Imagine that you are a new leader: you’ve just been promoted to lead your first team. Some of you will have to reach back in your memory banks to think about this. Others are looking forward to that moment with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation. Because until you sit in that chair, you don’t quite know what it’s going to be like.
I recently received a call from a friend – we’ll call her Felicia. She’s a high performer, used to being a senior level individual contributor providing critical information and collaborating with a number of coworkers. She’s self-motivated, well networked and a quick study. But when she received the news of being moved to a manager track where she will lead a team, she suddenly realized that she didn’t know as much as she thought she did about how to effectively do this.
How do you lead?
When you’re a new leader, it’s important to first orient yourself to your role of caring for and developing your team, to enable them to perform at their best. There are three key steps on which to focus.
First, find out where they are.
Get to know each team member by understanding their strengths, opportunities for growth, favorite parts of their job, decision making capabilities, operating style, motivations, personality and more. Learn how you can best support them to excel in their position. As an analogy, if you’re a parent with six children whose ages vary from two to 20, each of them has different emotional, financial, educational, tactical and interactive needs. As each one grows, you recognize their increased capabilities and adjust your interactions with them.
Next, show them where you need them to go.
Create a compelling vision for your team of what success looks like, what the future holds and how they are contributing to the organization’s goals. Inspire them to achieve more by connecting their motivations to your team’s reason for being, the “why”. Similarly, many parents communicate a sense of future possibilities for their children with a goal that they mature into adults with values and behaviors that contribute positively to society.
Finally, help them get there.
Provide developmental opportunities, growth experiences, training classes, visibility with leadership and build their skills. Hold them accountable for results. Model constructive interpersonal skills and conflict management techniques. Remove roadblocks and build bridges for them. Parents similarly provide guidance to their children that is sometimes gentle and other times very direct, in different ways at different ages, to help them accomplish goals.
Along the way, remember to celebrate successes. Find opportunities to praise their progress and encourage them to take the next step. When your team knows that you’re invested in their individual and collective progression, a foundation of trust is established.
And what are you learning as a new leader?
The longer you’re in leadership roles, there are several truths you’ll learn.
- You never fully arrive at being a great leader. It’s a learning process as you hone your own leadership capabilities. Invest in training, coaching, 360 feedback, reading and other practices to ensure growth. As you go, you’ll adjust to needs and shape your strategy.
- You’re not a leader unless you have followers. Some leaders face forward, pointing the way, leading the charge, and forget to see if anyone coming along behind them. They assume that people will follow them. I suggest leaders lock arms with their team and move forward with them. This ensures you have a true connection with them so that you understand where they need guidance.
- You can’t be everyone’s leader. Some people won’t be the right fit for you. They’ll benefit more from another leader’s personality and operating style. You may be able to manage their work in terms of your technical expertise, but you won’t be successful in developing them as people. Try providing them with a mentor or buddy in another part of the organization who will help them grow.
- You will struggle with underperforming team members. Some small percentage of team members are going to be in the wrong assignment for their skills and interests. They’re still great people, they just need to find the right role and company. Your responsibility is to help them identify their true strengths and interests, and the place where they can be successful. This demonstrates respect for every member of your team.
- You must build your emotional intelligence. Typically, you get to a leadership role because of your subject matter expertise. You thrive in a leadership role because you recognize the importance of building self-awareness, managing your emotions, becoming aware of the social situations around you and managing relationships with others. This helps leverage your own abilities to develop others.
Leadership isn’t easy, but it’s rewarding as you see current and former team members grow, as you see accomplishments and results, and as you create a legacy for yourself.
I’m excited to offer you a fantastic resource to support your growth as a leader. My long awaited, newest book is launching Tuesday, April 27th 5p.m. EST. LeaderVantage: 7 Essential Steps to Peak Leadership is a collection of insights to help you successfully maneuver obstacles on your journey to peak effectiveness as a leader.
It’s available on my website, and on Amazon beginning April 27th! Pick up a copy for yourself, a colleague or friend.
And register to join me on the virtual Launch as I share a bit about the book and get to interact with you and others. Register to attend so we’ll know to expect you.