The team leader sets the standards and goals for the team. The established team goals, aims and rules to operate by will disappear if they are not demonstrated by and held to high regard by the team lead, which makes this position very critical. Consider a team with established standards of never being late or never leaving a job unfinished. The team lead sets the standard for how things are done. There is no greater way to demonstrate your expectations of your team than by performing in the manner you expect your team members to perform. In leadership, actions speak louder than words.

Lead Well to Get Results As a Team

The team lead needs at all times to focus on team results, not individual success. When you go from individual performer to team lead, your focus also has to shift from standing out from your peers to focusing on and rewarding team success at the expense of accolades aimed at you. While you may not get the chance to build your own team, the overall success doesn’t just rest on your shoulders. It really does require a team effort. So what does a team lead do that is so important?

1. Encourage individual professionalism.

The leader has to make sure that each team member is not only technically proficient, but also a student of their profession. Your team will be all over the map on this. Junior guys, mid-level, senior-level, whatever. Meet with each person and assess their abilities with their buy-in. Help each person work out a plan for how to get to the next level of proficiency and the next, then the next. This is career planning. Find out what their dreams and plans are. Help them achieve their goals and they will help you achieve your goals for team success. Their role on your team today is just a step in their career. Make it a step where they learn how to be successful, how to lead, and how to set and achieve goals.

2. Set non-technical goals.

As lead, you will be in a position to know what these goals should be. Years ago (mid-‘90s), I led a team of computer operators. Aside from the technical requirements of the job, there were incorrect government and site perceptions related to CO work ethic and value to the site. Because I was in a position to know these perceptions, I set up non-technical goals to reverse those negative (and incorrect) perceptions. Once you have goals, you put in place a strategy to address each of those goals. Find out what your non-technical challenges are and incorporate a strategy that turns a negative into a positive. When you combine this with solid technical performance, your team will be unstoppable.

3. Monitor performance.

There are multiple ways to do this. Just make sure that you are accessible to your team. Have them show you what they have done. Give credit where it is due. All of the leadership sayings apply here. Reward openly, reprimand privately, and so on. Your goal in this regard is to build individual performers as well as achieving team performance.

4. Ensure smooth communications.

Smooth communications are quick, timely and effective. Many teams have to work together to achieve success. Poor communications can derail team performance.

5. Represent your team to the world.

The team lead is the focal point for obtaining and passing on feedback on performance and for ensuring that the organization knows what your team has accomplished.

The Team Lead Role And your career

Team leadership is frequently your first foray into management. It may be your first opportunity to look out for the professional well-being of more than just yourself. You will need to interface directly with customers, and you will need to set and monitor both technical and behavioral goals for the team. Here you get to implement performance strategies and make adjustments on the fly, all while aiming for excellence in performance. Do well in this role and you may be in charge of departments in the future. Hone your skills in dealing with customers, peers, and staff. Ensure consistency and make a difference every day. If you do this right, you will be surprised at how your career advances.


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Todd Keys is a Program Manager at Cantada, Inc. He has been in the intelligence Community for 30 years, as a member of the military (USAF), and as a contractor for top 100, top 10, and small business federal defense contractors. He has held multiple roles, CONUS and OCONUS, ranging from technician to executive, providing site O&M, system administration, engineering, supervision, contract management, and Capture/BD for the DoD and multiple intelligence agencies.