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I have recently transitioned from an individual contributor at senior scientist level to a team lead role, where the first task has been to build my own team from scratch. It has been an interesting transition to say the least, as building and leading a team of data scientists is very different from doing data science yourself.

As a part of my 1-2-1 meetings with my senior leaders, it was pointed out that it would be helpful for me to think about my own development as a leader, specifically working on concepts like:

  • learning to delegate
  • time management and prioritisation
  • dealing with stress and resilience

I agree that these areas have been the most difficult in the past months, particularly the first two points essentially leading to the third. Having done the work hands-on previously and in meticulous manner, I find it difficult to "sit back".

More specifically:

  • it is often much easier to do so stuff, then to endlessly try and explain what you want done, and to the level of quality you want done.
  • in many cases the newly appointed team members (who are typically coming directly from academia, with a PhD or postdoc) are not necessarily capable of navigating the large corporate landscape, so they are often lost trying to sort out how to solve the problems at hand

So either I get to stand for less-than-desired delivery, or I get stretched too thin between all the new administrative/leadership duties, and doing the work together with my team members. Which leads to being constantly behind on schedule and stressed out by overly populated schedule.

I am keen on improving on both my leadership skills, and realise a big chunk of it is likely exposure and experience. However, is there anything in particular I can do to facilitate individual growth on these areas?

Some web searching reveals a large amount of training companies that have many stock photos and big words but seems to me to be more of a money trap than anything else. Any thoughts or advice?

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    Are you specifically a technical team lead? Or a manager? Very different.
    – Boba Fit
    Nov 11, 2022 at 13:41
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    In many organisations, there are specialised training programs already available for first time managers / transitioning leaders. Did you check with your boss or leadership regarding this? Certainly nobody should expect you to immediately understand all the nuances of a new role and start performing. Most of us need learning, help and guidance. Nov 11, 2022 at 14:15
  • I would title your post with an actual question so you gain more traction with others who might be able to answer.
    – Spectrem
    Nov 12, 2022 at 22:26

2 Answers 2

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Any thoughts or advice?

Look to your own current and past leaders as role models, and perhaps as mentors. You've seen what it looks like to be led. Now you are learning what it's like to lead.

Talk with them. Ask for advice as needed. Remind yourself what they did when faced with new team members.

Find peers within your company who are leaders. Talk with them and learn.

Also, you may wish to take some management training - perhaps in a local college, perhaps in seminars, perhaps in your company's internal training.

You must have been promoted because someone felt that you had the ability to lead. They aren't necessarily expecting you to magically figure it out all on your own.

Remember that, as a leader, you will be judged more on how your team is doing, and less on how you do individually. You cannot do everything yourself. If you don't let your team do the work, you will fail.

Find a way to make your team successful. Remove obstacles from their way. Talk with them. Teach them. Get them what they need to succeed.

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    Very appreciated! I suspect a lot of this will come naturally over time but a lot of really good suggestions there. Thank you
    – posdef
    Nov 14, 2022 at 12:16
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You may want to consider training in several areas:

  • PMP Certification - This is a common certification for managers and speaks directly to some of the issues you mention. Local community colleges sometimes offer classes, or they can be taken online. I have taken a few of the classes, and the insights on work breakdown structures have been particularly useful with project planning. The list of modules for PMP are:

    1. Project Integration Management
    2. Project Scope Management
    3. Project Time Management
    4. Project Cost Management
    5. Project Quality Management
    6. Project Human Resource Management
    7. Project Communications Management
    8. Project Risk Management
    9. Project Procurement Management
    10. Project Stakeholder Management
  • Communication Skills Training - Some employers offer these classes in-house or you can access training firms. These are very useful for motivation, influence, and setting expectations. The American Management Association offers classes nationally. I have taken one of their classes onsite; the information was very useful, and the instructors were very professional.

  • Agile / Scrum Master certification - This will be very helpful in managing day-to-day tasks and coordinating work-product delivery.

If you do take courses, see if your employer would reimburse for training costs. Most usually offer some funding.

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