There’s nothing quite like your first promotion to leadership. You’ve been recognized for your potential, your aptitude, your hard work, and more. But getting promoted to be a people leader is challenging, particularly when you haven’t been a boss before. You’re told to go out and “motivate” a team without really understanding how to do that.
Because dealing with people is the most complex job of all, here are my best practices to setting yourself up for success as a new boss:
1. Self-Educate: Depending on your organization, you may or may not be provided with training. Fret not! Educate yourself. Two books I can recommend for learning the principles of influencing, engaging, and motivating others are: How to Win Friends and Influence People and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Here are another 20 you could choose from. The bottom line is: you need to educate yourself, whether your organization provides training or not. While leadership is arguably a natural born ability, people management isn’t.
2. Expect to Adjust: The worst approaches I see new managers take are the closed off, “I’m not going to change for anyone” approach; or the, “I’m not here to make friends” approach. Expect to adjust and adapt. Your employees are individuals with unique needs and thus must be treated like individuals. One size fits all leadership styles don’t work. If you can adjust your style to better tend to their needs they’re more likely to succeed – and that’s what you want. The fundamental concept in motivation is to create an environment in which people can choose to do their best work so if you can help create that environment through your approach with them, you should do it.
3. Align Expectations: The best advice I received as a new manager was to exchange expectations with my team. If I have one golden rule of effective leadership, this is it. Expectations are the foundation of a relationship. Understanding what’s important to each party helps establish boundaries and guidelines for the new relationship. Ask your new employees what they expect of you, how they like to be rewarded, recognized, or criticized? What motivates or frustrates them? Better yet, have them describe to you the best manager or coach they’ve had in the past. Next, you’ll exchange your expectations of them. From punctuality to communication standards and everything else in between, now is the time to lay the ground rules. Here is a great reference on setting expectations.
4. Define a Vision: I’m a big fan of team charters and defining a shared purpose within work groups. From discovering what the brand of the team is to a shared (measurable) goal, being a new leader is a great time to bring the team together and define a vision. Facilitating a vision setting workshop with your new team will breed camaraderie, pride, and energy.
5. Find a Mentor: Lastly, and equally as important, find yourself a mentor. A mentor is a good idea in most career stages but in particular, when you’re navigating through complex people challenges. You’ll need someone who can teach, advise, and guide you along the way. A mentor can be a confidant as well as an educator. As a people leader you’ll be having plenty of tough conversations and having someone who can role play difficult dialogue with you is ESSENTIAL. Look for someone who you admire, who shares your values especially with regards to leadership, and someone who will give it to you straight even when it stings.