Five Tips for any New Filipino Team Leader

The most common answer that I have heard in almost every job interview I have been involved in while in the Philippines is that they are looking for career growth with their new employer. This is something that is easy to say, 99% of people do, but the vast majority never follow through and take action.

In order to stand out and build a reputation for being the best choice for a leadership position it takes years of hard work, and commitment (unless of course you take the Pioneer Batch shortcut). It also takes a bit of courage. Filipino culture is not always kind to people who stand out from the crowd.

It can be a long road to promotion, and reaching this goal should be a proud moment. However, if you think that having a new title elevates you to some kind of higher class in the office then you are dead wrong. Hierarchy is an important thing to many Filipinos, but this is only on the surface. If you want genuine respect you have to earn it. This takes time and has nothing to do with your title. If you think that your are entitled then you are setting yourself up for failure as a leader.

I have promoted and mentored over 40 new TLs. In most cases they have never managed people before. There are some common mistakes that people making this transition make, and they can be overcome if you put some thought into the type of leader you want to be. You will notice that the common theme through this is respect, and likability. Without both you will fail as a leader no matter how good you are technically. People will not want to work with you if they do not like and respect you.

Here are my five tips for new Filipino Team Leaders:


Start from Zero

You have climbed quite a mountain to get here. Celebrate your success, but you must quickly acknowledge to yourself that this is day one again. You are starting from nothing and have a new mountain to climb. You have not proven anything yet, and the real work is just beginning.

This mindset is so important so that you remain hungry to learn in your new role. The worst thing you can do is think that now you are a TL you know all you need to. You may be technically competent, but you will not be expert level yet. You may have shown the capacity for problem solving, but you are going to face a whole new set of problems. You may interact well with others, but you are guaranteed to be placed in uncomfortable positions by your new team and you may not know how to respond.

You have to remember that you are human, will make mistakes, and you will not have all the answers. If you stay humble, and acknowledge your mistakes quickly, and embrace the learning opportunities around you then you are far more likely to grow into the role.


Prioritise Building Relationships

You may come into your new team bursting with enthusiasm , and with a thousand ideas on how to whip your team into shape. No passengers here, we will be a top performing team!!… Take a deep breath and slow down.

To be a top team you have to build the foundation first. The foundation is your people. You have to get to know them, and understand them before you will have anything that resembles a team. Most new TLs engage only in task focussed interactions with their new team. As a result the relationship can become rigid and robotic.

People do not respond to a one size fits all management approach. You have to adapt to the individual so that you can help them lift their standards that little bit extra every day. If you don’t take the time to know your people and try to get everyone to reach your standard then you will be seen as too demanding. There is a risk people will be left behind, feel incompetent and will lose interest.

Lastly, get off your email and actually speak to your people. You can’t build a relationship hiding behind a computer. Grow some balls and get out there to deliver feedback.


Not everyone will have the same drive you do

As you get to know your people you may also feel frustrated that your group does not have the same drive, ambition, intelligence or competitive spirit that you do. Welcome to the real world! Your were able to excel because of these qualities. Not everyone has them.

Your job is to get the best out of your team and work with what you have. You cannot give instructions and just expect it to happen to a standard you are happy with. Instructions are just the start. You then have to clarify, coach and support your people right through to completion of the task.

If you do not adjust your own expectations of your team here then the only loser will be you. Frustration will be ever present in your day and it will show. Be aware of where your guys are at, and always do your best to inspire and support them to do that little bit better each day. Your own drive and ambition will rub off on them over time.


Put others first

The key to your performance no longer rests on your shoulders. Your success will only come from other’s success.

While this may sound like a simple concept, the change in thinking is hard for many to truly comprehend. All of your decisions and actions must be looked at from a different perspective. Your own self-interest must become a distant last or you will not be able to build credibility. Others will see right through this.

Self sacrifice may disadvantage you in the short term. If you look at the bigger picture and think long term you will be better placed to build a reputation as a person who can make sound and objective judgements

Remember the golden rule. If something goes wrong in your team take responsibility for it, if something goes right it is all your team’s doing. Only a person of weak character feels the need to pass on the blame for the bad, and claim the credit for the good. Which leads me to the final and most important tip….


There is no room for ego in leadership

This is the most common, and most destructive mistake I see new TLs make. Any leader who conducts themselves with a sense of entitlement because of their title will never earn that respect.

If you think someone should respect you because you are a TL then you are in for a rude shock. Often I see a TL upset because they felt that they were disrespected by a team member. Rather than focus on resolving the issue, compromising with the person and finding a workable outcome for all (which will in turn strengthen that relationship, even if it is a difficult issue), they are all upset because of their ego. This is a selfish and unproductive attitude. Be an adult, toughen up, and go solve the problem. You might gain some respect in the process.

Being dismissive of your colleagues because of their title is another awful mistake. A good idea is a good idea. It should not matter if it comes from the CEO, or a new trainee. If you stop listening to the people around you then you will miss out on a lot of ways to improve. They may not be your ideas, but if they get a better result who cares? If you do then you are placing your ego ahead of the best interests of your team and the company. No one respects this.

Your ideas and actions will constantly be judged. If you are ignoring these learning opportunities and making poor decisions along the way you will develop a reputation as being bad at your job, and no one will want to work in your team.

All of these issues can be overcome with some basic humility, and a genuine interest in helping other people. You have been placed in a position that carries great responsibility. The success of your team now depends on you and you can have a tremendously positive impact on their lives if you do your job well. This is far more important than you and your ego. So put it aside and take care of your people first. If you do everything you can to help your people succeed then you will do great in your new role.

Good luck!

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