You’re A Leader, Now What?
Great news! Your hard work and persistence paid off and you just accepted a leadership position in a new (to you) organization.
First, know that every company and team culture is different, so beware of trying a one-size-fits-all leadership style that either worked in the past, comes from the latest best-seller, or even my blogs. However, clients making this transition, and my own experience, have taught me there are at least five leadership behaviors that will get you off to a good start.
Be authentic. Let your team get to know you. You should be more than a boss, less than a friend, and at all times a human being to your team. And, no one respects a phony.
Your team members represent you whenever they work with others on projects. When you effectively communicate your values, goals and decision-making processes, they are better equipped to act independently and make decisions you support. This also allows you to delegate more effectively, and build trust with your team.
Make time to get to know your team. Spend time in regularly scheduled one-to-one meeting with your direct reports. Ask questions and listen to them using the 80/20 rule. This means team members do 80 percent of the talking. Make these meetings your highest priority. Until and unless you know the strengths, weaknesses, aspirations, motives and temperament of your employees, you can’t unleash their full potential.
Trust your team. Now that you know your team, trust them to do their job. Let them show you what they can, or can’t, do. The best leaders maximize strengths and minimize weaknesses of their team members, and put them in position to be successful.
Be decisive. In many cases, the position you are walking into has been vacant for several months, which means there are issues that need attention and action. After a period of onboarding and getting settled in, start making decisions. It can be a relief for a team that has been rudderless for a long time to finally see someone acting like they are in charge. Just make sure your one-up is onboard with any major decision you want to make.
Communicate. You are building relationships, trust and making some decisions, now it is time to communicate your vision – over and over. Never assume your team knows what you know and vice versa. Set and re-set expectations, identify opportunities to improve processes, reward success, and learn from failure. The more you engage your team, the more likely they are to buy into your vision.
Bonus tip: Perhaps this is the hardest advice for leaders coming into a new organization. Bite your tongue whenever you want to say a variation of the phrase: “when I was at company X, we did … ” This comment is really more about puffing ourselves up (and it diminishes your current team) than solving a business problem. If you can manage this, you will reduce eye rolling by 86 percent in team meetings (my estimate).
You are only as successful as your team, so take the time and make the effort to treat them like the partners they truly are.
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Gregory Alford, MS. Psy., is founder of Accelerated Coaching & Consulting LLC, and specializes in business, leadership and life coaching and Marcom consulting.