or lunch with team members as usual and not only with the management team. Request some feedback from your team on how you perform in your new role and what they would like to see from you. Be creative and implement a few strategies that will make your transition smoother!
“You don’t hire for skills, you hire for attitude. You can always teach skills.”