By Selina Fisher
You’ve worked hard to get that promotion to become a leader within your team or company. But now what?
Becoming a leader can be exciting and challenging at the same time. Exciting because you are finally in the role you have worked so hard for and cannot wait to make a difference and lead a team. Challenging, on the other hand, because you are no longer flying solo and focused on your outputs. You are now responsible for managing people at various career stages and with different needs. On top of that, you are expected to hit the ground running and may not get the support you need from your organisation.
If this sounds like you, here are five strategies to help you navigate the first six months in your new leadership position.
- Don’t stop doing the inner work.
Having the title of leader isn’t the end of the road. It’s only the beginning. Personal development and inner work are essential to your success as a leader. It’s never too early to start. New managers need to know that what made them successful in the past may not make them successful in the future. Working with a coach or mentor helps you to develop self-awareness and self-trust.
When you trust and believe in yourself, it is easier to trust and believe in your team. More importantly, your team believes in you and can trust you. Leading from a place of awareness and trust helps you to take ownership of your role. It also allows you to communicate effectively with your team members and provide constructive feedback.
- Learn to delegate
One of the biggest struggles for first-time people leaders is that they are focused on the doing. They think they have to do all the work themselves to prove their worth. As a technical specialist, you were expected to do all the work assigned to you. But as a leader, your role is to delegate in order to free up your time to support and lead your team. You can’t do this when you are bogged down with day-to-day tasks.
It may seem easier just to do the work because you know how to, and it will probably save you time. But when you do this, you are disempowering your team. Get to know your team, their strengths, passions and development areas. It will serve you well when you have to delegate tasks and create development plans for them.
- Learn to listen
Part of putting people first is creating a space where they feel heard. When a team member talks to you about a challenge they are experiencing, are you listening to answer quickly and get them back to work? Or, are you listening to understand and help them work through the challenge? Make time to listen to your team members. It will help you understand what they are struggling with and provide an opportunity to get to know them. Listen to learn and understand, not to respond.
- Ask questions
The ability to communicate work requirements and to give constructive feedback is critical for new leaders. One of the biggest challenges I have seen is that new leaders don’t ask questions when given projects or work assignments. And because they don’t ask questions, they can’t provide clear instructions to their teams to deliver the piece of work. Not asking questions for fear of what others might think will have more significant implications for you later in your career.
If you need more encouragement to ask questions, watch this video by Simon Sinek. As a new leader, always ask clarifying questions to those giving you directives to ensure you can provide clear instructions to your team.
- Work with a coach or mentor
New leaders often think they have to do it alone and can’t or don’t ask for help, especially as they start their leadership journey. If you don’t want to reach out to your HR department or manager for support and guidance. You may want to look externally to invest in a coach or mentor. Imposter syndrome is real for many new and even seasoned leaders. A few clients have said their biggest fear is that someone will figure out they shouldn’t be in the role. Working with a coach at the beginning of your leadership journey helps you transition into your leadership more easily. By working with you to let go of the beliefs, fears, and patterns that no longer serve you and helping you become the leader you want to be.
Remember to take time out once a week to reflect on your journey. Reflect on and celebrate how far you’ve come, what’s working and what needs to change.
Review these strategies, evaluate what would be most beneficial for you at this stage of the journey and then take the necessary action to get support or to upskill in a particular area.
Selina Fisher is the founder of SelinaNewman Coaching, a coaching company that focuses on helping professionals navigate career change and transition. She is an ICF accredited Career Coach based in Cape Town, South Africa. Her mission is to empower and equip professionals and leaders with the mindset and tools to create a career that fulfils and rewards them.