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Leading a Matrixed Team

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Many leaders are leading matrixed teams. Most if not all their team members are from other parts of the company and not in the leader’s reporting chain. Often this arrangement results in the team leader feeling they don’t have real leadership authority.

Although it’s true that a matrixed team leader doesn’t have the same authority they would with direct reports, it doesn’t mean they can’t be successful. Here are some tips that will make matrixed team leadership easier.

1. Always be clear on the team’s mission and goals. Get with your boss and/or project sponsor to ensure you are working toward their expectations. Then, make sure the team understands the mission and goals. You want everyone to understand why they are there and what they are working to accomplish.
2. Get to know your team members. Learn what they bring to the team and look for ways you can help them grow. No, you are not their supervisor and their professional development is not your responsibility, but the good will you will develop will make for a more cohesive team.
3. Treat your team as a team, not a collection of people from different parts of the company. Stay laser focused on the mission and goals.
4. Don’t forget you are the leader and are accountable for the team’s actions and results, but also consider yourself a coordinator. You bring various different parts together to create a successful result.

Of course, there will always be issues and problems that develop in matrixed teams. Sometimes it’s individual issues and sometimes it’s lack of support from other departments.

5. Be quick to address issues that develop. Always try to resolve those issues at the lowest level. That means approaching individual team members one-on-one to determine what the problem really is and how you can solve it.
6. But not all problems can be resolved this way, especially if the problem is with another department. If that’s the case, get your boss involved. It’s usually not a good idea to approach a matrixed team member’s supervisor directly. Get your boss involved to deal with these issues at his or her level.

Matrixed teams present their own challenges but these tips will make you a more successful matrixed team leader. Above all else, remember:

7. You are responsible and accountable for the team’s actions and results. That means you are a leader. Be a good leader.

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