Finding Your Beat — Rocking Your Changing Role As Team Leader

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When you start building a team, it isn’t only your new hire(s) who will experience a learning curve — you will too! For a smooth transition from solopreneur to team leader it’s critical that you understand the changes you will need to make in how you are spending your time.

I see a lot of solopreneurs struggling with this because they are used to doing everything. While having a team of people means you don’t have to wear every hat anymore, now you have a new role, one that is very important for every successful business or organization. You must lead — that’s the job of a CEO, founder or business owner.

It’s not uncommon for business owners to lose sight of this because they are so burned out that they just want some type of relief. Sometimes new bosses can even feel a little lost.

The key is finding your balance between managing your team members and providing them with enough space and freedom to take the project to a new level. New managers tend to micromanage because they worry that the job may not be completed to their standards. However, if you have hired well you should have someone you can trust, so let them spread their wings! Also, remember that you are not trying to clone yourself, so it is important to set standards based on the role you have filled, not your capabilities. This is especially true if your budget has required you to hire someone with entry-level experience — you simply can’t expect this person to be able to step into your shoes. You must scope the project and set expectations within the limits of the role you are actually hiring for, not the role you wish you could afford.

One way to avoid micromanagement is setting up project milestones and asking your team members to send you weekly update emails. This allows them to work during the week to meet the deliverables, then spend 30 minutes a week making sure you are kept updated. If you want your team to be proactive, have them create tasks and project milestones in your project management tool. You can review and approve them, and provide feedback. When you use a project management tool you can easily track progress because you can see the tasks that have been completed in the system. If you would like to see progress before a task is complete, add a “review” task to your projects so team members know they must submit content to you by a specific date for your review before publishing or posting it online. This will give you visibility without having to worry that something will be shared before it is ready.

Finally, someone ALWAYS has to set and maintain the course so the team can move forward toward a consistent target. Without leadership, there’s anarchy, so be careful not to build your team around projects and tasks that you don’t want to be bothered with or have no interest in managing.

Setting the Tone

Everyone needs to be inspired! If your team members feel like they are the dumping ground for projects, ideas and problems that you don’t want to deal with, you might not see the productivity you were hoping for. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to take the time needed to take to nurture a new team member into their role. It may be several weeks before you get them up to speed, and you need to be ready and willing to support them through this transition not only financially, but also with your time. Too often I see new employees floundering in small businesses because they don’t have the guidance they need to step into their role successfully. Your new team member will not know your business like you do, so you have to help them get to the point where they can really benefit your business, and it’s to your advantage to invest that time in them early on.
Share the excitement of your business with your team by giving them interesting projects to work on, and positioning them with a balanced experience. If they have earned more responsibility and autonomy, give it to them! Every team member will have a role to play, but if you are only giving out scraps, you are sending a subliminal message about their role and value to your organization.

Letting Go The Leash

As your relationship with your new team member(s) develops, don’t be afraid to let them try new things. Be clear on what authority they do and don’t have…if you want them to be creative and they have earned your trust, let them know that. If you don’t they will likely never venture away from where they started, and it may be much more beneficial for you and your business if you help them soar. Ultimately, you want people to get to a point where they’re empowered to use their best skills and apply them to your business. The way to encourage that is to become a mentor for them. Have the courage to become the boss who helps them achieve more. This will lead to happier team members, and benefits for your business as well.

Take Action

As you begin to think about hiring someone new, make a list of the support you will likely need to provide to help that person complete their first project successfully.

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