The Challenge for New and Emerging Leaders
Stepping into a manager role is challenging. It may be the first time that you are directly responsible for managing the work of others, some of whom may once have been your peers. So, what should you focus on in this new role? Based on my experience in multiple organizations and in developing leadership programs, I would suggest the following five areas of focus.
- Self awareness. Leaders can be surprisingly un-self aware. They don’t know their strengths or what they’re good at and, conversely, they have little understanding as to how they are seen by others. Start with cultivating self-awareness. There are many ways to get started with this important work. You can do a personality assessment. You can ask people who know you well what they see as your strengths and areas for development. You can take this input and reflect on what you know about yourself. Strive to continually observe yourself in action so you can learn more about yourself, your values, and what motivates you.
- Situational awareness. Next, you should take stock of your new situation. New expectations come with a managerial role. People throughout the organization will have expectations about your competence level and ability to execute based solely on your new title as manager. Take time to understand your stakeholders, their wants and needs and, importantly, what they expect from you. A good way to find out: Ask them.
- Managing up. The relationship with your immediate boss is critical. Make sure you understand your boss’ expectations, communication preferences, and preferred managerial approach. Some good rules of thumb are “no surprises,” i.e., always give a heads up about potential bad news, seek advice or assistance when stuck, and ensure a good flow of communication, up and down. Be sure to schedule regular one-on-ones with your boss to ensure that you are on the same page.
- Managing down. Not everyone likes managing other people. A manager is expected to know his/her people – their strengths and weaknesses, their particular interests and aspirations, and how to speak to them, among other things. This situation is made more difficult when you have been promoted amongst your peers into a management role and now need to manage your former peers. This is one of the most difficult transitions to make in management. Know that things will never be the same; move forward with that knowledge as your starting point.
- Providing feedback/difficult conversations. One of the most challenging things for managers is to have meaningful performance conversations with our subordinates. Because we don’t like hearing or saying things that could be perceived as negative or potentially hurt someone’s feelings, it is always best to prepare and to approach these conversations from a position of empathy. Often, if you ask someone to critique their own work, they are likely to be harder on themselves than you will ever be. Ask the kinds of questions that prompt self-reflection. When making statements, ensure they provide the clarity that others can take action on.
What I’ve described is a combination of the fundamentals of emotional intelligence and rules of thumb for successful management. So, as you step into a managerial role, remember that many have successfully done so before you. Know thyself, know thy situation, know thy boss and thy people, and learn how to have mature conversations.
Need help? Contact OLA Consulting.