You have been performing well and were given a promotion. This is certainly a cause for celebration. The promotion comes with something exhilarating yet worrisome thoughts – managing and leading others.
Perhaps you have chalked up an indisputable track record as the best sales representative, or trader, or researcher, or financial controller (fill in the blank with your expertise). Your people leadership skills, however, may be largely untested.
Here I would like to outline five common pitfalls in leadership transitions faced by both new and sometimes seasoned managers, and make some suggestions on how to overcome them.
- Failure to delegate
It’s nerve wrecking to letting go of control. After all, you were the best in your field therefore you got promoted. And your team has never been able to show that they can do the same things faster and better and more effective than you so why take the risk of letting go? The “bad” news is that you do not have a choice. Stepping up to a leadership position means there’s more on your plate now and you will have less time to do everything yourself. Delegating well is also a key differentiator for great leadership.
By delegating you are not just getting leverage but it also earns you the badge of being a people developer, making people are more likely to want to work for and with you. The first step towards a successful delegation is shifting the mindset on control, letting go and leveraging others. You can delegate through in small chunks, taking into account your team’s competence and motivation, and striking a balance between delegating task and responsibility.
- Not communicating enough
Being an individual contributor can be a very comfortable proposition for most people. As leaders, however, the need to communicate vertically and horizontally across the organisation increases tremendously. A systematic and structured plan for stakeholder management and communication frequency is crucial.
In some of my coaching assignments, I’ve observed some of the most senior and successful corporate leaders religiously maintained a communications plan. They tracked and analysed the frequency, impact, and outcomes of their communications with their stakeholders.
- Prioritising on the wrong things
If it feels overwhelming at first when stepping into a leadership role, it’s rightly so. The very first thing you need to clarify with your management team, even prior to the promotion, is your key priorities in the first 90 days, priorities for the mid term (6-12 months) and long term goals.The Presidents of the United States are framed to be judged on their first 90 days. In the corporate world, the first 90 days is also often seen as the key determinant for the success or failure of a leader.
Set up an urgent vs. important matrix for all the tasks in front of you. Prioritise on the tasks that can provide you and the team the biggest payoff. Run the list pass your management team and get some feedback.
- Reluctance in asking for feedback
Some people see feedback and learning as a sign of weakness. The opposite is true. Change is rapid today. Past performance doesn’t guarantee future success. Leaders who have a high learning agility to unlearn and relearn about themselves, their surroundings, their teams, their products, on an ongoing basis, have the highest probability of succeeding in today’s fast-changing business landscape.
In the Information Age leaders no longer hold all the answers. Asking for feedback allows you the opportunity to tap into the smart of others. It also shows humility and a high level of emotional intelligence. The “why” generation appreciates leaders who engage them and ask for their opinions. Asking for feedback is no longer a taboo but cool! More importantly, it allows you to quickly understand deeply how you could lead the team to success.
- Lack of leadership presence
You now hold a larger seat at the table (more literally if your promotion comes with a larger office or desk). You are the same person but the team now expects more from you for inspirations, motivation, and direction. Sometimes people mistaken building a leadership presence with building a larger than life view of oneself, or a persona. It is not. Nobody likes to work with someone not authentic and think a world of him or herself.
Leadership presence, is about owning the room, be consistent and clear in your communicating your belief, values and speaking with conviction and confidence. It is about drawing people to you and increasing the desire of others to be led by you. It is a critical aspect of personal branding that helps build teams, business and organisations. Be conscious and selective of your words and body language. Be reflective on how what you say and do affects others. Be authentic and extremely consistent.