The Learning Cafe

Team Member to Team Leader: The pitfalls and strategies to ensure a smooth transition for the employee

  • Posted by learningwavenz
  • On September 11, 2018

Making the transition into a leadership role for the first time is one of the toughest transitions to make during a career. Why? It requires not only a whole new set of skills, but also a mindset shift to make the transition effective. A tough ask early in your career.

The worlds between a team member role and a team leader role are quite different. Picture this…

Old world:

You have been working in a role for a few years, you turn up to work, you do what you need to do, you have all the skills, so you get the job done and then go home.
This is quite a comfortable place to be.

New world:

You then move into a team leader role and you are now required to get things done through other people…likely to be the same people who you have been working with for the past few years. You are responsible for quality, but it isn’t your work that is being evaluated.

You have to complete reports and measure performance against KPI’s. You have to plan and schedule ahead of time. You are legally responsible for the health and safety of others. You and your team need to think about the customer first, and you may have some of your team who aren’t working together very effectively and keep conflicting with each other. The world has just got a whole lot more complicated…

This new world requires quite a different skill set, and while it is exciting to get the promotion and I would encourage you to jump at it, it is important to recognise that the world will change and it is important to be ready for that.

Some things to work through before you take on the role:

1. Understand that to make an effective transition, it requires a significant mindset shift.

2. Ask yourself

  • Are you aware of what the team leader roll will require of you?
  • Are you up for the challenge?
  • What strengths do you already possess?
  • Where are the skill gaps?

3. Work up a plan with your employer to develop those skill gaps


Along the way there will be ups and downs.

Here are some other handy tips which you may find valuable:

You are no longer solely responsible for your success, instead, you gain success through others. So ‘get your hands off the tasks’.
You need a new set of tools to apply in your role so you will need to develop these overtime - Influencing, coaching, active listening, effective communication skills, delegation skills just to name a few. These are as important as some of the other technical skills you will also need to learn such as financial acumen, planning, strategic thinking, reporting etc
The tendency will be to slip back into the comfort zone and busy yourself with tasks that your team should be doing. Stay outside the comfort zone - that is where you are developing your leadership skills
Put your hand up for help, you aren’t expected to have all the skills from day 1
Be authentic and develop your own leadership style. Learn from others, but don’t try and be them
Leadership these days is relational, not just positional. This means you need to build and utilise strong relationships to influence and build your teams performance
Having been ‘in the trenches with the team’ you have the benefit of context and empathy. This is a valuable asset.
Understand where the company is going and what role your team plays in the success of that business plan/strategy
Leadership roles can often feel lonely at times, surround yourself with other people who can provide you support inside and outside of your workplace
It’s an exciting journey, so enjoy the ride