In football, it is the quarterback who drives each play. However, the quarterback also has to contend with the other team's defenders coming in to try to tackle him before he can make a play. It is his offensive linemen who hold off the defenders to give him the time he needs to find an open player down the field.
Although your employees won't have defenders trying to tackle them (hopefully), they'll still come across a variety of setbacks and complications when working on projects. Just like a quarterback in football, your quarterback employee, or team leader, needs to have protections in place as well. This will better enable them to do their job properly with minimal distractions. Here are the primary areas you need to defend.
Whenever you make changes to your company's products or services, your customers are bound to have input on the changes. Make sure that you have dedicated employees whose responsibility it is to deal with customer comments and complaints. Your team leader needs to be focused on the bigger picture, which is difficult for them to do when they are bogged down in talking to customers. Have your customer service representatives make note of the comments and complaints received to be passed on to the team leader, freeing him or her up to focus on the overall progress of the project.
It is not just the others in your company who can protect your team leader, but those on the team as well. Just as a quarterback has to rely on wide receivers, running backs and tight ends to find an opening, your team leader needs to have confidence that they can rely on the members of their work team. Make sure that the people you choose to work on a team are up to the task and can handle their duties with minimal supervision. Of course, the team leader will provide general guidance, but they should not have to guide their team members through each individual step.
Team leaders report to their managers, who then report to their own managers, and so on up the chain of command in your organization. Any communications should follow the chain accordingly, meaning that those at the highest levels of the company should not be pressing your team leader for details; instead, they should seek the answers they need from the team leader's manager. This way, the team leader can focus on completing the task at hand, rather than trying to assuage the worries of stakeholders.
Of course, defenders in football can and do break through the offensive line on occasion, and this will happen to your team leader as well. However, the more protections you can put into place for your team leader, the better their chances of getting their project done on time. Listen to your team leaders to identify the areas where they could use additional support, and do your best to provide them with that support whenever it is possible.