Recently, I worked with a group of team leaders who share an issue. The team leaders are also hands-on workers; and while they have some supervisory duties, they do not have the authority to hire, evaluate the performance of, or terminate employees. For these, they must rely on their managers. One of the most common complaints is that of not getting back-up or support from their managers. We talked about having conversations with the managers to let them know what the team leaders must have in order to do their jobs. Following are a few highlights from their work on the topic:
- When an employee comes to the manager with a complaint about a colleague or the team leader, the manager needs to ask whether they have had a conversation with the other party. If not, the manager needs to send the employee back to the team leader. Doing otherwise robs the team leader of his/her credibility.
- Managers need to make time to meet with the team leader on a regular basis to hear concerns they and their team are experiencing. Be sure to address these issues publicly so the employees know that their team leader is sending messages up the organizational ladder. Even if there is not yet a resolution, let people know they've been heard.
- Make sure there is an understanding of the team leader's role within the organization. It is demoralizing for them to feel unempowered.
- If you want people to step up to team leadership, provide a differential in pay or status for them. Otherwise, no one has an incentive to take this important position responsibility.