Are we getting the best out of Team Leaders?

I have read so many adverse reports about leaders over the years. It seems we are not getting the best out of team leaders in the workplace.  Having worked in various team leader roles for several years, I felt compelled to stand up and throw in a different perspective.   I’ve read quotes such as:

  • “Three-quarters of employees report a lack of leadership and management skills, and too many team leaders have inflated opinions of their ability to manage    people.”
  • “More than six out of ten people employed in customer-facing sales and service roles say that their team leaders’ behaviour towards them [Negatively] affects the   level of customer service they deliver.”
  • “Poor people management is at the root of much of the evil in our economy.”
  • “Estimated cost of poor management in the UK is £19 Billion a year!”

What on earth is going on?  If I were still a team leader, I think I’d be feeling pretty battered by now.

Leadership vs management

The difference between leadership and management is not always clear.   We employ people who manage and complain they don’t lead.  Leadership Models are defined as leading from the front, creating a vision and thinking outside of the box.  Attributes most can execute in their teams, but the lead comes from above.  People who manage often work in an environment where senior leaders have decided on vision and values.  The board determines outcomes and results.  The team leader’s job is to make things happen and get things done—hardly a way to get the best out of them.

We want team leaders to focus on people. Outcomes and targets are mainly task-orientated.

The multi-faceted Team Leader

There was an advert a few years ago that featured a mother wearing different hats.  When her little girl cut her knee, she had a nurse cap on.  When helping her son with his homework, she donned the mortarboard.  Finally, when cooking dinner, she wore a chef’s hat. Team leaders are like mothers, they have many roles and wear many hats.

They have to lead the detail around people and budgets.  They manage results locally and globally. Responsibilities include the environment they work in, change management, training needs, absence, performance, initiatives, projects, the business plan, the people plan, stakeholders, partners, customers, reward, reviews, income, communications, processes, media, social responsibility, diversity and of course the work.

There are some excellent qualifications for team leaders.  In some organisations, the pay is competitive. It’s not clear whether the rewards give credit for the demanding, time-consuming, multi-talented role they have to play in an organisation’s success. Rarely do junior or middle team leaders get audible praise for the part they play in organisational success.  High-profile leaders tend to receive applause.

How to get the best out of Team Leaders

Be clear about their primary function

At the recruitment stage, be clear about why you need the team leader.  If their primary function is people management, make sure they have people management skills.  If you want a people manager a successful candidate has written an outstanding thesis on your range of products and the best way to sell them. You are probably on the wrong track.

Develop them

Develop their potential while they are with the organisation.  Make sure they have inspirational role models. Make sure they are clear about the skills, behaviours and standards expected of them.

Set them outcomes about how they Lead their team

If your organisation only has aims and targets based on product or service, that’s where your team leaders will place their attention.  If you want an excellent management ethos in your organisation, set targets around how people are managed.  Managers immediately influence the value of employee experience.

Set clear expectations

As CEO, you need to be clear about their priorities and how you measure their performance.  If you move the goalposts, involve them in the decision.

Value Team Leaders as much as specialists

If you employ specialists or professionals, value your managers as much as, if not more than your specialist or professional contribution.

Give credit

Give your team leaders skilled professional roles, and you should acknowledge that.

Deal with poor Team Leader performance

Like any other role, if team leaders are not performing well, they must be made accountable.  If good results are being achieved at the expense of the treatment of their team, then the leader must tackle this.

I believe that the focus on underperforming team leadership is that they are such a pivotal and impactful force in an organisation.  So let’s raise the standards of our team leaders and have better businesses, but also give credit when team leaders are doing a great job and value them.

I hope you enjoyed my small but heartfelt accolade to the team leader.  What do you think?  Do you agree?  Why do you think managers are getting such poor press?

Image courtesy of Depositphotos

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I help leaders develop self- mastery, helping them to become confident in their own inner guidance.

I collaborate with leadership experts, managers and HR professionals to help them get their own message and unique services and products to a wide audience.