So, Friday was your last day in your previous position, and now it’s the first week in your new role as a leader (actual title may be supervisor, manager, lead). Nothing is more exciting than getting a promotion, and yet as daunting at the same time. Leaving the comfort of being a team member has many benefits: salary increases, perks, possibly more office space, etc., and with it so many new expectations, responsibilities, unknowns and moving parts. You have worked hard and been dedicated to developing your own skills, and all of those efforts have landed you this great opportunity. You may feel a heightened sense of pride and for a while it feels good to be you!
So, a question – What amount of wisdom, insight and talent was dumped into you over the weekend that has now prepared you for this new bigger role in which you find yourself? Yes, you still maintain all the job and industry knowledge you possessed prior, but now all eyes are looking at you, people are awaiting your input and direction, and wondering how you are going to show up. They are also concerned about what will change, how your promotion affects them in their role, and may even be worried about their jobs. Some may not agree with the decision to make you the boss, or at least may be cynical in their assessment of what they already know about you and the new expectations you will be facing.
This wonderful change now comes with lots of new questions. Everyone before you who has risen in the ranks to be a boss, supervisor, manager, director, or C-level leader has had to undergo the agonies and ecstasies of promotion, just like you are now. You will also find plenty of people who will offer their advice to you in what to do, not do, and how to behave. You may even be put right away into some type of leadership training if your organization wants to help you get a better start in your new role. No matter, you still have to show up and begin to perform in new and unfamiliar ways.
I am often asked from people in these situations what is the most important things I can share with them. In order to best succeed as a first-time leader (I use the term leader as a metaphor – you will choose which type of leader you’ll become soon enough), the following Five Tips are what I offer to all leaders, no matter their age, tenure, track-record or success history:
1. Know Yourself. You are now going to be responsible for many new things and people, so you need to have a healthy level of self-awareness and knowledge about how you interact with others, how you take in information, and how you assess situations. I suggest you interview a few people in your network (co-workers, supervisors, family and friends) and ask them what strengths they most admire about you, what weaknesses they see in you, and what they might like to see you do differently to enhance the way you work and communicate with others. Take that input as gold, find ways to stay mindful of your impact on others, and get coaching or mentoring help in those areas proving more challenging. Self-awareness is the cornerstone to leadership, so begin to be intentional on how you can develop and expand in this area.
2. Know Your People. You are no longer the doer – a leader’s prime role is to get the right things done well through other people, so you need to become an ongoing expert in human behavior ASAP. I suggest spending lots of time early in your new role getting to know your teammates better, find out what they love about their job and where they are having difficulty. Explore what they know, and don’t know, and see where you will be able to offer assistance to them. Get a sense of the ‘feel’ of your team and organization, as this will help you navigate any areas that need improving or changing. I suggest, unless you are inheriting a sinking ship, spend 10-times more effort watching, listening and asking questions to what’s going on that speaking yourself in the beginning. Remember this – a leader is one who works with people and get’s them to want to give their best. You will be respected and beloved by how much you care for them and let them know you are there for them.
3. Know Your Mission / Deliverables. What you want is less important than what it is you and your team are put there by others to accomplish. When we agree to be hired, that agreement comes with expectations and requirements from those who hired us, so find out quickly what those definitions of success looks like in their eyes. When you are clear you can easily share that with your team and help them understand what success looks like. Have your goals and plans clear and visible, refer to them and their progress often, and let them be the guide for everyone to boost responsibility and accountability. Being a leader isn’t all about you – it’s about accomplishing your mission, together.
4. Know What to Track. The world of work has way too much information streaming at us, via reports, meetings, emails, and communications. After you realize your and your team’s deliverables, meet with your people and see what key measurables are available to all of you that best tracks whether you are progressing as planned. Leaders are concerned about meeting deadlines and due-dates, maintaining quality, meeting customer satisfaction levels, managing costs and motivating people, so look for metrics that act like gauges on your dashboard you all can refer to regularly.
5. Know How to Learn Daily. It’s not your job to know everything, in fact it’s impossible, so get comfortable with not-knowing, and yet keep an open and curious mind so you can see clearly what is really going on around you. Observe others, see the impact of decisions, look at how opportunities come in and out, listen to what’s being said, and not said, and pay attention to what’s working and not working. You job is to inspire others to put their best forward and get things done well. Your learning can then be shared with your team and your entire level of performance will rise. As you learn to coach better from the sidelines, you will learn more about people and find new ways to help them succeed.
In my experience these are the core foundational strengths of successful leaders, past and present, and if you take these on as your own they will not fail you, nor the people you impact.
Leadership is a never-ending, life-long journey for those who the rest of us affectionately and realistically call ‘leaders.’ Hopefully you are aspiring to be so well connected to the stakeholders you touch that everyone feels they are positively directly impacting the organization, and receiving the highest and best benefits of their being involved. Your kudos will come when everyone feels like they are winning, being heard and cared for, and have their own sense of personal and professional growth.
Learn to be a catalyst to unlock the potentials and possibilities in others, and they will always astound you with ever higher levels of engagement, productivity, success and enjoyment!