Leading a project team is even more challenging than managing a department; even more so if one has to lead an inter-disciplinary team. A manager has the pull of controlling their employees’ performance reviews and therefore their raises, while a team leader doesn’t. So, it takes considerably more leadership skill to be a team leader than it does to be a manager.
Even so, companies are gradually switching over to using more and more inter-disciplinary teams to get things done, rather than just assigning a project to a particular department. While there are some good reasons for doing this, it makes life challenging for whoever is put in charge of those teams.
The first trick to making a team work is to get all the team members to buy into the team’s task, project or responsibilities. That can be challenging in and of itself, at least if old management techniques are used. If the team leader acts like a manager, making all the decisions and telling people what to do, he’s not going to accomplish much of anything. His team will resent him, ignoring him and putting their effort into tasks assigned to them by their managers.
On the other hand, if the team members are involved in defining the team, its plans and its strategies, they are much more likely to buy into the team and become active advocates for it. People will always put more effort into something that they helped create, than they will into something that is assigned to them.
To a large part, a team leader’s work isn’t so much managing the team’s project as it is acting as a cheerleader for the team members. People everywhere are looking for recognition and acceptance. When they are recognized for their contributions to the team, it motivates them to give more to the team, perhaps even making the team’s activities take priority over their normal workload.
The other part of leading a team, which dovetails nicely with the first part, is to help make each team member a success. A team leader who functions as a facilitator, helping come up with the necessary resources for team members, helps them to be successful. They will appreciate that effort, realizing that the team leader cares about them and their career, not just about the project that they are working on.
To do this, the team leader must be more people oriented than task oriented. Instead of being focused on the project that the team is working to complete, they have to be more focused on the people who are going to complete the project. By taking care of them, their needs and their future, the team leader frees them of those concerns, allowing them to focus their energies on the project. Instead of striving to motivate them to accomplish the work, the team leader finds them motivating themselves, setting goals and beating them.
Effective team leaders accomplish a lot for the companies and organizations that they work for. But, unlike managers, who are focused of the tasks at hand, they are focused on the hands doing the tasks. That little difference makes a huge difference in the success that their team can achieve.
For more on leading a team, check out the BSBWOR502A course on Ensuring Team Effectiveness.
This article was published in Equipped, Fortress Learning’s free monthly magazine for success. You can subscribe to receive Equipped here