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Tips for New Team Leaders

Posted on November 03, 2014 by: Lisa Koss

01 Org XToday we received these business tips in our inbox from Harvard Business School Management.  We like them, but have added some caveats at the bottom of this post.

“New team leaders often skip over the basics of team building in a rush to start achieving goals. But your actions in the first few weeks and months have a major impact on whether your team delivers results. Here’s how to set things up for success:

  • Get to know one another. Resist the urge to jump right into the work and focus instead on fostering camaraderie with team-building exercises.
  • Showcase your values. Explain what’s behind each of your decisions, what your priorities are, and how you will evaluate the team’s performance.
  • Explain how you want the team to work. Not everyone knows the best ways to ask for help or go about tasks. Set expectations and explain processes.
  • Set or clarify goals. Make clear what the team is working toward and how you expect to get there. Setting goals early on lays the framework for holding team members accountable. “

Our Comment:  We like these as 4 good ideas to get started with a new team and the emphasis it puts on clarifying expectations.  But don’t forget that understanding your team’s values and preferences should be part of the discussion that follows.  Imagine that your values actually conflict with theirs!  Especially in cross-cultural teams, what a “good team member” looks like, or what constitutes “good leadership” will change.  In some cultures, for example, team members keep quiet until asked to speak.

I hear some leaders who like to start by saying they are direct, open and honest.  These behaviors may take time to learn for those who have learned indirectness and who have learned the art of communicating difficult messages while allowing the other to “save face”.  In sum, simply stating what you value makes your preference clear but may be difficult for others to understand, appreciate, or integrate.

Our Tip:  We recommend you facilitate a conversation where  the team also defines their own views about values, asking for help, teamwork, leadership.  In a conversation about the team’s values, for example, make a list of examples of what that word means to each.  If they say “trust” is important, make a list of what that looks like in practice for each person.  Record what they say for use in checking in as time goes on to see if the team is adhering to what they say matters.  In doing this you learn a lot about the people you’re leading …and – when done well – build the trust you seek at the same time.


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