A Quick Start Guide for New Leaders
So you’re taking the next step in your career and soon you’ll have a few direct reports of your own, eh?
Congratulations! You’re about to embark on one of the most rewarding (and challenging) journeys of your professional life.
I’ve already shared with you how life-changing leading people can be here on the blog.
But I wanted to offer up some tips on how first-time leaders and people managers can get off to a quick start in their new role.
Now most of you are probably excited and feeling confident as you get closer to starting, and I encourage you to harness that energy to your advantage.
However, understanding the real meaning behind your new undertaking is going to play a huge part in determining how your first few weeks and months go.
Here are a few strategies you can start using from day numero uno:
Build personal relationships first, professional second
Now, number one may be a bit contentious for some - but trust me, this has always paid off in the long run - especially during my time working in Major League Baseball.
In order to understand your new team and how you’re going to leverage their abilities to achieve the best possible results, you’ve got to get to know them.
But as people - not just job titles.
The reality is, despite being employed by a company who pays your salary or hourly wage to perform a role and in this case, ensure others are doing the same... your chances of success will be largely dictated by how much your new employees trust and respect you.
And I promise you - you’ve got a better shot at making that happen if you spend some time getting to know who they are and what they’re all about.
Obviously there are limits - and being a professional is a very important aspect of your new relationship with leadership. But being “the boss” doesn’t preclude you from finding out where your team members come from, what their life outside of work is like and who they really are as an individual.
People first, job title second will help you form strong foundations and go a long way towards your team appreciating your arrival.
Learn from those who already know - your new team
Even though you’re the new sheriff in town, that doesn’t always mean that you’ll know best.
In fact, in a lot of cases when you’re just starting out in a new leadership role, you won’t have the answers.
And that’s where relying on your team comes into play.
Remember? Those people who you now know a bit more about because you’ve invested the time and energy to get past where their desk is and what position they hold ;)
Have a look at the tenure of your new employees and try to key in on a few that have been around for a while. They’re more than likely aware of the dynamics around your new office and can almost surely help you look smarter and more in tune as you get settled in.
However, that doesn’t mean you should discount any of your team members who are also just getting their feet wet. The moral of the story is that great leaders never stop learning - the best leaders are ones who continue to grow their knowledge base, acquire new skills and in turn, look to pass those on to their teams.
There are other mistakes that new leaders often make, but by choosing to trust your employees and respect that their experience can be even more valuable than yours (they’ve been here, you haven’t), you can avoid some of the more common pitfalls.
Hone in on what you do best - and make it obvious
Of course, there’s a reason why you are here.
And even if you are new, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t flex your skills!
Whatever your natural abilities are, I highly suggest you do your best to make them known in a way that demonstrates your talent and humility at the same time.
Let’s say you have a knack for managing projects.
Once you have a feel for what your team’s deliverables are, you should absolutely take the reins and make sure that the right people are in the right places so that the targets can be met and results can exceed expectations.
Now, does that mean you’re going to shine a spotlight on yourself and take credit for moving things around and delegating as needed? Not at all.
But it does mean that when you’re reporting up to your own manager, you should subtly let them know that you’re intimately aware of who’s doing what and provide commentary on why you’ve got things moving the way you do.
There’s a difference between showcasing and showboating - find the balance and make sure your employees (and colleagues in other areas of the company!) know who you are and what you bring to the table.
Get a few quick wins under your belt
Everybody wants to be successful.
And success means different things to different people.
But showing why they’ve made the right choice selecting you as the newest leader around the office doesn’t have to be difficult.
Quick wins come in all shapes and sizes depending on your industry, company size, mandate, etc.
My point is that you don’t need to wait until your first performance review to demonstrate the impact you’re making.
Maybe you set up a new, regularly scheduled meeting for your team that didn’t exist before, bringing a bit more visibility to who’s doing what. Or maybe you increase the volume of outbound calls by incentivizing performance or arranging a friendly competition amongst your employees. Who knows, it could even be as simple as introducing yourself to all of your managerial counterparts in other departments at the company.
Finding some positivity and success early can not only provide you with motivation - but your team will feed off that too. By showing them that you’re engaged, capable and invested in your new role, your people will feel even more compelled to deliver for you.
What are some of the ways that you feel new leaders can get off to a quick start? Have you ever been in a situation where you joined a new company and used strategies other than these to make a great first impression? I’d love to hear about it! Sign up and leave me some feedback in the Comments section below. Or feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, thanks for reading!