My new post for Challenge Consulting
The day you’ve planned and worked for has arrived: you’ve been promoted to manager. You know that your leadership skills are going to be needed in the coming weeks and months, but what exactly are they?
Perhaps you’re suffering from ‘impostor syndrome’ - the feeling that you aren’t really up to a leadership role, and that sooner or later this will become obvious. How do you develop leadership skills and feel confident in your ability to lead? Here’s our guide to shaping your leadership style in the first days, weeks and months in a new leadership position.
Be clear on your priorities. Start by focusing on just three things, and get those done with the help of your team. What are you trying to achieve? How will you measure success – both your own and those of your team members? Let your manager, your team and any other stakeholders know what you are prioritising in these first weeks and months, so that they understand your goals. Don’t be afraid to ask for their help.
Being clear about your purpose and committing to your team and yourself is what leadership is about. Knowing what you want and who you are is the basis of being a good leader.
Listen and learn. An associate told me about a new manager who came on board from another organisation and immediately began changing every process in the team – even those that worked well. My friend had worked in the team for years and was a technical expert, but the new manager believed she had all the answers. If she had listened to her new team, and to the higher-ups, she would have won their respect and trust; instead she fragmented the team and was moved on within six months.
Spending time with your team and getting to know them on a personal level will mean you can inspire each person to do their best in the way that works for them. Motivation is different for everyone. Admitting your mistakes, learning them and discussing them with the team is a way of being authentic. Being authentic means you build trust and cooperation in your team.
Create a support network. Seek out a more experienced leader who can mentor you. This will not only improve your leadership skills, but it will also show you how to map your road to success in the organisation. An informal network of others in leadership positions can act as a sounding board and provide support if times get tough. A weekly coffee or eating lunch together is a good way to put that network in place.
Better still, you can hire a coach or sign up for a leadership training course. Challenge Consulting’s research has shown that leadership training increases median revenue by $31,000 per employee and productivity by 17-21%. Formal learning can help to address your concerns and questions in a systematic way, and the leadership journey need not be a lonely one.
Develop your communication skills. This includes working on your listening skills. Stephen R. Covey wrote that, ‘Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.’ When employees feel unheard they lose motivation, so make sure you don’t give the impression you know it all or are not interested in what your colleagues have to say. Keep your audience in mind when you speak; simplify jargon and complex technical information when speaking to people whose job does not include working with those things.
Practice giving a presentation to boost your confidence, and think about joining an organisation such as Toastmasters or sign up for a class in writing or speaking for business.
Praise and acknowledge others. Do it immediately and your team will appreciate your feedback even more. Feedback is highly motivating and team members will appreciate immediate thanks, praise and even constructive criticism. Learning to deliver constructive criticism is an art. You can read more about providing actionable feedback in our article about common feedback mistakes here .
Take time out to celebrate employees’ good performance and meeting the team or organisation’s goals. When employees feel acknowledged and empowered to do their best, productivity soars. An environment in which people want to work can be more motivating than money, and retaining good people is the hallmark of a good leader.
As small business coach Barry Moltz put it, ‘Bosses have jobs and leaders build companies’. So learn to be a leader.