8 Tips for Success as a Team Leader

Take These Actions and Your Success as a Team Lead Is Assured

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You're a team leader! Congratulations on your leadership role. But, what exactly does a team leader do? It's not quite a manager role - most team leaders don't have hire/fire power over their team members - but it's not the same as being a regular individual contributor.

While every company and every department will vary, here are some of the things that all team leaders can do to make their teams and their leadership role a success.

Be fair. As team leader, you often get to assign tasks or even set the schedule. You may like some of your team members more than others, but that doesn't mean you should show preferences.

If you're having trouble with fairness – and team member complaints are one way to gauge your efforts - ask your manager to look over the task assignments or assign jobs without names or let a different person pick first each week.

Lead by example. Team leaders generally do the work alongside of their team members. If you're gossiping or slacking off, your team will lose all respect for you. Instead, work hard. Set the example for what you expect from your teammates. Don't talk about team members (or others) behind their backs.

When a team member comes to you with a complaint about a coworker, figure out if this is a problem or just whining. If it's just whining, shut it down. If it's a true problem, solve it.

But, don't gossip about it. Either fix it or don't talk about it.

Take on the unpleasant tasks. You may think that now that you're the lead, you're finally exempt from doing the tasks that you always hated. For instance, if you're the team lead in a store, your team might be responsible for cleaning the customer restrooms.

Make sure you're on the schedule for that. While it's an unpleasant task, your team members will respect you if they see you taking your turn.

Make the tough decisions. While you generally don't have hire/fire authority, you are responsible for making recommendations to those that do have this authority. This can mean that you are included in job interviews for prospective employees who will potentially join your team.

Sometimes this means that you have to recommend or enforce disciplinary action on a coworker whom you think of as a friend. Sometimes it means recommending a suspension or even a termination for a team member.

You may find disciplinary actions difficult, but they’re critical to your team's success. You must handle the problems when they occur.

Follow the law. If one of your team members has a baby and takes 12 weeks of FMLA approved leave, when she returns, you may be tempted to give her the unpleasant tasks - after all, she's been gone for three months. This is, however, against the law.

You can't punish someone for taking legally approved leave – it’s called retaliation if you do and it’s growing as a reason for why employees sue employers – so it’s common. Treat her like she's been there all along.

Likewise, if you have an employee with a disability, work with your manager and the Human Resources department and the employee to develop reasonable accommodations required by law.

Record all overtime. Don't allow employees to work off the clock - never, ever ask a coworker to do it. Make sure that you follow all of the laws and ask your manager or HR if you have questions.

Follow company policy. Sometimes you may want to grant an exception to a company policy, but don't do so without approval from your boss. The reason for company policies may not be immediately clear to you, but it's critical that you follow them in order to protect you and the company from accusations of illegal discrimination.

For instance, you may not think it's a big deal to grant an exception to Jane, but not John, but if it's not done for the proper reasons, John could claim discrimination.

Be happy. This might seem silly and unnecessary, but your attitude sets the example for the entire group. If you're positive and pleasant, it can make your whole team work harder – and better together.

Stand up for your team members. Never, ever, ever throw a team member under the bus. If you want to celebrate their successes, support them in their failures. Remember that mistakes happen and you should work to fix them, not simply blame people for them.

Leading a team marks a great step forward in your career. Make sure you approach leading the team the right way and you'll find success.