Priorities for new team leaders

Are you new to leadership? Whether building a new team or taking on an existing one, you want to make it work. We pinpoint six priorities for new team leaders.

It’s not an easy job getting people to work together, particularly if one or more of you are new to the team. We frequently see the basics of team-building being overlooked for the seemingly more important tasks of setting and achieving goals.

But if you’re leading a new team, your actions in the first few weeks and months can have a significant impact on your team’s success. So what steps do you need to take to build an effective team? How do you form group norms, establish clear goals, as well as creating an environment where everyone feels comfortable and motivated to contribute?

Whether you’re taking over an existing team or you’re building a new one, it’s vital that you devote both time and energy to establishing how you want your team to work (and not just what you want them to achieve). People form opinions of others fairly quickly, so time invested at the start will get your team off on the right foot.

Here are six priorities you should be focusing on as a new team leader:

  1. Getting to know one other: Encouraging your team members to get to know one another should be one of your first priorities. Focus on fostering the camaraderie and resist the temptation at the beginning to immediately start talking about the work and the goals. This may mean you need to hold meetings with team-building exercises, or if you’re a virtual team, remember to start calls by asking how everyone is doing and to schedule in coffee breaks.
  2. Showing what you stand for: Your initial interactions with your team members can be used as an opportunity to showcase your values. Explain what’s behind each of your decisions, what your priorities are and how everyone’s performance will be evaluated. Let them know how progress will be gauged and what you expect of them. By communicating your vision and values, you are showing your team that you’re committed to a healthy degree of transparency.
  3. Explaining how you want the team to work: When you have newer people joining the team, don’t leave it up to the existing members to explain how meetings are supposed to be run or where to go for help – it’s your job as a leader to set expectations and explain processes. By making these norms clear for everyone, you avoid creating an environment where people feel left out or unwilling to contribute.
  4. Setting goals: As a team leader, it’s important to fix in place ambitious but nevertheless achievable goals with your team’s input. And you can do this by setting out what the team is working toward and how you expect it to get there. If you establish these goals early on, then the group’s decision-making will be clearer and more efficient and you’ll lay the framework of holding team members accountable. If you inherit an existing team, instead of setting new goals, you’re clarifying ones already there. In this instance, your challenge as a manager is to reorganise roles or re-think strategies to best achieve the goals at hand.
  5. Keeping your door open: If there’s one thing that new team leaders need to bear in mind, it’s that over-communicating at the start is preferable to the alternative. Do as much as you can to create a lot of structure and multiple touch-points whilst also keeping your door open for team members to ask for help – this can be done via large meetings, one-to-ones, emails or shared progress reports. Whatever your method of communication method, more is always better!
  6. Building success: Identifying and solving a business problem, which then has a dramatic impact early on, shows that, as a manager, you can listen and get things done. The issue may be a longstanding employee frustration or a work process that is in dire need of being updated; taking swift action and building on your success motivates your team and wins you goodwill that could well stand you in good stead.

Following these six steps in the initial stages of your team leadership will impact positively on the team’s success.

effective teams