Setting up teams to take on improvement initiatives is the best way to make real improvements in your company. The team leader is obviously an important role that will determine the speed of your success. Team leader training is therefore important to get right.
One important element for you to consider as you launch your teams is to pick the right team leaders in the first place. Select some up-and-coming talent in your organization to be the team leaders. These can be people who have a lot of potential to expand multiple roles and multiple levels over the course of their career. This gives them to opportunity to step in to a highly visible role and have a meaningful impact. Even with the right people in roles to increase the probability of success and great results, you want to make sure that you train them well. The right way to conduct your training for your team leaders is to consider all levels from start to finish: before the teams launch running the project and getting results and sustaining results.
Before the launch
The first thing you’ll want to train the team leader on is the charter process. Having a charter is extremely important so that the team is clear about what they are expected to do. Charter includes the problem they are solving, goals for the project, scope, so they know what is in – scope or out – of – scope, timing or duration for the team, who the team members are and who is the executive sponsor for the project. The team leaders’ role includes completing all of the elements of the charter. Secondly, you want to train team leader to create a solid work plan that itemizes all of the steps and all of the major pieces of work that the team needs to tackle in order to hit the goals.
This training at the beginning of the project before the team launches is so important because you want to make sure your project has all of the elements in the right place before you get started. You want to have the right team leader and team in place, a well written charter and work plan that is clear about what the team is going to do to achieve the goals. If they know how to approach those elements, they have a much better chance at success.
Running the Project
This is where “the rubber hit the road” and the team leader needs to make sure that the team is getting the results that they are expected to get so they can deliver the results according to their charter. It’s the core work for the project and team. It’s where the team will achieve the success it needs to achieve by taking the action that needs to be taken. In larger projects these can be quite complicated by lots of team members and lots of activity going on simultaneously. There are multiple training points that can be delivered as part of this training for your team leaders. I’ll touch on just a couple of the important ones here.
First, communication training. A team leader needs to be excellent at communicating at multiple levels; their communicated expectations, delegating to team members, communicating to stakeholders in terms of interviewing and finding out information, as well as communicating the results and follow-up steps that other people need to take in order for the project to be successful.
Second, team dynamics. This is a long list of interpersonal skills to help make sure the team works smoothly together. The teams approach is important because you want the team to be cohesive and the team leader needs to have the skill set to guide the team members in how they work together as they complete their task and get their job done.
Third, the principles of conscious leadership should be taught to every person in a management role and in a team leader role. Conscious leadership principles include managing yourself and managing others.
The last element of training I will describe here is for team productivity. We suggest that the team leader guide the team using the Act Now! methodology to help the them stay focused and work productively in completing the tasks that will allow the team to complete all of the project steps and get the results they require.
Training for leaders to help them sustain results includes elements of putting processes in place and elements to recognize and fix problems. Putting processes in place might be, for example, designing a new process as part of the teams project and then documenting the standardize work or standard operating procedures for all of the employees that work in that process. It also includes how to communicate and train employees to follow these new process steps. That might include training on making presentations, if that is part of how the team leader will communicate to the employees.
As part of follow-up, there is also problem solving. Every new process will encounter some hick-ups as part of the implementation. Its up to the team leader to monitor and check to make sure that the changes you are making do indeed stick and have the impact that they are expected to have. The team leader should audit the results of their process changes and confirm that the new standard procedures are indeed being followed. When results are not as expected the team leader then needs to dive in to the details to understand what the problems are. Then, they may reengage the team to help solve the problems and put solutions in place that were not part of their original charter but are necessary to complete for the project to be considered a success.
Lastly, part of sustaining results is communicating with the managers who own the process that you changed as well as communicating with the sponsor for your project. They need to know what help they can provide to the team and to the employees in the area to make sure the team’s results do indeed stick.