MP spoke with Irete Hamdani, founder of askBelynda, a Google Chrome extension helping consumers reduce their carbon footprint by recommending sustainable products while shopping online. Hamdani is an honors graduate of Tel Aviv University and is an AWS Certified Associate Developer and Solution Architect. 

What are three non-negotiable things a team leader must do for their team, and why?

1. Provide a Safe Environment

This sounds very basic, yet there is still a high percentage of cases where employees feel discriminated against or office bullied by their peers. 

Their team leader is their “first line of defense” against these types of situations. 

They should instill a positive, supportive and safe place of work and be there for their employees if there are still incidents.

2. Establish a Productive Environment

There’s a lot that goes into this. 

From motivating your employees through providing clear tasks and due dates to providing the resources and training your employees need to succeed. 

Employees want to work in a place that’s moving forward, and you are the company’s focal point for them.

3. Be a Positive Role Model

As their direct manager, your employees look to you to see how you carry yourself. 

How you act, how loyal you are to the company, how professional you are, and so on are all reflected in how they will be. 

This is especially true when working with new employees in the workforce. Their first managers greatly impact how they develop in their careers.

How important is it for a team leader to provide feedback, how detailed and frequently should feedback be delivered, and why?

Most companies have a yearly feedback practice. 

I believe feedback should be provided frequently, and employees should always know where they stand. 

It doesn’t necessarily need to be a formal process. It can be delivered as part of the ongoing conversation. 

I would recommend a separate weekly meeting between every team leader and their members. 

This is a great opportunity to review the tasks at hand and share your advice with your employees – what they did well, where they can improve, and so on. 

Even a failed attempt can be used as a learning opportunity.

How do you determine what things to delegate and the team members to delegate things to, and how has this changed over time?

Until you know your employees, there’s a period of testing things out. 

You start small with a task they can surely complete successfully and grow from there. Employees fall into niche categories, but they also change over time. 

Ongoing communication is key to trusting to who you can delegate which task to. 

Some employees may overpromise or not understand their limitations. You need to be mindful enough to identify this and support them. 

Some employees may want to branch out and acquire new expertise. If possible, enable them and support them within the organizational constraints as they grow.

How important is it for a team leader to communicate with their team, and how detailed should such communications be? 

I believe the more the employee feels connected to the company they work at, the more they enjoy their work, and as a result, the better they perform. 

To communicate the short-term focus and timely events, company goals, results, and success stories can be done quarterly in addition to weekly touch points.

What are three communications mistakes you’ve made with teams in your charge, and how could those mistakes have been avoided?

1. Broader Picture Doesn’t Always Resonate

The broader picture doesn’t always resonate with the employees at the different levels of the team. When talking to employees, you need to identify what is relevant for them and talk to that.

2. Overloading Employees With Unnecessary Data

When sharing too much information, you risk overloading employees with unnecessary data that can do more harm than good.

3. Words Carry a Lot of Weight

Your words carry a lot of weight. Everyone wants job security. If your employees feel instability, it leads to over-speculation that can result in underperformance.

Irete Hamdani
Founder of askBelynda Irete Hamdani / Photo courtesy of Irete Hamdani

How have you used conflict resolution as a team leader, and what conflict resolution principles should team leaders know about, and why?

It’s very helpful to involve someone professional in conflict resolution. 

Your HR representative should guide and be present when conflicts arise and need to be resolved.

How do you approach building relationships within your team, where is the line drawn that shouldn’t be crossed, and why?

I spend time getting to know the people I work with. 

I’m interested in them as an individual – their hobbies, what motivates them in life, where they like to vacation, etc.

When we truly get to know people, we empathize with them, building an amazing team. I think working together can get complicated when you become very good friends. 

There are more expectations on both sides when there’s a close friendship involved. 

I wouldn’t consider it a “line that was crossed” but more something to be aware of.

What are three unique team leadership mistakes you see entrepreneurs make, and how can these mistakes be avoided?

1. Recruiting the Wrong Employees

No matter how many interviews you have with a candidate, it’s hard to tell how they will perform. 3-6 months in, you’ll know if they were a good fit professionally and personally. 

If they’re not, I would strongly suggest parting ways. 

Employees not supplying the desired outcome or not getting along with their peers will require too much energy on your end.

2. Being Too Demanding

Especially when you’re a small startup that needs to prove itself to survive, I see managers putting too much burden on their employees and causing them to shut down rather than be more effective. 

An example of this may be working hours. You can’t expect your employees to be available 24/7.

3. Being Too Lenient

This is the other side of the same coin. 

Most employees are looking to be challenged to grow into their next role. They also want to feel a sense of accomplishment. 

Not setting the bar high on expectations may lead to indifference on their end. With ongoing communication, you should be aware of the load on their end and if you need to give them more work.

How do you handle resistance from your team, and why?
Resistance can manifest in different ways. 

It could be the whole team grouping together or just an individual. 

I believe you need to reach the underlying reason as soon as possible and solve it. Is it that they don’t understand why they must do a certain task? 

Give them the bigger picture of how this relates to company goals and get their buy-in. 

Are they not happy with their salary? 

Get to the bottom – maybe they had a month of unpredicted expenses, and a short-term company loan can help them get by. 

Whatever the case, it needs to be solved fast and efficiently. 

Responses provided by Irete Hamdani, founder of askBelynda.

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