6 Proven Tips For Making Your
New Leadership Journey A Success
CONGRATULATIONS! You have landed yourself a new leadership position. Here begins your leadership journey. Your responsibilities have been significantly extended, you’re leading an organisation or a function – people are looking at you…
There’s pressure to perform, anxiety that you might not live up to expectations – or they could find out you’ve been winging it…or maybe it was all just luck that got you this far.
Thankfully these are all normal thoughts, its how we think – we are hard-wired to check for danger and since there are no Saber Tooth Tigers left – your competence in your role will have to do…
The leadership journey you make will be yours; it will be unique to you. As unique as you are, as your role is and the individual challenges you face. For this reason, taking some time to do the groundwork, to define yourself as the leader you need to be now will pay dividends.
Read on for our Proven Tips to Make Your Leadership Journey a Success
1: LANDING WELL
It can feel surreal, you may have lain awake dreaming of this time and now you’re about to start and it feels impending. What if you oversold yourself (just a little) at the interview? What about all the new areas in your remit that are not your areas of expertise – how can you be credible?
The good news is, that you have some time to find out… if you manage it effectively. Do some work getting to know yourself, what you stand for and define your leadership brand, by being clear on your story, your values and who you are as a leader. For a limited time, you’re new and people expect questions; use this time wisely. Create a balance between finding out about areas where your knowledge isn’t as strong and demonstrating your credibility. I have never heard of a new leader being criticised for asking questions, it’s a great opportunity to demonstrate a coaching approach. Showing both skills as a leader, real curiosity and building understanding.
2: BUILD TRUST
When you start in your new role, your team will look to you and want to know – who you are and how you will be leading them. What do you have that’s useful, where are your weak points, where can they add value and show their worth.
These are also useful questions for you to be seeking answers to. After all, you are forming your team. Research is clear, diversity in teams creates success – look for people who complement your weaker areas. Be open about what you seek from them, the value that they can add and where you want them to challenge and provide support. New leaders fail when they build a team of like-minded yes people, who don’t create challenge and innovation. In these circumstances, the intelligence of the team is limited, with challenge and diversity you aggregate the IQ of all the players.
When you come into a new role, you need to get to grips with the landscape. Are you taking over from a star player, or have the team lacked leadership? In either case, position yourself and respond appropriately. Remember people have given their effort and have attachments – be respectful in your approach, ask relevant questions, whilst it’s important to be explicit maintain sensitivity.
Remember senior managers need to be visible and seen, trust is formed in your actions which others witness. The more people you connect with, places you’re seen and interactions you have, the greater the opportunities are to create trust.
To get beneath what is really happening in the organisation, to know the challenges and opportunities that are within your new role, you have to listen. And I mean really listen. Not listening to what you expect to hear, not listening to prove the assumptions and judgments you have already made are right, not listening until you think of something that’s clever and self-validating to say or until you have an opportunity to say it – but really listening.
Tuning in to the person you are meeting with, noticing how they respond to different questions, what parts of the business they are willing to talk about and what parts they aren’t. Observe their patterns of speech, body language – what brings them out of themselves. Notice their focus, are they detail people, task or relationship focused – what matters to them? Find out about them – what do they want to achieve, where do they want to focus – who are they as people. Find out what gets in their way and where you can have the most impact for them as their leader.
4: CULTURE IS KING
The culture you create will be defined by what you notice, pay attention to or walk past – you are constantly setting permissions. What you control, measure and reward implies what you care about and ergo what people will focus on.
New leaders often feel pressurised to act, to demonstrate their worth. They may consider bringing in something that worked in a previous role – that enabled them to shine. Some thinkers encourage a quick win – proving worth and gaining credibility. BE CAREFUL! If you don’t understand the culture of the organisation, how decisions are made, if you do not have the engagement and commitment from the staff, have a case for change that people understand and buy into this approach is HIGHLY RISKY!
According to research carried out by the Harvard Business Review, not understanding culture is one of the leading reasons new leaders derail.
If you are taking over where there have been leadership difficulties, you must fully understand there impact. For example, where there has been a lack of openness or transparency, or where a blame culture exists, it’s important that you fully consider the present situation before you start to affect change. Culture change will start with your leadership brand, be clear on who you are as a leader, what your expectations are and what you value and require. People crave clarity, certainty and fairness -a failure to establish these will lead to confusion and further mistrust.
5: EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
You are likely to find out information that you were not expecting. There may be issues and problems that arise, or you uncover as you look into how the organisation, its processes and strategic focus.
How you share, manage and tackle these issues will define you and the way people relate and respond to you. Before you make assertions ask open questions, seek to understand before judging and committing to a point of view. As you manage problems it’s useful to have a grasp on the culture, what led to this situation and understand why decisions were made. Being able to fully capture what an issue is and understanding the wider picture enables people to engage with you as their new leader as well as creating better solutions that people can commit to.
6: BE REAL
Leadership is becoming more human, people want to be led by real people, people that they can relate to and who they can engage with. It used to be thought that leaders should remain distant, not be too close. Now think about it – who will you go out of your way for, who gets your deep support? The answer is people you believe in, who you have a strong and trusting relationship with, people that you know care.
But being real also means that you can have the difficult conversations because people know your intent is positive and you are aligned to help them achieve. The strength of the relationship means you can explore, challenge and debate at a deeper level. It also means you are open to feedback, to recognising the expertise of your team; enabling and promoting them and their successes.
Being a new leader is not easy and your leadership journey may not be straightforward. There will be lots that will push and pull you off your course – by doing work now to prepare yourself, get behind, in front, inside and outside of your story, your challenges, strengths, weakness and value – you can enter with greater certainty, presence and credibility.
Recommended further reading on Leadership from Awoken People:
Leadership – the time is now
How will the changing business and economic environment impact on your leadership style?