Some may argue that in today’s world, leading is always dangerous – whether it is as a first time manager promoted within their exisiting company, or as a new manager hired to work in a new organization.
Every manager has a ‘first management position’ at one point in their career. This can be an enormous change in one’s working life that brings new challenges, expectations and emotions. Can it be compared to having the first child? Will it be a new experience that may lead to more? Or is it more like traveling alone to a foreign country? Exciting but at the same time nerve-racking trying to navigate new logistics, a different culture and interpret an alien language.
Leading as a New Manager
Let’s be honest. Starting a new role can cause a lot of stress. This stress can be predictable in some ways, but also surprising in others. In many cases human nature tends to create more stress because it is natural to be tough on oneself. The ‘bite off more than you can chew’ tendency is often counterproductive. Trying to do too much, too soon, can blow up in one’s face.
The first days as a new manager can be a heady rush of excitement, engagement, and disorientation. Maintaining a calm disposition, observing, listening, learning and setting a focus must be on the agenda. You are not in Kansas anymore!
Changing jobs have been ranked as creating some of the highest stress levels in a person’s life. It ranks right up there with marriage, birth, death, divorce, etc. No wonder the stress level can be a bit overwhelming.
Leading with a Personal Support Base
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a manual provided to a new manager that offered a step-by-step process to succeed in a new job? Since that is not going to happen, looking for other options may be the next best thing. All new managers need strategies to better manage stress, build confidence and get the right foot set into the right path leading to a brilliant future!
Once the basics have been covered, I suggest one begin looking for allies within the company. These people can significantly help one to begin feeling grounded sooner rather than later. Allies are those people who potentially provide backing, assistance, advice, information, protection, and even friendship. This becomes a mutually beneficial partnership – a partnership that helps get things done faster and smoother without using a heavy hand.
Allies may even bolster and safeguard relationships within the organization while ensuring survival in the corporate arena. Remember allies can be found in unexpected places. Never discount other departments such as accounting, HR, etc. Making the right alliances may also blossom into close role models and mentors.
When securing an effective personal support base. Also look outside of the employer domain. A favorite uncle may be an excellent sounding board, joining a peer group (online or in person), attending Meet-ups or working with a personal coach are additional ways to successfully lead, enhance, establish and advance a management career.
New leaders are often brought in to effect change, and all eyes are on them to see if they can pull it off. Realistically, when one is starting a new job, the expectation of immediate and significant value is only in one’s own mind. Plan carefully. Try to focus on a few small victories that will help establish credibility, trust and respect in the short term. Once on firm footing, the bigger projects will be easier to digest and deliver.
There are a number of strategies that work well when leading change. IMHO, a very effective approach for a new manager is to ask for help and ask for feedback. Everyone wants to help – individuals feel valued, recognized and important. And guess what? It is the fear of asking for help that makes one look incompetent. Show managerial courage. Many people — the good ones, anyway — enjoy helping others, and being asked is very flattering.
“A problem shared is a problem halved”
The New Leadership Dynamic
For some new managers, peers have suddenly become subordinates and superiors have become peers. This can be a precarious situation with potential for misunderstanding, possible professional jealousies and personal discomfort. Asking for help and feedback shows that one is interested in being proactive about learning from others while developing deep trusting working relationships. By taking this step, a new manager may be able to circumvent potential issues with individuals who may need some time for adjustment to the new leadership dynamic.
It is important to not be afraid to act like a manager and display managerial courage. At the same time, no one wants to work with the Grand Dictator of the Universe. The first few weeks can set a tone that may be difficult to change later on so proceed with empathy, honesty, commitment, common sense and a willingness to accept suggestions and feedback.
Transparency is the Leadership King
No man is an island. One can’t do it all themselves, regardless of how much of a control freak they may be. It takes courage to rely on other people to do what is needed. A great manager drives success through their people, but effective delegation is the key to that success. Sharing the load by enabling and trusting others is what provides challenge, opportunity, learning, growth and development for everyone in ‘dangerous times’.
Being a good leader and manager is challenging and rewarding. Communication is at the core of every step – be clear about objectives, be clear about expectations and always be consistent in managing people.
To close off my writing, I wanted to share this humorous bit written by F. John Reh, Management & Leadership Expert.
Top 10 Clues That You Are Management Material
- You like not doing anything
- You have no trouble telling others what to do
- Work fascinates you – you can sit and watch it for hours
- You like ‘sweating the small stuff’
- You have always been something of a loner
- You don’t think ‘plan’ is a four-letter word
- Your favorite cocktail is milk of magnesia
- On Halloween you dress up as Alex P. Keating (played by Michael J. Fox in Family Ties)
- Your favorite horror writer is Tom Peters
- You enjoy having people despise you just for doing your job!
The following article has graciously been provided by Judy Mackenzie of TEVO Leadership Coaching & Consulting. Judy’s details are below. ENJOY!
Leading in Dangerous Times
You have just moved into a new leadership role. One that is bigger, more exciting, and brings with it a great title in a fresh new company. Change is good, right? You have worked so hard for this promotion and your “Bring-It” adrenaline is running at an all time high. Life is Good!
During the interview process to get the new position you gained some understanding of what your new company is good at and what they are struggling with. You are feeling confident that you can make the changes needed to move your new company along their stated strategic path. The technology is exciting and you can see how your new company is poised for greatness. You are so excited to be a part of that. So, you start your new journey with optimism and energy.
On your first day you are meeting the key stakeholders that will be part of your success going forward. As your ears are perched to hear the exciting new things you will be encountering, they pick up a vibe when others begin to talk that wasn’t present before. You are starting to hear some different stories about the current challenges that didn’t surface in the interview process. This new tone and new revelations are a little concerning, however you stay calm because everyone is so glad that you are here and is ready to get you up and running. They actually have been anxious for you to get into the role to make some highly needed changes for the organization. Life is still good…
Times… They Are Quickly Changing
But with the new revelations and undercurrents that exposed themselves very early on, you are beginning to feel the pressure for your new role that was not expected. And it isn’t even close of business on the first day. Those faint alarms bells that began to sound in your head in the beginning of your day are now starting to get a little louder. As your fist day ends, you realize that things may not be what you once expected them to be. Life is hopefully still good…
Feeling Like a Leader?
Because of the new onslaught of unexpected challenges, you go home after your first day exhausted, a little agitated, but definitely energized. Your plan of assessing the workplace for a least one week is starting to look like a pipe dream. There are just so many issues that need to be addressed quickly and you really want to make your mark right out of the gate. You may begin to wonder if your quest to put your leadership stamp on your new role will come to fruition in the time frame you had in mind. So far you have been able to contribute to a couple technology issues and you think that you have shown some good leadership skills by taking charge. But doubt seeps in.
So you ask yourself:
“Are my leadership strengths noticed? Will I make my mark in time to stay credible? How can I show my talent in such an environment of challenges?”
Does this sound familiar? By the end of the first week you are starting to feel quite overwhelmed with the challenges and the lack of time to put everything in perspective. So what do you do now? Is there a better way to transition to a new leadership role? Is it more about intentions, or is it more about effective planning?
The road to ruin is paved with good intentions.
Transitioning In a Better Way
Let’s just step back for a minute and look at some steps for a transition plan that might make more sense of your first 90 days and increase dramatically your personal and professional success rate. This will help you swim safely when the sharks appear in your pool.
360 Degree Feedback
- Do you know what are your strengths and your development opportunities (aka: weaknesses)?
- Have you been brave enough or had the opportunity to take advantage of a 360° feedback process?
- Are you clear on what you bring to the table?
- Do you choose your next role and not be one of the >50% of transitioning leaders who fail in their first year.
Using these types of assessments can be the single most effective method to get you on the right leadership development track. Many of us have blind spots that can derail our plans and seat us squarely on the bench. There are many good 360° assessments instruments on the market that can be a great practical guide to what you are good at and explain what you need to work on. It is so important to know this to make sure that you are leveraging your strengths and planning actively to deal with development challenges.
Get a Map
Make sure you take advantage of the time before you start your new role to get the lay of the land. Use the human resources group, customer and employee survey data, communications, marketing and any other group that can give you information about the functioning of the organization.
Develop a solid relationship with your boss that includes establishing a set of clear expectations for you and your boss. This is the time to practice clear communication skills and much of that will be accomplished through active listening.
Get your information from a variety of sources to make sure you don’t become isolated through the opinions of a select few in the company. These are good political moves that will pay large dividends down the road. Be very careful if you are feeling recruited by a person or group and make sure you understand their motivation.
Don’t try to do too much too soon as that could be seen as “knee jerk.” This is not a leadership competency that is valued in the long run.
“Be patient; show restraint; and measure your words twice before you cut them loose from your tongue.” ~Tom Schulte
When you are speaking of your earlier companies, be very careful not to give the impression that you are attempting to recreate your past company within your new one. Bringing your whole team from a previous employer has a number of warning bells attached to it. This is not a good thing.
Transitioning into a new role is exciting and dangerous at the same time. The bad news is that there are lots of land mines to fall on and the good news is there are ways to avoid these potential fatal obstacles and carry out your leadership goals.
Judy Mackenzie, MBA, CHRP, CEC PCC, owns and operates TEVO Consulting Inc. for small and medium sized businesses and The Champion’s Mindset, focused on personal development. She is also the author of “Women Rock the Business World – A Planning Guide for Women Entrepreneurs“.
TEVO’s mission is to assist companies in reaching their strategic goals by developing leadership and people management systems that allow employees to be at their best. Judy believes engaged employees are fundamental to business success, and she designs support and management systems to help people and companies achieve their full potential.