shifting gears from go-getting team member to team leader

Shifting gears from go-getting team member to team leader

When you’re used to managing your own work world, it tends to look very different when all of a sudden you’re responsible for the success of others. Making the shift from a stellar team player to the team leader can be a stark contrast and a tough transition.

As executive coaches, the team and I at Padraig have had the privilege of working alongside many leaders during this important and sometimes daunting transformational growth phase.

While there are sometimes many different behaviours to address when shifting gears into management, often one of the most challenging is to go from being the expert to encouraging others to exercise their own knowledge and understanding.

If you’re used to being smart, goal oriented, and excellent at getting things done and now, instead of solely being that person, you’re tasked with helping others be that person – it can be difficult to transform.

So, how do we make that shift? What are some ideas to help along the way?


Sometimes we think that the boss is meant to give direction and tell people what to do. Sometimes as an expert in a particular area, we think everyone should do things our way.

But, in fact, the shift to management and team leader requires a shift to listening more than we speak. Chances are really good that some or all of the folks reporting to you are skilled and determined contributors – seek input from them.


While seeking input, we must also learn how to slow down and be present for the answers. It’s easy to downplay interactions throughout our day. It’s easy to think an email arriving is more important than the person sitting in front of us. I can categorically say that it’s not true. In every case that I can think of (personally and professionally), a person in front of you trumps any email or text message.


Coaching is a way of approaching people. It is communication with a specific intent and structure and it’s one of the most important leadership skills going. The focus is on listening and asking curiosity-based, open questions that are sometimes provocative. This empowers people to solve problems and take ownership for their outcomes.

Coaching creates engagement and coaching conversations are a fantastic way to engage employees in creating solutions and finding ideas. (If you’d like to know more about our course to teach you and your colleagues how to use coaching conversations with each other and with your staff, click here).


Being a team leader means broadening the focus of your success to the entire team. It means sharing and attributing wins to others and that’s going to take some adjusting. It’s the difference between taking the most effective actions and guiding the most effective actions (all while listening and integrating different ideas).

You never know, your team may have even better ideas on how to accomplish the tasks at hand.

Focusing on building others up ahead of your own career does take some getting used to but you’ll likely find that it’s more rewarding and, in fact, keeps your career in management sailing along nicely.


(Yep, you read that right.)

You might be thinking about what kind of leader you want to be – what style of leadership you want to adopt. You’re quite likely thinking of leaders you’ve had and which one you’d most like to emulate.  My biggest wish for you is that the “type of leader” you become is adaptive and that, in fact, you don’t adopt a leadership style but rather you become a leader who uses many styles in many different situations with many different people.

I wish I’d known this sooner in my career, and I wish it for you.

Here’s what I mean:

Start paying attention to people around you, in particular, the people you are now called upon to lead. Watch each individual and notice if they are eager to share ideas or if they are quiet and tend to share important and thoughtful views only when asked.

Do they tend to focus on an end goal and a deadline or are they less worried about the deadline and more focused on details? Are they sociable and engaging, always part of the group, or do they seem to do their best work on their own?

Try to put yourself in their spot (this is the tricky part, you really have to let go of your own view of life and work) and then see if you can give them opportunities and new challenges that play to their strengths.

For example, if you have a staff member who is detail oriented, have you got them in a visionary thinking role finding new products? Or, are they helping with checks and balances before the product is launched – a role in which they likely excel? As you read that you probably found it obvious, but I bet you’ll be surprised by how many folks are struggling to fit into roles that aren’t aligning with their natural strengths and interests.

That’s just one example, I’m sure you can think of many other roles where one behaviour type might be a better fit than another.

The Coach’s Questions: Where are you engaging your team members in ways they want and need to be engaged — and where aren’t you? If folks could give what you and the organization need while getting what they need to thrive, what might need to change?

When was the last time you had a goal for the team, or a team member, and you insisted it be done your way? How might you approach the conversation next time, if you were to focus on the goal and less on how they get there?