A letter to my next Team Leader

Anna W.
Anna W.
May 18 · 5 min read
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Hello,

We are about to start working together. I’m hoping our cooperation will last a long time and will bear fruit in the near future.

I want to start by saying that, even though I’ve experienced working with team leaders who, in my opinion, were not up to the task, I sincerely believe you won’t be one of them.

In some of my previous projects, I have worked with people who were given the position just because they were “old enough”; they had enough experience and they “seemed like the right fit.” If they had not been promoted to team leader, it would have been bad press for the company. In practice, they just continued to occupy the same exact role. Nothing has changed, just their salary and their title. I was also fortunate enough to work with brilliant team leaders in my career; ones that made me think outside the box, praised me but also constructively criticised me.

I am positive you will belong to the latter category and I have high hopes for you. I believe you are well prepared; you want to come into this environment to teach us something, but you also want to learn yourself. I hope you have a “knack” for this job.

What is this “knack” I mentioned, you might ask?

We all search for it constantly, whether in our private lives or in our careers. It can mean so many things; it is an ability to inspire and connect with others, an ability to complete a task well and promptly. It could mean you command respect from your subordinates and respect them in return.

Many of us will tell you that you cannot describe what the “knack” is. It’s impossible — you can’t explain it, but you know it when you see it.

Nevertheless, “having a knack for it” is not equal to being a good team leader.

What you need to realise, is that leadership means something different to every employee, and your task is to be able to build a dialogue with them, in order to discover what kind of support they need.

As for me, it means giving me space. Let me improve myself at my own pace. I am constantly changing and developing my skills and will always have more to learn.

We all do — it is my firm belief that it is impossible to become a master of your domain. However far you’ve come, there are always untrodden paths ahead of you, waiting to be explored. We learn till the day we die, and if we claim there is nothing else left to improve upon, we deceive ourselves. I personally flourish in an environment where I can explore this constant drive to improve myself, but I don’t feel like I’m being pushed or coerced to do so.

Therefore, I ask you — don’t become one of team leaders who think they’ve seen it all, thus they have a God-given right to laugh at and ridicule their subordinates. Be the courageous one, who will stand up and say “Stop, that’s enough!” when one employee badmouths another behind their back. Be the leader that makes us proud, one we are all glad we have on our side, defending our rights if needs be.

I know hearing this can be hard. But honest opinions of your subordinates, if you take their advice to heart, can only make you a better leader.

Give me something to fight for — an achievement, a goal. Put obstacles in my path, make me think on my feet. If I struggle, be honest and point me in the right direction, but don’t ridicule me. Be my companion on my own, personal journey towards improvement. Assign me a task complex enough I will trip and maybe even fall while doing it, but you will always motivate me to get up and fight again.

I want to ask you to always be honest with me. If you feel like you cannot because of the circumstances, let me know that’s the case. I will appreciate it, and continue to trust you. I might be insistent, might ask you over and over again to tell me more — be honest and say it is not destined for my ears. I will accept that and move on.

If you dream of a position like the team leader, where your main task is to guide and influence the minds of others, make sure you familiarise yourself with basic aspects of psychology. I do not require you to be an expert, but I believe we could all benefit from learning how to better empathise with others.

Learn how to recognise when your subordinates struggle. Be compassionate, supportive, but never let me forget you are my leader. Think ahead of me, plan for the future, both mine and the company’s. Try to predict what will prove to be an obstacle in an upcoming project, so you can prepare me for it.

Am I demanding? Yes. I never said being a team leader is easy. It’s demanding, challenging, ambitious, at times exhausting. But it can be extremely satisfying.

I want you to also understand that I am still learning. I am of strong character and I tend to question everyone I cross my paths with — not because I don’t trust you, but because I want to do my job the best I can. I’ve suffered personal tragedies (everybody does, that’s a part of life), and at times I might be affected by them and fail to communicate my issues well. Please be understanding, and always remember the bad moment will pass and I will learn how to cope.

Remember, one day we can work perfectly together, in tandem, like a well-oiled machine. The next day, we might trip up. In these bad moments, please try to remember the good moments. I promise I will always do the same.

Me and you being different is a blessing — we can complement each other, one can find a solution where the other one struggles. Know my strengths and remind me of them. On tough days, as me “What’s happened, what’s wrong?”

Intervene when you need to, but always stick to the rules, to the law, to the firm’s guidelines. Never be swayed in your decisions by “what others might think.” Simply, stick to the truth.

Be happy with me!
Be proud of me!
Be mad at me!
Motivate me!
Be honest!
Be a partner, not an obstacle!

We are on this journey together.

Kind regards,
Your Next Teammate

VirtusLab

Virtus Lab company blog

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