Becoming a manager for the first time can be as terrifying as it is exciting. For most of us, the skills that made us successful in our old roles aren’t the same as those that will allow us to thrive as leaders. Fear not: You’ll figure it out eventually. But it will take time and there will be hiccups along the way. Let’s take a look at some of the most common missteps below, so you can work towards fixing them.
Without any training on how to be a solid leader, many of us (understandably) revert to treating people exactly how we’d like to be treated. But unless your team is exactly like you, that won’t do the trick. People are different and the only way to learn what approaches would work best for them is to spend time with them.
You need to get to know your team. Ask the best methods for communicating with them. Ask about their values and motivations. This doesn’t need to be a one-and-done, all-day session! It’s the perfect use of your regular one-on-ones. (Yes - regular. Not annually. Not even monthly.) At the start, you’re going to need weekly or, at the very least, biweekly one-on-one conversations to really set a solid foundation. It’s a simple and very impactful way to set the right tone with your team.
Just as you are getting to know your team, they are getting to know you as a leader. You can’t expect that they’d know what you want in any given situation. You can’t tell them nothing about what’s going on in the company overall and expect them to successfully fill in the blanks on their projects. You need to communicate effectively in order for them to have a true understanding of what you need and hopefully, down the line, to be a little better at anticipating your needs or goals.
Until then: Clarity, clarity, clarity. Put thought into your intention when going into conversations. What is the goal? What’s the best medium for you to have this chat? (DM, email, call, in-person — there are plenty of options!) Be mindful of your tone of voice. You know what they say about making assumptions...ask if they are clear on next steps. Ask if they have any questions, then answer them happily without a sigh or an eye roll. Be as open as possible. There’s no such thing as too much communication.
Refusing to delegate anything off of your plate won’t make you any friends as a new leader. You’ll be overloaded, stressed and unable to fully take on the responsibilities that come with your new role. You need to let go in order to take on the new challenges you’re facing. You don’t want to be the bottleneck on team projects going forward. Delegating can feel impossible at the start. But if you want to continue to learn and grow, as well as set your team up for success, you need to master it.
A few gut check questions to ask yourself: Does this really need to be me? Does it have to be done exactly how I want it or is that just a personal preference? I hate to burst your bubble, but you’re not the perfect person to handle every task. Nor do you have the time to be! Plus, you’ve no doubt got some amazing folks on your team who would crush it if given the chance.
One of the most tricky pieces of being a new leader is having tough conversations. Your team needs to know when they are falling short in order to get better. It’s your job to tell them about it. Conflict will need to be managed and you could very well be at the center of it. These aren’t simple things to navigate and no one expects you to nail it on the first try, but you certainly can’t assume you’ll figure it out without any thought or preparation. These aren’t situations where flying by the seat of your pants goes over well. You’ll want to put thought into what you’re saying and what you’re hoping to achieve by doing so, as well as think through how they may respond and be ready to address their concerns.
Being the leader of a team is hard work. And you don’t become stellar at it overnight. When you’re working with people, it’s hard to predict what will happen next or how they’ll respond, but that doesn’t mean you don’t try. You owe it to them and yourself to put your best foot forward and have the positive impact on their careers that you know is possible.
This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.
Kelly Poulson is a human resources pro and coach who helps people find and achieve what they want career-wise and beyond. Coaching, training, recruiting – if you name it in the world of HR, she's done it in a variety of industries. Her advice has been featured on The Muse, Career Contessa, Thrive Global, Workology, among others. Learn more by scoping her out at www.kellypoulson.com.