The Learning Cafe

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

  • Posted by Elysia Arnold
  • On August 21, 2018


As a nation, us Kiwi’s underestimate the complexities and challenges of the transition from being part of a team to leading a team. We often find ourselves having to deal with the fall out of either putting the wrong person into a role, or not supporting them effectively to make the transition. This causes all sorts of challenges for the company and the individual.

So how do we fix it?

The responsibility sits with both the individual making the transition as well as the organisation who is promoting the employee.

When done well, we are developing a loyal, high performer within our business and starting them on their leadership career.

When not done well we are opening ourselves up to a negative experience for the individual, their team and the organisation leading to long term issues for the employer.

The key steps to avoid disaster:

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

2. Engage them in a conversation before making the decision:

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

3. Work up a plan to develop those skill gaps

Some helpful hints for the employer:

Understand that...Therefore
The mindset shift will be a key factor between success and failureTrust and confidence in their team members will be key as well as a willingness to delegate.
This is a difficult transition for people to make, motivation need to be high to get through the ups and downsHave a conversation with the individual to check if this is really something they want to do.
The skills required to do their new role effectively are very different to those used as a member of the team.Match the persons current skill set against the role of a Team Leader so you both have clarity of where strengths are, and where areas are for future development.

Use this handy matrix based on the skill level, and motivation of your new leader to determine how to support them into their new role:

High motivationLow motivation
High skillLet them go! Ensure you’re providing them the freedom to be a leader. Provide support and coaching.Will the motivation grow overtime?
If not, then this may become an issue even though they are highly capable.
If so, continue to inspire them.
Low skillBuild a development plan so that you can close that gap over time. The high motivation will be very valuable to get this person through the highs and lows of their journey.You have likely got the wrong person in the role which isn’t good for them or the organisation. Talk to them about what other options would be available to them.

These conversations will significantly increase your chances of building a great leader within your organisation who will help you perform better.