10 Ways to be a Successful First-Time Leader
It’s a position many of us aspire to, but the reality of becoming a manager or leader for the first time can also prove a little daunting. Here are our top ten tips for making a successful transition.
1. Build your confidence
Develop a strong inner core that frames what it is that you want to be as a leader. Remember, what you project can be just as important as what you do. Draw on your experience from all areas of your life, as well as work, to prepare for this new undertaking.
2. Do your research
Find out about the organisation and its future direction, strategy and intentions. Find out about the people who are going to be around you, including colleagues, team members, managers and bosses. Learn more about who you’re taking over from. In all likelihood you’ll discover you’ll be dealing with regular people who are just like you – not monsters with two heads – and being prepared will mean you’re not caught by surprise.
3. Understand what matters
Get clear about the organisation’s values and understand what gets rewarded and praised. What are the fundamental, rather than the discretionary, things that you need to focus on? Once you have done the groundwork, you can plan your priorities accordingly.
4. Be sensitive about the past
Create enough space for yourself so you can process what you’re learning in an appropriate way. Most of all, don’t set out criticising everything that’s gone before as that’s bound to get you off to an unwelcome start.
5. Be interested in others
Be positive with the information that new people have and give to you. Listen to what people have to tell you and be open to their briefings and suggestions, even if they’re things that you’ve already identified you want to change. Indeed, ask them for their thoughts about what they’re doing and what they may want to do in the future.
6. Build trust
This does not happen in a single conversation or in a single week. It takes time. When you come into your first leadership role you are going to need a good trust base with the people that you lead in order for you to make the changes that you believe are important. Remeber, you need people to trust you in order to lead them effectively.
7. Develop good relationships
Set out to develop good relationships with everybody that works for you. This can be difficult when you work with a lot of people or when you’re in disparate locations but you should seek to understand the key relationships you need to develop.
Start with your team, then identify important peers and, critically, your boss. Like trust, these relationships take time to develop. Don’t be too hasty but do invest time in learning about your new colleagues.
8. Lead by example
Demonstrate what’s OK with you in every step you make then let people know in the most appropriate way what you want to see. Whatever you want to tighten up on – be it timekeeping, absence, the language used in front of you or with clients, the quality of written communications – display these behaviours yourself from the word go. You don’t have to impose them immediately on everybody but start by leading the way.
9. Set boundaries
Like the previous point, this issue is about setting standards so people are very clear about what is expected of them. You’re starting to let people know that there is a new person in charge with a different set of standards and behaviours than there have been before. Starting out as a leader knowing exactly what you have to do and what others are doing can be a real advantage.
10. Be aware of your own behaviour
The most important element in your first leadership role is to be rigorous in the pursuit of your own personal disciplines. When you turn up for work how well prepared are you for meetings, particularly when you’re chairing? Are you doing what you say you will do? Are you meeting difficult issues straight on and with respect for all parties concerned? These are the types of things that make or break your efforts to lead others.
By Position Ignition (www.positionignition.com) and the Career Ignition Club (www.careerignitionclub.com), the UK’s leading career change and career development company and platform. Also the author of 125 LinkedIn Job Search Tips (http://www.positionignition.com/100-linkedin-job-search-tips). Follow @PosIgnition for more help with your career challenges.