A few months ago I transitioned into a new role that is somewhat of a hybrid of division lead and team lead (independent division with a business-critical function, but only one large-ish team). Many of the responsibilities for these roles overlap, but I found it helpful to think through what I think is most important for both roles to determine where I should focus my energy. These are my own notes and opinions and anyone is free to disagree. They’re what I think is needed to do a good job in the roles and what I gauge myself against, not points where I claim to excel personally.
Division Lead Responsibilities
- Understand Your Division — Deeply understand how your team contributes to the overall health and opportunity of the company. Know what you’re doing well and what you’re not doing well. Where you have pain points. Where you have opportunities. Understand where you perform relative to others, inside and outside the company, inside and outside your industry. Know the numbers inside and out. Make sure you understand what metrics are important, make sure they’re getting calculated regularly and correctly. Make sure your team understands them and why they’re important.
- Understand the State of the Business — Knowing your division is important, but knowing the state of the company is equally important. Do you need short-term growth? Are you in a cash-crunch? Are you optimizing for customer growth? Are you optimizing for long-term revenue growth? The state of the company, and what the company needs should inform the strategy for your division.
- Set Division Priorities — Given an understanding of the business and a knowledge of your division, set priorities confidently for what your division needs to do to be successful and to help make the company successful. Select and prioritize projects according to these priorities with input from the team leads and team. Make sure the priorities are clear and understood by the teams.
- Plan the Path Forward — Tell a confident, coherent, and believable narrative about what needs to be done and how your team will get there. Repeat it. Make sure everyone in the division understands what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how you’ll get there.
- Say “No” to Non-Priorities — Given the priorities and plan forward, say “no” to non-priorities and eliminate distractions as much as possible. Do your best to keep the team focused on the highest value work.
- Communicate Everywhere — Make sure the lines of communication are open; up, down, and across… that you coordinate with other divisions and teams, that you set expectations correctly, and that you communicate problems and delays quickly. Make sure your lead and other division leads know how important projects are going. Make sure the team knows about relevant events in other areas. Listen to the concerns of your division and take them into account.
- Collaborate on Company Strategy — Offer input and opinions on overall company strategy based on your areas of expertise.
- Coach Team Leads — Coach the next generation of team leads to become better leaders and give them opportunities to “step out of their role” and take on greater responsibilities. Always be coaching your replacement.
Team Lead Responsibilities
- Care for the Team — Help team members who are having a hard time both professionally and personally. Make sure people have reasonable workloads to be productive over the long-term. Protect people against “burnout”. Help team members think through goals and plan purposefully for their career.
- Clarify and Assign Tasks — Ensure that people on the team never feel confused or uncertain about what they should be working on. If this happens it’s a serious failure of management. It causes stress, frustration, and friction on the team.
- Communicate Projects — Make sure projects are well-scoped, well-documented, and well-communicated with frequent updates and adjustments as necessary. This can be done by the team lead or by a team member acting as project lead, but it’s the responsibility of the team lead to make sure it’s done well.
- Eliminate Roadblocks — Jump in to help the team if problems arise or they are stuck. Smooth out relationships. Find alternatives. Shield them from distractions and frustrations.
- Ensure the Quality of Work — Poke holes in projects, find nooks and crannies and cracks. Make sure your team is thinking and planning for more than the “happy path.” Make sure you’ve dotted every I and crossed every T. Listen to feedback after a launch to allow for fixing new problems.
- Coach Team Members — Coach team members to help them be more effective and productive. Help them achieve career goals. Help them through difficulties. Help them to be more successful at the company.