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From Team Member to Team Leader: Things You Should Avoid Doing

January 03, 2022, 4-min. read
From Team Member to Team Leader: Things You Should Avoid Doing

One day, your career could take a turn. From a team member, you will now become a team leader, manager. It’s a change similar to a daughter or son becoming a parent. You have some sort of an idea about what it might entail and you have experience, but those might not always help you handle your new role.

And as life's greatest lessons are often learned at the worst times and from the worst mistakes, instead of giving you a simple list of things to do, this time, we thought we'd show you how you can learn from mistakes of others to avoid making them yourself.

1. Don’t try to be popular at all cost

Many starting managers enter their new role with the intention to be a good manager who is liked by his subordinates. That’s a nice idea, but the sooner you come to terms with the fact that a part of a manager’s role is taking unpopular steps and that you can’t only make decisions that will make everyone happy, the sooner you and your subordinates will feel relief. If you only tried to do things that your people liked, you would be a manager without a vision and people would lack a clear direction. From your standpoint, it’s important to make correct decisions and explain them to your team so that they understand them. Your people don’t have to like those decisions, but they have to be able to make sense of them.

2. Don’t strive to be a friend

Perhaps you are or will become friends with your workers, but it should never be your goal. Your goal should be to support and respect your workers and take interest in them; not because you are friends with them but because you are their manager. And as a manager, you must be prepared to take care of them more than is usual among friends. A part of your new role is taking care of your team, of motivation, development; it’s making them feel engaged so that they can and want to perform their jobs well. People need to know that they can rely on you, not that you are their friend.

3. You don't have to be everywhere and involved in everything

Even if you used to go out for lunch with other team members or play sports after work, giving your workers space and not being with them everywhere is a part of your new role. Leave it up to them to invite you to these after-work activities and don’t be sad if they don’t do so. There are simply things which you shouldn’t or don’t want to hear as a boss. And it doesn’t mean at all that people are plotting behind your back or saying bad things about you. Maybe they just want to talk about what a great leader you are and they’d be too shy to say it in front of you... 😊

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4. No, you will not finally have peace and calm

Many aspiring managers are under the impression that their new role will finally grant them peace and calm and that they will be able to do only those things they want to or enjoy doing. But the reality is different. A manager is responsible for many things, including taking care of his people. At least in the beginning, a new manager must therefore be prepared to devote much more time and energy to his or her work than before. That does not mean that a manager’s fate is to work themselves to death, but you definitely shouldn’t expect peace and quiet, at least at the beginning.

5. Forget the idea that you’ll be doing what you used to excel at until now

Is it true that often the best specialists become team leaders and you are a star among them? Well, quite possibly. Nevertheless, you didn’t become a manager to keep doing what you used to do so well. In your managerial role, new responsibilities and tasks await you and your goal is, actually, to support your people so that they can become the best. And often, that doesn’t mean forcing them to adopt your methods but teaching them to find their own methods which suit them best and work for them. If you always push only your solutions, soon you will have a team of people who are passive, demotivated, and not self-reliant.

6. Accept that from now on, everything is kind of your fault

Until now, you were only responsible for your own results. From now on, you are responsible for your entire team. You bear the responsibility for fulfilling deadlines, for the quality of outputs, for everyone’s performance. You can’t use the excuse of insufficient resources, bad instructions, or unclear information. Your role is to ensure sufficient resources, to explain and specify the goals, and ensure sufficient information flow both into and out of the team. Is that going to be a lot of work? Definitely! And if you don’t want to do it, think hard whether you want to be a manager or not.

What to avoid when transitioning from team member to team leader

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7. Don’t believe the saying that leaders are born

Yes, undoubtedly there are people who were charismatic, driven, and persuasive from a young age and whose lead others gladly follow. But if your ambition does not lie in becoming a political leader or a spiritual guru, then you should know that being a good leader is about many small steps and actions which you will have to take and which you can learn to do well. In the beginning, it’s enough to be open and want to learn. There are numerous resources for this and good managers are committed to lifelong learning.

8. Don’t believe that as a manager, you’re expected to handle everything on your own

You’re not. Nobody is born knowing everything and not even the best managers have a patent for wisdom. Don’t be afraid to ask others for their opinions, involve your people, find a mentor or a coach. Your job is to look for the best possible solutions and decisions, but that doesn’t mean that you have to keep an endless reserve of them up your sleeve. On the contrary; that’s the best way to hold back your team.

9. Don’t try to be perfect

Yes, as a manager you should serve as a role model to your team members. But that doesn’t mean that you will be absolutely flawless and perfect. On the contrary. Exemplify that you are still a normal human being who makes mistakes and has doubts and who is sometimes in a bad mood and not afraid to admit it. Show them that self-reflection and work with emotions or mistakes is important as well, and that mistakes and bad decisions can teach us much more than inadvertent success. Teach your team members to not be afraid of feedback, to be authentic, and to admit their mistakes to themselves as well as to one another.

10. Don’t let the paragraphs above discourage you

Right now it might look as though we’re trying to discourage you. A manager’s role is demanding and it’s good to be prepared for that. On the other hand, your reward may be the good feeling from a job well done – not just your job but also the job of your team members. It may also be the growth of your team as well as individual people, having responsibility, the ability to influence more things, and playing an active role in determining the direction of the company. If all of that is of value to you, then being a manager is worth it.

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