Being a good project manager and a team leader isn’t always the same thing. Some people prefer having a more professional relationship with their colleagues, while others prefer to level the playing field.

This is where the term “subleader” comes to mind as a way of bridging that gap. What are subleaders and how can they help you manage your team more efficiently?

Being Number Two

In essence, sub-leaders are people in managerial positions that have a leader above them just like the team does. Practically this means that there are two leaders operating through the same team but in a “one-two” system.

One leader issues order, evaluates strategies and steers the team into the right direction. The other follows through on those orders and makes sure that the team is productive enough to see them through.

Sub-leaders are the “number two” in this system, and their inclusion has seen a spike in popularity in recent years.

Many companies tend to implement them due to a simple fact that more people in a team mean better results and productivity – but is that always the case?

Streamlined Delegation

Having two leaders be in charge of a single team means that the delegation process can be much smoother. The subleader’s obligation towards the team is to delegate work according to their individual skills.

The project manager can focus on creating a great briefing so that the subleader can assess the difficulty and complexity of each task with more detail.

This can lead to a much better delegation process being done simply because one person is solely in charge of properly assessing each team member’s skills and capabilities.

Splitting Teams into Groups

An interesting possibility that presents itself once a subleader is present is the possibility of further segmenting existing teams. Not every task is doable by a single person: sometimes you will need pairs or bigger groups.

Using the same logic as before, the project manager can focus their intention on outlining a project and assessing the needs of the task at hand.

Subleaders can receive these documents and segment teams into smaller groups that converge at a certain point to share their results and finish the project successfully.

Better Coaching Opportunities

It’s easy to see how work management becomes easier with a subleader present on the team. But what about employee development?

Subleaders are often versed in human resources and coaching, which are two of the most important aspects of team management.

Coaching matters more than you think. The more value you offer to team members, the more motivated they will be to work harder.

Project managers can safely focus on the statistical, goal-driven side of running a team while a subleader’s job is often more personal and delicate.

A Feedback Oriented Workflow

Depending on the depth of relation between team members, you can implement a more or less aggressive feedback oriented culture.

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This means that everyone is allowed to say anything to anyone else, as long as that comment is constructive and useful.

Subleaders can act as jury in that case, making sure that each comment comes across clearly, and without raised eyebrows.

Keeping a team focused on their goal is sensitive work. One slip is enough to jeopardize the project.

This is why many companies introduce HR experts as subleaders. They can act as a bridge between higher managers and lower team members.

Clearer Communication

A lack of clear communication channels can be problematic when dealing with short deadlines and even shorter tempers. Subleaders that receive orders directly from their project managers can clear up and direct orders at their team members.

By allowing for a two-step communication, a team can function more quickly and efficiently without a possibility of miscommunication.

This reason alone is one of the most important reasons to consider introducing a subleader culture in your own corporate environment.

Leadership Training Options

Lastly, the most important reason why subleaders should find their way into your roster is their ability to train new leaders.

The generational shift is present in every company and not every employee will want to stay aboard indefinitely. Being prepared for unexpected shifts in leadership and team management is entirely possible by training new leaders early on.

This is where subleaders get to present their full potential.

Finding out which members are suited for managerial positions and coaching them to develop toward that specific goal is something that very few project managers will have time for. Subleaders however are appointed to do it.

The Importance of Subleaders

While having additional employees on your payroll may seem like a bad investment, subleaders can fundamentally change the way you do business.

Try introducing one or two of these mid-level managers into existing teams and gauge their performance in a controlled environment.

Once your employees get accustomed to dual-leadership and experience the benefits of having this system in place, you can move on to company-wide implementation.

Let project managers focus on statistics and analysis of RoI and interest – sub-leaders can take care of your employees’ satisfaction and development in the meantime.

How Do You Work With Subleaders?

If you have ideas you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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James Scott
James Scott, an independent blogger, CEO at Essay Supply, and professional marketer from Columbus, Ohio. He has more than 5 years of marketing experience and is passionate about professional and agile team management. Even the smallest member of the team can change everything, so a wise manager should do their best to deliver the best working experience for everyone.