The learning curve when entering a leadership role tends to be steep and scary, but there are plenty of ways you can make the transition easier on yourself—and on your team. If you come in with the right mindset and concentrate on these key leadership skills, you will not only survive as leader, but succeed brilliantly.
Here I share several key ways to make the transition to being the amazing leader you are born to be.
1. Listen and learn.
To listen and learn from your team (and senior leaders in the organisation) is a crucial step towards success. Your team are the ones on the ground, doing the work, so they’re perfectly positioned to tell you how things are going, any problems they foresee, and their ideas for improving performance. A manager who works in top-down isolation by issuing orders without their team’s input is heading for a whole world of trouble, so reach out and actively seek your team’s opinions.
Also, look to outside sources for inspiration. There’s a treasure trove of leadership information online, so you can learn from incredible role models without needing to make their mistakes.
2. Learn to delegate.
This can often be the most challenging aspect of becoming a manager, as you were almost certainly a star performer in the first place in order to get promoted. However, being an individualist now will definitely make you a poor manager, so you need to encourage others to chase the glory if you want to succeed in this new stage of your career.
Resist the urge to step in and do things yourself or force others to follow your way of doing things—instead support your team members towards success and trust that they can do it. Remember that their success is your success!
3. Don’t make any sudden moves.
New managers often come in with grand plans to change things, but while the sentiment for improvement is admirable you’ll often destabilise the team with big changes, and even mess with things that were working just fine. Consult heavily before making changes.
4. Know how long things take.
It’s devilishly easy to take a brief glance at a task and think: there’s not much to that. Jenny will get through that in the morning, only to find it takes poor Jenny most of the week because she didn’t have the resources or support she needed —or it was just a bigger job than you realised. Realistic project estimation is a vital skill for any leader, and if you don’t get a handle on it quickly you’ll feel out of your depth in no time, and your team will feel put-upon by your unrealistic expectations.
The first step is always to go to the employee and find out their estimate of how long a task will take, and if they have everything they need. An incredibly helpful approach is to get employees to track their time on projects so you can get an idea of how long things take. This practice definitely applies to you too, as knowing where your time goes is the first rule of good time management.
5. Show good character.
Be authentic. Don’t let fear of failure rule your decision-making. Ask for help when you need it. And above all, admit to your mistakes. As a new leader, you’ll probably make plenty. The worst thing you can do is try to hide your mistakes—or even worse—deflect blame, so be brave and calmly admit you’ve made an error, and then explain how you’re going to fix it. This mature attitude builds respect from your team.
6. Be comfortable with change.
Great leaders know that the only constant in today’s business world is, change. Therefore accept that not everything will go to plan.
A sudden employee resignation, a freeze on headcount or a delay in a new product approval are all likely events on the calendar of today’s modern leader.
Develop your flexibility and you will be able to take all events like this in your stride.
7. Understand (and communicate) team goals.
Your role as manager is to distill the company goals into clear goals that your team understand. Then it’s your task to motivate the team to reach them with energy, initiative, and vision. Be aware that different employees might be motivated in different ways, so tailor goal-setting to individuals where you can. Always remember the importance of demonstrating the value you and your team add to the organisation.
8. Find the sweet spot between high levels of support and autonomy.
New leaders often fall into the trap of micromanaging their employees. Some might even go in the other direction and assume everyone knows their job and leave them to it. Both strategies will alienate your team, as one provides too much support, and the other too little. Your success depends on learning this balance.
Again, the best leadership support strategy will vary depending on the employee- some crave very high levels of autonomy, and others like constant feedback and support. Know your team, and you’ll know how to lead them.
At Zestfor we specialise in training for leaders at every stage of their development and we understand that this leadership transition can be one of the most daunting (and most exciting!) you’ll make in your life. If you would like to find out more get in touch here.
Until next time,