On the very first day of a brand new job, employees begin a training process designed to teach them about the company and its products. But when someone starts a new job as a Team Leader, he is expected to dive straight into the role from Day #1, under the general assumption that ‘leading’ and ‘managing’ are skills that he already possesses naturally. The thing is, though, they aren’t.

For first-time team leaders, leading doesn’t necessarily come naturally at all and it often requires a new way of thinking: Instead of doing something they’re normally used to doing themselves – which may be one of the factors that led to their promotion to team leaders in the first place – now they must lead and delegate to other people to execute – while remaining the project’s “owners”.

When it comes to training team leaders, it’s not enough to teach them only about the technical aspects of the product and the technology behind it. The sooner a company trains up its new team leaders to excel at actual leadership – including ownership of tasks through delegation to others, strong communication and interpersonal skills, and leadership techniques – and the sooner it encourages their first-time team leaders to demonstrate initiative and the courage to lead – with or without formal authority – the stronger the company and its culture will become.

So, as investors, we decided to invite first-time team leaders from across our portfolio companies and offer them some training as a group. The goal was not only for them to be able to share their new know-how with their colleagues back in their respective companies, but also to create a sort of support/networking group made up of fellow first-time team leaders.

The training program was a huge success, and only served to reiterate in my mind the importance of offering first-time team leaders such an opportunity. Here’s why:

Why it’s so important to train team leaders in their first managerial role

bullet-pink-20x10They are thrown into unfamiliar territory: It’s not natural to start managing people out of the blue. You suddenly need to tell people what to do, plan ahead, monitor performance and direct everything. Often, the people you manage might be the same age as you, or younger or older (each scenario presenting its own challenges), and sometimes you might have even been a part of the team you are now managing. In short, it’s not easy, and first-time team leaders cannot be expected to know how to deal with all of these scenarios if they’ve never done it before.

bullet-pink-20x10They rarely have time for self-reflection and improvement: Once first-time leaders dive into the role, they can become so overloaded with the day-to-day aspects of the job, that they rarely have time to analyze their own performance as they go (who does??). Regular training as part of their onboarding period as team leaders can help them take the necessary ‘time out’ from their daily and weekly routines to make sure that they are doing what they need to in order to perform at their best as team leaders.

bullet-pink-20x10If they get stuck, they may be too embarrassed to seek advice from superiors: Certain situations involving employees are ‘tricky’ even for experienced managers to deal with. For example, when an employee criticizes you, doesn’t listen to you, starts coming into work late, etc. First-time team leaders might hesitate sometimes about how to handle such situations, opting not to consult their supervisors because this might point out their inexperience, which is something they’d rather avoid. But in a training environment, they could raise their questions in a forum where it makes sense for them to do so, without feeling that they are exposing any shortcomings or inexperience.

Training first-time team leaders therefore has multiple benefits. Here are some notable ones:

1. It builds self-confidence

2. It offers a ‘safe’ forum for them to seek advice about how to handle ‘tricky’ situations that they might otherwise be too embarrassed to ask about in light of the expectations from them as managers.

3. It allows them to acquire new skills and know-how about leadership, management and communication.

4. If training is provided in groups, it can create a network of team leaders who can support each other.

5. The knowledge gained as part of the training can be shared with fellow colleagues and create an environment where the approach to team leadership is aligned and consistent

6. Training is usually appreciated by those who go through it, which inadvertently results in a higher engagement level of these Team Leaders with their company.

7. By offering ongoing training to employees who are either promoted or hired for team leadership roles, the company has ongoing opportunities for self-evaluation, learning and improvement as an organization

Although this kind of training can be time-consuming for companies, I believe it’s an extremely valuable investment in their employees that will prove to be highly beneficial down the track, both for the companies who provide it and for the team leaders who get to use this invaluable training to enhance their leadership capabilities as they move on to higher levels of seniority during their careers.

 

Why it’s crucial to train first-time team leaders