Skill Assessment: Joys and Discomforts of a New Leadership Position

Congratulations.  You have been promoted to a management position you have been hoping to receive for quite some time.  You have set goals, worked hard, kept your nose clean, excelled in your former positions and you finally made it.  Now, the hard work begins.  How do you motivate your staff to give their best?  How do you help your team see you as a team leader (when you have been a peer up until now)?  How do you manage your time to accommodate all the extra tasks on your plate?  How do you make decisions like a leader?  How do you coach people?  How do you let people know they have to be let go?

You certainly need more education and experience to handle all of these situations.  It does matter.  The number one reason why people leave a job is because their boss did not know how to lead.  The quality of the boss/leader/supervisor/manager/team leader is one of the single most influential elements on the quality of life in a workplace.  You want (and need) to be in the category of “great boss.”  I encourage you to be very self-aware of your strengths and weaknesses as a leader and work to develop in your areas of need.

Today we will look at five behaviors of effective new leaders that are vital to their success by looking at Julie.  She has just been promoted to a new management position at a bank and is doing a great job.  Her team trusts her.  She is sending her division of the bank in the right direction.  How is Julie accomplishing this?  Following are five insights:

1. Julie let go of the thoughts and processes she had as a team member. She learned quickly how to put decisions, emails, conversations, etc. through the filter of leadership. Her experience as a team member is certainly beneficial. However, decisions as a team leader can be more complex, weighty and require a more measured approach.

2. She asks questions when necessary. Julie understands that she was not hired to be perfect and because she knew everything. She was hired because she was an exceptional team member and because she had the potential to be a highly trusted leader. Julie looks for opportunities to sharpen her leadership skills.

3. Julie knew going in to the position that there would be push back from two groups of people – those individuals she used to be team members with and those individuals on her new team with more experience and/or age. She focuses on not taking offense to these dynamics, nor does she allow them to apply unnecessary stress on her work life. She takes every push back, big or small, in the proper context and stays focus on the work at hand.

4. Julie expects to have to continue to earn trust. She does not assume that her position included an instantly high trust level from everyone. This allows her to lead by example – working harder than her team, showing up early, leaving late, sticking to commitments, etc. She maintains her work-home life balance; being a leader doesn't equal zero home life. However, she is a living example of the old saying that no leader should ask his/her followers to do anything they are not willing to do also.

5. She was a likable, personable person before the promotion, but has worked hard to increase these traits. She forgives first, trusts others quickly, replies to requests of her time/attention quickly, listens actively, doesn't make other people fight for her time/attention, encourages and builds up her team genuinely and often, coaches her team members in privacy, and is a source of optimism in the office, etc. Julie is a meaningful source of joy for not only her team, but for the bank as a whole.

I experienced push-back from my co-workers when I took one of my first jobs soon after college.  I had a Senior Director position and two of the Directors (less pay, but more experience and older) actually set me down individually to let me know I had no say over what they did.  It was a rude awakening to work life as a team leader, but I didn't let it tarnish my excitement or my commitment and passion to providing great leadership for that office.  Congratulations on your new position.  There aren't many parts of professional life more meaningful or significant than being a leader others want to follow.

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