A good team leader has a daunting task making sure members are working toward a common goal. This is especially true with the reality that members can be across the country or down the hall. It can be a challenge keeping on top of things and ensuring everyone has what is needed to get the job done.
As tough a job as it is to make this happen, by doing a few simple things each day good team leaders can become great ones.
Reach out to members, even briefly
It's easy given technology today to only communicate with colleagues via email or text chats. These can be done in just a few moments so they are popular methods of interfacing with team members. These suffice for lots of interaction but a good team leader makes an effort to talk directly with each member for a few minutes every day.
The best interaction is face to face, especially for colleagues working in the same office. Five minutes touching base with a coworker in person is priceless for putting the human touch on getting the job done. Make it clear you value them as collaborators and for the person they are.
For remote workers a phone call or voice chat will suffice. Video chats can be effective but make some remote workers uneasy and audio calls may be better. Ask how the worker is doing, how's the family, and regular topics that coworkers discuss. Once the human touch has been established, move on to work topics to see not only how things are progressing -- you don't want it to seem as if you are checking up on them, even if you are -- but to see if they need anything from you.
You want these brief daily conversations to be upbeat. Ask them how they feel things are going. Do they need you to do something to make their job easier? Make it clear that you are supportive and appreciative of all that they do. Doing this regularly will make the work relationship a solid one.
Have team members' backs
Occasionally every worker has a bad day due to something beyond their control that's not productive. Make it clear to team members that as their team leader you are there for them in such circumstances. Don't just talk the talk, step in when requested to help them out.
Say a subordinate can't get a client to make a timely decision to keep a project timeline on track. Ask the member having difficulty if he or she wants you to speak to the client. If so, do it right away and deal with the situation as best you can. Your colleague will appreciate this and remember it for a long time.
The team has a common goal of getting the job done so be prepared to offer help when needed.
Share new information immediately
When new information comes in about a team project or client, get it to the pertinent team member immediately. Don't get sidetracked doing your own work and sharing the information later. Get it out right away as it could make the difference between a job well done and one half done. You don't ever want to hear a team member say "if I only knew that this morning" after failing to get the information to the colleague.
Ask for new ideas
You may be the boss in the group but don't fail to leverage the unique strengths of the different team members to get the best results. Don't be afraid of asking for new ideas or advice on how to get a nagging problem solved. Keeping things running optimally provides the best value for the company.
Coworkers appreciate helping when asked, so ask often. Show each member that you respect his/her experience and value their knowledge. Work relationships mature best when all members work together, and this includes the team leader.
Partner team members to leverage strengths
This is not something that you will likely due each day, but it's something you should think about regularly. Some work tasks or projects may benefit by pairing two team members to get them done. Think about the unique experience and abilities of the individuals on the team and how tight collaboration might produce the best results.
In addition to the benefits to the company realized with good collaboration like this, it has a long-term benefit to the two members. Working together is a good growth activity for the team and you should often think about how to make this a regular occurrence in the group.
The human factor
Being a good team leader and manager is first and foremost about the people in the group. They are the ones doing the work and anything that helps that process is valuable. These are not robots, they are folks wanting to do a good job and feel appreciated. The personal touch is critical to keeping the group happy and moving forward.
Don't just give this lip service, mean what you say and back it up with action. If your help is requested, step in right away and give it. Make it clear to the team that you are there for each of them, and back it up with action. You'll have a solid team that does a great job and is there for you when needed.