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What does it take to be an effective team leader?

Not much, you may assume, as it is the team member who does the
dirty work.

When the going is good, the leader can bask in reflected glory.
However, when the going is not so good, he is in the direct line of fire
and is held accountable for any goof-up by a team member.

Get Ahead gives you a ready reckoner on how to be a beacon of light
for your team members, come rain or shine.
Some people are born leaders.
Wherever they go, they don the hat of
the leader. However, most people
succeed as team leaders not because
they are destined to but because they
are determined to.

Simple information -- like who is in charge of the project, what are the
team members' primary and secondary responsibilities, what is the
deadline, what is the team's cumulative target, what is each individual's
contribution towards achieving the team's objectives, in which direction is
the team headed, on which parameters is the quality of performance going
to be assessed -- goes a long way in clarifying roles and expectations.

Most misunderstandings occur in the long run because things are not made
crystal-clear at the very onset.

Example :- Take the case of Roshni, a senior customer service
representative at a reputed call centre. When her team leader asked her to
walk the floor in his absence, she assumed he was grooming her to step in
his shoes. She made no bones of the fact that she considered herself to be
the chosen one.
1. Open communication channels

Poor communication skills can be the kiss of
death for a team leader. If you are not
precise and clear about what you expect from
your team members, you will not get the
crisp action and results you want.

However, she got a rude shock when the promotions were announced. It
took her a while to realise that she was reading too much into things. Being
asked to shoulder extra responsibility does not necessarily translate into a

~ One needs to possess the required qualifications, expertise, domain
knowledge and be adept at people management to bag a promotion.

~ Make sure your team knows that you are approachable and you consider
them worthy of your time.

~ Every member of the team has strengths required to make the team
successful. So, each should be treated with the same respect.

~ An informal atmosphere is an added advantage.

Management guru Robert Townsend, who wrote the bestselling book Further
Up the Organization, hit the nail on the head when he said, 'If you are the
boss and your people fight you openly when they think that you are wrong,
that's healthy.'
~ An effective rule for managing issues is: When you hear it, write about it.
This ensures that all related details are recorded and can be subsequently
reviewed. Each issue can then be prioritised and attended to accordingly.

~ Townsend states, 'An important task of a manager is to reduce his people's
excuses for failure.' These excuses later on take the form of issues or

2.Anticipate problems

It is up to the team leader to be farsighted,
anticipate problems that may plague the team
in the future and take preventive measures.
Effective problem solving requires discipline
and organisation.
As long as they remain unresolved, safe and valid excuses for delay and
unaccountability will exist in the minds of the team members. The solution
lies in nipping the problem in the bud.

For instance, if your team members crib that they have a lot on their plate
and hence cannot make time to follow systems and processes, sanction them
half a day's time, officially, to get things in order.

Explain to them the importance of doing things right at the first go. Once
systems and processes are set, the team members have no option but to
align themselves accordingly.

They will respect you for your farsightedness and efficiency in in the long run
though they may crib initially at the changes you have brought about,
especially if they are not used to maintaining records.

~ You need to gauge your team members accurately. It is only by
understanding their individual work preferences, core competencies,
motivation levels, areas of improvement and strengths that you will be in a
position to assign them tasks accordingly. Walk the job. The need of the
hour is for a hands-on boss.

~ The Boss needs to be approachable when the situation so demands. If
your team member has goofed up in the process of learning the ropes,
help him save face. Start damage control immediately. Get the required
support and flex your muscle to get things moving during an emergency.

~ If one of your team members is finding it difficult to meet his deadline,
get a colleague, who is relatively free, to chip in. Two brains are better
than one. Your team members will definitely appreciate your sense of
solidarity and respect you more for saving the day for them.
3.Be helpful, not forceful
Gone are the days where the command and
control format applied. Leadership as of today is
all about guiding -- not ruling. People
management skills are a pre-requisite for
anybody aspiring to be a team leader.

~ The first thing a team leader needs to get straight is that his team will
not trust him because he considers himself to be trustworthy.
Anyone who has ever walked a corporate corridor knows that trusting the
wrong person has led to many an executive's downfall in the long run.
What you may have mentioned to a colleague whom you considered to be a
friend over a couple of drinks may become a topic of debate and discussion
by the higher management in their next meeting. When power and
authority are at stake, the trust factor takes a backseat.

~As we all work in such high-pressured environments, our defences are
naturally up. It takes a leader with sterling personal qualities of professional
integrity, courage, industry, maturity and most importantly, the ability to
inspire trust in his team members, to deliver the goods.

4.Trust is the key
No relationship is long-lasting or
worthwhile if trust is missing. This holds
equally true for the team leader and team
member relationship.

~It is the moral responsibility of the team leader to shield his team from any
problems that can occur in the distant future as well as any management
decisions that can harm his team in any way. He needs to exhibit trust-
building behaviour. He needs to trust his team members before they trust
him. It works both ways.

~ As the team leader is the connection between the team and the higher
management, he needs to work in tandem with both parties to obtain a full
commitment from the management in support of the team's programme.
It is his responsibility to ensure his team members are making maximum use
of the resources and the support provided. He needs to earn the trust of both
parties to meet his objectives. Betrayal of trust leads to an inevitable

~ Have faith in your team members to achieve miracles. Provide them with
opportunities, equip them with relevant training and support and they will
repay your faith. If you as the centre manager see the spark in your
counsellors, give them the opportunity to rise to their potential. If they can
talk their way into the clients' hearts and pockets, they are cut out for a
career in business development. Give them a platform to showcase their skills
and get the orders pouring in.

~ Building and supporting a career development atmosphere is paramount.
By empowering your team members, you empower yourself. You need not
then micro-manage your employees and can concentrate on matters that
merit your time and attention. The investment in making sure that every
team member is ascending his personal learning curve pays great dividends.
Not only does it boost their confidence, the team members become
increasingly valuable to the organisation.

~ Equipping your team members with the relevant skills, giving them
adequate exposure, training and broadening their skill sets helps build on
their expertise, optimise their individual talents and groom them to take on
greater responsibilities.

5.Show the way
Meetings, issues, firefighting and meeting
deadlines sometimes makes the team leader
put mentoring of team members on the

However, today's executive is no longer
lured by just the job guarantee factor or a
fat paycheque. More than anything else, he
is looking for professional growth.
~Leadership is all about creating conditions under which team members can
perform effectively towards a common goal and actualise their potential.

~ Team members need feedback on a regular basis, not just during the
annual appraisals. They need to be made aware of their performance levels
and be given an opportunity to discuss their needs for growth and
development. Recognition of efforts is essential for lifting the executives'
spirits and strengthening their sense of commitment.

~Likewise, the executives must be told -- firmly but gently -- about their
areas of improvements as well as shown ways and means of working on
them. Quality needs to be inspired, not dictated.

~ Set high standards for yourself and your team will follow suit. Your example
will always be emulated. Nothing inspires a team member more than seeing
his boss hard at work.