What is a team leader?
A team leader is a professional that provides direction, guidance, and support to a group of people working together to achieve shared goals. As a team leader, it's important to establish a compelling vision, set clear objectives, delegate tasks, empower team members, foster collaboration, manage conflict, and motivate the team. Excellent communication skills and emotional intelligence are key.
What is team leadership?
Team leadership refers to the process of leading, guiding, and managing a group of individuals working together to accomplish tasks and achieve results. It involves utilizing strategies and skills to align, inspire, and motivate a team. Effective team leadership builds trust, cultivates teamwork, increases efficiency, and drives results.
Ways to achieve strong team leadership?
1. Create a Healthy Work Environment
As much as your employees want to give their best and achieve the company’s goals, they can’t do it in a toxic environment. When they don’t have the right tools to do their job, they will improvise, compromising on product quality. The stress level will reach high peaks too. When they work in an unhealthy space, they will try to stay away as much as possible by asking for more time off, taking long breaks, and missing work often. If the team dynamic doesn’t function, people will waste their time and energy in conflicts and stressful situations.
A healthy work environment means putting the right people in the right place. It means giving them enough space to feel free and creative and enough collaborative work to befriend and support each other. As a leader, you should have a holistic perspective on your team’s work environment and consider the smallest details based on employee feedback.
2. Be Empathic
In many situations, you won’t agree with your employees. It doesn’t mean they are wrong. You just have different opinions or sensitivity levels. You should listen to them and try to understand their perspective as a leader. Put yourself in their shoes and try to see the bigger picture.
Maybe they have problems at home. Perhaps they face insecurities or are bullied by a colleague. Try to understand their reasons and find the best solution for everyone. Instead of asking, “What are you doing?” ask, “How are you today?” or “Is everything OK?”
Find below 10 methods on how to become a more empathic leader:
- Be genuinely interested in your team-members activities
- Schedule one-on-one meetings
- Look for burnout among your coworkers
- Use employee analytics tools
- Help your peers on personal issues
- Develop your listening skills
- Be more flexible at work
- Learn to anticipate your employees' needs
- Recognize and accept different perspectives
- Communicate everything (even the not-so-good aspects).
3. Boost Confidence by Delegating Tasks
Building trust at work starts within the smallest teams. Teams can be of 2, 5, or more coworkers, yet, the way to build confidence and trust stays the same. And the best way to do it is to delegate tasks and responsibilities and show people you are confident in their abilities and commitment. You can start with online employee self-service tools and grant people access to their work-related records and leave balances, allowing them to manage their time off. Then, you can move to more delicate tasks like helping a new colleague, taking responsibility for a task, or planning a future project. A good leader understands that micromanagement and watching over employees like an eagle is not a viable solution.
4. Prioritize Truly Important Work
A team leader is an interface between management and the team. And you should be on your team’s side. Listen to their feedback when planning a project, and don’t overwhelm them for the sake of productivity. Learn to prioritize and reach the management expectations without loading your team with unnecessary tasks. If this isn’t possible, stick up for your team and don’t allow opportunities for criticism and failure.
Often, a team's productivity rises when they do important tasks and don’t waste time on useless meetings, following complicated procedures, or doing manual tasks that could easily be automated.
5. Build on Patterns
When you have clarity over the team’s calendar, you know exactly who is planning to take leave, the coworkers you can count on, the leave clash periods, and presence peaks. Consequently, you rely on valuable data to help you spot patterns and make informed decisions. A simple HR app can put things for you and deliver accurate data whenever needed.
Patterns allow you to create continuity and habit. Investing in understanding time patterns, work, or collaboration patterns, you will start to plan better and avoid failure and conflicts. You get to know your team and improve their work experience. And you can easily notice when something is wrong, or someone is disturbing the team. Good team support relies on healthy patterns.
Learn more about the team's vacation calendar.
6. Treasure Time
The most valuable resource of a team is time. However, many teams lose a lot of time with repetitive tasks, useless procedures, and bureaucracy. It’s your job to get more time back by streamlining processes and communication. As an interface between employees and management, you should ensure they benefit from smooth and straightforward HR processes, clear communication channels, and all the necessary automated tools.
You can win time by using software systems, developing a better workflow, and improving the team dynamic. You can also get some time back by not allowing management to impose complex procedures that don’t match your team’s profile.
Discover additional time management techniques.
7. Be Transparent
Transparency goes a long way. It shows that you lead by example and have nothing to hide, inspiring and motivating people to be better professionals. You can support your team by granting them access to modern HR solutions that ensure transparency, equity, and inclusivity. Everyone should have access to their data and simple tools to request time off. As a result, employees will be more responsible, plan better, and engage more with the company.
In response, you will know your team's balance in real-time and be able to spot absenteeism patterns and act before it is too late. You will also earn time by automating payroll reports and other employee management tasks. So transparency is a win-win situation.
8. Focus on the Mindset
Good teamwork begins with the right mindset. And a good leader knows how to build on authentic principles and help their team blossom. You don’t want a conflictual environment where absurd competitiveness, envy, and malice take over. Good teamwork means people are willing to help each other and work together for a common goal.
Building a healthy mindset requires good examples, encouraging healthy behaviors, and a stress-free approach. Company culture plays a role here; the same comes with how the new hires are being onboarded or what examples they receive from their managers. One thing is sure: encouraging and developing your employees to be better coworkers creates a stronger team.
9. Show Your Appreciation
The team leader should acknowledge employees' service and show appreciation for their hard work. Value each person for their strengths and express your true feelings and opinions on every occasion. To ensure you don’t miss any milestone or celebration, rely on a good HR app to keep the team’s calendar updated and send notifications before every event. Birthdays and work anniversaries are the best occasions to be present, recognize people’s value, and send a few heartfelt words.
But don’t limit showing your appreciation just to formal events. Each week or month, your employees accomplish something that deserves recognition and appreciation. It may be finding an innovative solution to an old problem, finishing a task, helping a colleague, or lifting someone’s morale.
Related: Discover 50+ appreciation quotes.
10. Invest in Education and Growth
One of the best ways to support your team is by encouraging personal and professional employee development. You can do that by organizing training sessions within the team, sending them to industry-related events, and supporting continuing their education.
Don’t forget about their well-being and personal growth. Investing in health programs, sports, emotional intelligence courses, or art classes may benefit employees and the company in the long term.Illustration via G2
11. Check-in Regularly
People want to be heard and listened to. They have problems and are looking for solutions from more experienced staff. However, if someone is more introverted, it might not be straightforward to open up and share the bottlenecks encountered within the work. Fear might be another aspect that might stop the employee from making the first step in asking for help. Take into consideration that some people have a big ego, and for them, asking for help might not be an option.
Regular one-on-one meetings with your direct reports create a stronger bond between you and your coworkers and help you understand where each employee is succeeding and where they might need some support. You can be creative and have these meetings in a different place than the usual office or zoom call. You can go for a walk, to a gym, or why not at a restaurant close to the office.
Another way to check with your team members is the weekly meetings, where you can update them on what has been achieved, what is still ongoing, and what is new and requires support. The weekly sessions are excellent ways to identify the key performers, the hard-working people that strive for perfection, the strategists, and the helping hands. The team meetings allow you to set direction and decide on the essential long-term priorities as a team.
12. Reflect on the Big Picture
Sometimes if you're stuck with work keeping you busy, it's very difficult to understand where you are with your team and what adjustments are needed to go to the next level. Setting aside time for strategy and tactics is highly important because how you lead will determine the results your team achieves. Additionally, you might think about innovative ways to do the same work faster and more effectively. Or conduct some analysis with the most trusted colleagues to see if the organization needs an additional workforce or must let some toxic people go. There are even some creative ways to understand how you can improve the company culture or boost retention; however, you need to detach from operational tasks and focus more on the vision.
And if you're a fresh team manager, do not hesitate to ask for help; maybe someone with some years of managing high-performing teams can become your mentor and guide you on various issues you might encounter. Lack of accountability might be one that you need to address if you want the team to work at full speed.
In your quest for setting the vision for your company, you might find useful the Vision traction organizer by Gino Wickman.
13. Empower & Inspire Others
There are times when you will see beyond what team members will see. Let's see a concrete scenario. When someone delivers a great social media campaign, you might see that person as a Marketing coordinator in one year. Because of this, you might allocate tasks to that person that will develop the marketing skills that person, and if the campaigns continue to be successful, then the promotion will be more evident.
Nevertheless, you need to offer everyone the possibility to express their voice and share their concerns or suggestions on delivering better work. Within the weekly meetings, you can share what is the upcoming work and ask for "volunteers" to follow the opportunity to take ownership and shine. If the team is strong and balanced, you will see committed people striving for excellence that motivates themselves without external factors. You can do the same by participating in hot conferences or valuable training. By doing so, you're increasing your staff's engagement and boot commitment, and productivity.
14. Set Reasonable Goals
As a leader, you need to set a purpose for the team. You need to focus on goals that, if achieved, will bring success to your team. Some organizations - especially the ones in tech use frameworks like OKR - Objectives and Key Results, other SMART goals. And since a set of tasks - contribute to each goal, you can use technology in your favor. There are many tools to help allocate tasks in a balanced way, check progress, and evaluate which tasks are advancing and which are lagging and might need support or relocation. Such practices help to align your organization around goals, boost team performance and motivate your coworkers to do exceptional work.
Here is a brief description of the SMART goals framework.
|Specific||What exactly do I want to achieve? Why? Who is involved? Where is it located?|
|Measurable||How much? How many? How will I know when it is accomplished?|
|Achievable||How can I accomplish this goal? What are the logical steps I should take?|
|Realistic||Given the resources and constraints, can I realistically achieve this goal?|
|Time-bound||When? What can I do today? What can I do in the next seven days? What can I do six weeks/months from now?|
Considering that if people work remotely, there might be challenging to spot which employees are under pressure. If this is not monitored, some of your peers can get frustrated with too much work, leading to absenteeism or burnout.
One goal suggestion for you as a leader: develop your emotional intelligence skills. Identifying, expressing, and regulating emotions is essential for successful management of any team. Additionally, you will have a much more developed sense of self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills that are highly valuable in the context of leading teams.
FAQHow to improve team leadership skills?
To improve your team leadership skills and abilities, here are some tips:
- Listen closely to understand your team members' needs, challenges, and ideas. Seek feedback regularly.
- Coach team coworkers to help them develop the skills required to do their jobs better and more impactful. Customize your leadership style to what motivates each individual.
- Promote open communication and collaboration. Foster creativity by encouraging team members to share perspectives.
- Set clear goals and expectations. Track progress and provide constructive feedback to keep the team focused.
- Lead by example. Model the behaviors and work ethic you expect from your team.
- Build relationships and trust by being transparent, approachable, and reliable. Recognize achievements.
- Develop your emotional intelligence to effectively manage conflict, motivate people, and read group dynamics.
- Take accountability for the team's successes and failures. Strive for continuous improvement.
- Prioritize teamwork, inclusion, and ethics. Seek diverse perspectives and foster a collaborative culture.
Being a good leader requires honesty and dedication. These two skills aren’t one recipe for success. Because each team is different, you must apply a different strategy to create a high-performing group. We believe that you found new techniques to use in your leadership toolkit in this guide. And don’t forget to empower your staff by giving them a voice and listening to their suggestions and complaints. Take advantage of all available tools to release them from repetitive and time-consuming tasks, create a healthy work environment, and improve communication. Show them you are on their side and have their back in any situation.