I was having a great conversation with an Emerging Leader recently, and she shared with me that she felt like she needed a road map to help her navigate the first few months of her new position with a fast growing technology firm. We had a wonderful chat about how leadership and management are vastly different from being a strong individual contributor and came up with this set of guidelines for new leaders to help keep them properly oriented for their early days in a new leadership role. We hope you like the guidelines and hope you will honor us by giving us some feedback about our checklist.
- It’s a Whole New Ball Game: Being a strong Individual Contributor is one thing, and establishing yourself as a Leader is another thing entirely. The habits that got you promoted are NOT the same things that will lead to success as a manager or leader. You MUST change your game to succeed in leading. You need to learn to trust your team, to delegate important work to teammates, and to develop skill in motivating and managing people to results, rather than achieving them through your OWN hard work and dedication. Leaders cannot get to success through hard work; they must develop their ability to work SMART and to teach others to achieve results indirectly.
- Invest in Yourself: Realizing that your success now relies upon you leading others to collective success, you must change your tactics and strategies. First, you must invest in yourself, by reading great business books, developing a network of mentors and coaches who can bring out the best in you, developing a keen ability to prepare your team for delegation of important and challenging work, and master the art and science of working through others. Read up on motivation, management, leadership, communication, and systems thinking. That’s a good start. More will come to you after your first 100 days, and you can read about other things later.
- Motivating People Is Key To Success: Understanding people’s unique motivational profile will help you to determine which strategies and tactics will work to influence them to pursue the most important objectives that will result in the team delivering ambitious results. Learn to observe your team and to ask insightful questions that will help you unlock the riddle of each team members motivation so that you can set them up for success and reward them appropriately as they deliver strong results.
- Communication Is Key To Success: When you rely on others to deliver the results as a team, there is no way to get into a rhythm as a group without regular, clear communication in an environment where people feel psychologically safe to throw their ideas into the mix without fear of humiliation or retribution. You will quickly find that you must demonstrate vulnerability and encourage humility and vulnerability in every member of the team to help them build trust and learn to communicate with candor and to be willing to challenge one another to their best work. Set the team’s mindset that we’re growth and learning oriented, and we’re going to have conflict around here in a consistently positive way so that together we can become our best selves, which will make us a great high-performance team. Be clear and over communicate, if anything. When you are beginning to tire of hearing yourself talk about the expectations and team values, you are probably just beginning to communicate often enough.
- Success Is Better Together: There is a great African Proverb that I’ve become quite fond of, it goes like this. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Leadership is about teaching and coaching others to rally together and learn to become highly effective on a regular basis so that the team can predictably go far together. Encourage inclusion, encourage engagement from every member of the team, hold everyone accountable, and reward them for digging in and learning to be positive and constructive in challenging one another to scale great heights together. Focus on supporting this process through your actions and you will enable great success by the team you are leading.
- There Are No Participation Awards: I remember being uncomfortable in the 80s and 90s when giving kids participation trophies and awards became fashionable to avoid hurting anybody’s self-image. I’m a firm believer that businesses don’t pay for participation or effort. Businesses pay leaders for one thing, and one thing only, that is consistently leading your team to deliver expected results. Don’t be confused, the best way to achieving consistent results is often by being a tremendous human being, with empathy and appreciation for the effort. But in the final analysis, if you don’t deliver results, the business cannot afford to provide you with a participation award. That’s the facts, Jack! Don’t fret, you can adjust and do it. Delivering results consistently is a very achievable objective, when you pay attention and work intelligently as you and the team work hard.
- Never Stop Learning: The highest performing teams and companies are alway learning, always improving their game. Don’t ever become complacent, and don’t ever allow a fixed mindset to creep into your team’s culture. One of your primary responsibilities is to inspire your team to become their best. How is that possible in a world of constant revolutionary change, if people do not maintain a learning posture and a growth mindset? Steer your team to overcoming the greatest challenges and optimizing the greatest opportunities by asking intelligent questions designed to keep the team focused on the learning that will enable innovation and future growth into new markets and opportunities.
- Build Early Credibility and Momentum: Get your leadership team, and your team energized and enthusiastic by delivering some value early on in your tenure, delivering early wins. Show the team how to identify the low-hanging fruit and show them how to win the right way, and then give the credit to the team for the victories. Success breeds success and early success will cement the credibility you’ve built and will build momentum that you can ride to longer term success after the first 100 days.
- Assess Your Hand and Build A Great Team: If you’ve been dealt a handful of aces, it gets easy to deliver ambitious results. Unfortunately, sometimes your team will need to be upgraded to overcome dysfunction when you take over. If you build a cohesive and high-performing team, creating value for your organization will be easy. If you don’t have a great team to leverage, you’ll have to do much of the work yourself, and that is not a recipe for success. Prioritize recruiting, hiring, training, communicating, motivating, and managing your team with the idea that everyone you hire could one day become your replacement. Get the team right, and things get easier. Don’t get the team right, and the chances of success become increasingly remote. Retain your best people always, and don’t hesitate to upgrade your staff if underperforming team members don’t respond to three attempts to improve their performance.
- Build a Support Network: It’s natural to begin by improving your team, and it’s often tempting to stay focused on only your team forever. Doing so is a tremendous mistake. Once you have begun to build your high-performance team, it becomes imperative for you also to begin to build a network of people in other departments or organizations who will willingly support your ascent as you work toward worthy ideas and improvements. You must have tremendous lateral relationships with people in other departments and often other companies. These are individuals who can be counted upon to support your initiatives, despite your having no direct control or authority over them. This takes time, and won’t happen instantaneously, but you need to begin to identify those relationships and establish a strong, credible and positive first impression upon them during your first hundred days. Doing so will ensure that they will become ardent supporters later when you need their support to affect change.
We could have gone on, and created more worthy objectives for a first hundred days, but that would introduce the possibility that we would overwhelm a new leader and bog them down in too many crucial initiatives. The key is to move quickly, and consistently forward during your first 100 days, building credibility and trust with everyone who will help you to greater success. Let me know about YOUR experiences with a first management or leadership position and how you approached this unique challenge, and how it worked out. The best comment in the next 48 hours will earn you a free Extended DISC behavioral analysis assessment report and a free hour of consultation with Michael.
Michael Beach is a business and executive development coach in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St Paul, in Minnesota. Michael coaches dozens of Emerging Leaders, Business Owners, and C-Level Executives to raise the level of their professional game. Michael coaches his clients in fifteen core areas of business and personal effectiveness, including leadership, performance management, communications, culture, operations, marketing, sales and many other disciplines. Be the first to comment on this blog article and receive a complimentary copy of Michael’s forthcoming book on Business Best Practices.