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Stepping into a management role for the first time can be daunting, but it helps to draw on the experience of others to start off on the right foot. We’ve done the groundwork for you, and asked around to gather advice on what new leaders need to know from individuals at all different stages on their leadership journey.
Here are the common threads:
It’s always okay to ask for help. Just because you’re now in leadership position doesn’t mean you know everything, nor should you be expected to.
Everyone can benefit from being a lifelong learner, regardless of your seniority. So make sure you continue to take advantage of training and development opportunities as often as possible. You may also benefit from going outside training within your skill set and undertaking some professional development to supercharge your leadership skills.
In addition to continuing with training, don’t forget to keep talking to those around you and asking for help and advice when you need it. You may even go to your direct reports to get feedback on things. This is a win-win – you get an outside perspective and they feel valued.
“Put the needs of the direct report first, demonstrate trust, delegate as much responsibility as they can handle and the rest will follow naturally.”
Ian Frost, Delivery Manager
If you want to get the best performance from your team (who doesn’t?), you need to stay open to new ideas. It’s important to get this right early. If you can help your team feel confident making suggestions from the start, this dynamic is likely to be enduring. Start by asking your team members for input on things, build mutual respect and be willing to listen when they have suggestions.
While you want to encourage new ideas as much as possible, there will be times when you will need to say ‘no’. When making decisions, you must ultimately do what is best for the business. If your team member has a good idea, they should be able to justify why it’s worth a shot before any of you commit to spending too much time on it.
Now that you’re managing a team, you will also need to delegate like a pro. This means saying ‘no’ to things that aren’t adding value. You’ll want to make sure your team (and yourself) are only spending time on tasks that are of importance. Once these are being taken care of, you can make room for getting creative and experimenting on the side.
In order to be an effective leader (and prove your effectiveness) you’ll need access to the right data. Decide on the priorities for your team and how you will measure success, then make sure you’re tracking these results from the start. Having these insights will also help you recognise which of your team members are excelling and who may need help.
“Get the Data – don’t manage on gut instinct, determine what the key metrics are, determine the current pattern, help your team understand how they contribute to it, make it important, set targets, and measure.”
Paul Trappett, COO
Automation is on the rise and it’s giving us more time to spend on the tasks where we can really add value. Showing empathy and having emotional intelligence are two things that you can never outsource or automate so be sure to constantly work on and develop these skills. Being approachable and understanding will also help foster trust and honesty within your team. Checking in with your team frequently and showing an interest in how they are going, is an important habit to get into to show your team you care.
Part of being human also means you will make mistakes. No one gets it right every time, not even the boss (that’s you)! Mistakes happen, but what matters is that you’re upfront and honest with your team. Acknowledge that you missed that mark and explain what you’re doing to fix the situation. This also sets a good example for your team, wouldn’t you want them to do the same for you?
“Lead by example. Always”
Alan Soto, Agile Coach
These were our top pieces of advice for new leaders, what would you add to the list?