How to Become a Good Team Leader

Motivating other team members to commit and engage in collective teamwork is not an easy task. Here are some useful tips to being a good team leader:

Facilitating psychological safety

Leaders play a key role ensuring that all team members feel safe to seek feedback, share information, experiment, ask for help, and talk about errors. Specifically, according to Edmonson (1999), leaders should:

  • Frame the work as a learning problem, not an execution problem.
  • Acknowledge your fallibility.
  • Model curiosity and ask lots of questions.

Developing a shared team mental model

Team effectiveness will improve if there’s a shared understanding of the task, team, equipment, and situation (Kozlowski & Bell, 2012). As a team leader, you should:

  • Set up a clear mission and vision for the team.
    • Establish a shared and cooperative team goal. Revisit them as needed.
  • Focus on team planning before starting the job task (DeChurch & Haas, 2008).
    • Deliberate planning specifies a primary course of action.
    • Contingency planning specifies backup plans.
    • Reactive planning adapts plans to account for changing task conditions.

Understanding team transactive memory system

Team transactive memory is a team-level shared system for encoding, storing, and retrieving information regarding who knows what in the team. Transactive memory fosters better team performance (Pearsall, Ellis, & Bell, 2010). As a team leader, we recommend that you:

  • Encourage communication.
    • Appreciate each other’s expertise and understand from whom you can seek aid when necessary.
  • Communicate about roles and responsibilities.
    • This is especially important in the early stages of a team’s development cycle.
  • Encourage frequent and periodic face-to-face meetings throughout the project.
    • Virtual teams were found to have a hard time developing team transactive memory systems.

Facilitating effective team coordination and cooperation

To facilitate effective team coordination and cooperation, you are encouraged to:

  • Foster a trusting team environment.
    • Begin meetings with ice-breaker questions.
    • Team-building activities.
  • Know each team member’s expertise and personality. Invite contributions when necessary.
  • Give feedback or rewards when team members contribute their ideas.

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Teamwork: An Open Access Practical Guide by Andrew M. Clark, Lolin Martins-Crane, Mengqi Zhan, and Justin T. Dellinger is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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