Team Leader development: 5 factors to take under consideration
Hiring a new Team Leader (TL), or promoting a team member to Team Leader from an existing team, triggers a series of processes related to the new TL’s preparation for the role, introduction to the project and their overall development plans. And there are at least five main factors that should be considered during these processes.
At Future Processing, we take this very seriously since investing in the development of our leaders is something that will ultimately pay off tenfold for the entire organisation. And this is how we approach this.
Creating an effective leadership development plan: 5 main success factors
1. Assigning supervisors and mentors
At Future Processing, one of the first things we do is designate a Line Manager (LM) as supervisor for each new Team Leader, so the development path can start right away. And each Line Manager’s responsibilities towards their Team Leaders are pretty significant.
- Mentors are selected by supervisors from among the less seasoned Team Leaders, who have no more than 1-2 years of experience. The reason for this is because since they are still relatively fresh themselves, they still remember what it is like to be a total newbie in this role, and the kind of problems that they had to deal with at the very beginning.
- They can relate perfectly to the new TLs and, in turn, help guide them through the process.
Determining competency gaps
- Some competency gaps can be gleaned immediately from the feedback that we gather after the internal or external recruitment process; others have to be uncovered by the supervisors, or during meetings and chats with TLs.
Creating development plans
- Once the supervisors know what needs to be improved, they can create individual development plans for each and every Team Leader.
Monitoring the learning process
- LMs regularly check on the TLs’ progress and react as needed.
Mentors, on the other hand, work with TLs on a daily basis:
- They have regular meetings with new TLs in order to stay up-to-date on their current needs and challenges.
- They help find solutions to their problems, together.
2. Learning plan
Every new Team Leader has a lot to learn, even if they already know a little bit about the role.
Each new Team Leader receives a number of documents and books to read, along with a series of webinars to learn from. Plus, we have a mandatory internal training package for all fresh TLs that covers, for example:
- how to evaluate and set expectations,
- ERP systems,
- how to create authority,
- how to develop agile projects,
- hard skills in management,
- labour law,
- the basics of software development.
Of course, the results of all the provided training needs to be verified by the supervisors, to ensure that the process is under control.
3. Determining predispositions and competency gaps
Based on the outcomes and conclusions from the training, supervisors are able to determine the individual predispositions and competency gaps for each TL.
They also take their vision of the ideal Team Leader (we call this a “meta-thought”) into account, as well as the nature of the project that they are going to be working on: including their specific responsibilities and the client’s expectations.
The conclusions may also vary by project. As a result, every new Team Leader at Future Processing may have to work on improving a totally different set of skills.
4. Preparing individual development plans
Individual development plans are based on the particular predispositions and competency gaps for each TL, and planned out the year ahead. During this process, we emphasize the sharing of knowledge between our leaders, so that the more experienced ones can pass valuable information onto the newer ones. And this also goes both ways, since new TLs also have something that no one else has – a fresh perspective on many different problems.
In order to create a good atmosphere for this, we start by organising events that are designed exclusively for our leaders, so they have the opportunity to exchange knowledge and experiences. We’ve noticed that this is the most effective learning method – whether the event is in person or (what is more likely these days) held remotely.
And despite having supervisors and mentors close at hand and ready to help at any time, TLs still have to take full responsibility for their own development. It is their job to develop in accordance with the plan and schedule that they worked out together with their Line Managers.
5. Flexible adjustments
The development processes for each new Team Leader are constantly being monitored. Why? Because some ad hoc needs or requirements may emerge along the way, and supervisors should be ready to include this in their development plans.
It is also important to remember that priorities may change over time, and a significant part of every agile management process is to be able to adjust with flexibility to any new situation. That’s why none of our development plans are set in stone. We give ourselves just enough leeway to react swiftly, whenever necessary.
The process of shaping a new Team Leader is complex and consists of many phases. But it’s definitely worth the effort, since a good TL is one of the most important parts of the development team. In general, there are three main principles that we always bear in mind:
- Preparing development plans for TLs requires an individual approach.
- TLs should be supervised and mentored from the very beginning.
- The process has to be well-thought out, highly adjustable and spread out over time.
These are our success factors, but of course, every organisation may have its own unique way of creating development plans for their Team Leaders. However, it’s always good to learn from each other’s experiences.