So you worked your bum off and now you got promoted to leader-manager. It is really not all that tough. What changes is that you will need to spend some time on the leadership topic, otherwise the people you are supposed to serve will start losing trust in you and your company. Here are 10 quick tips that can make a huge difference for how well you lead your team.
- Park your personal agenda and ego: Did you ever like a boss that is only concerned about his / her own issues, but never yours? Turn that down a notch or two. Have you ever seen the movie “Saving Private Ryan”? In it there is a great line about leadership: “Never gripe down, always gripe up.” Your folks are not interested about your woes; their’s are big enough the way they are.
- Be fair: Kick up the old golden rule to platinum level. Treat others how they would like to be treated. Never treat people differently. You will regret it in the end. The moment you lose their trust you will no longer be privy to vital people and company information. There has to be clarity about what applies to everyone.
- What happens at the work place, stays at the work place: Other than the heavy hitters of employee safety, harassment, discrimination, moral, and ethical problems, no other team member information is supposed to leave your lips. Confidentiality is the keystone to how much you will be trusted as a leader.
- Make sure having a great one on one contact with your team members: Nothing beats being able to help and assist your team members on a one on one basis. You get to know about their struggles and aspirations and you can help make a difference happen.
- Listen, listen, and listen: Your organization can tell you anything you want to know about the state of mind of your folks and also the strategic and tactical progress you are making (or the lack thereof). Boy, did that take me a while to learn how to do this better. Asking engaging questions is the tougher but better thing to do and you get to listen to your organization’s creativity come alive.
- Be humble and grateful: Nothing beats a little self-depreciating humor when you make mistakes. Admit them and make them public. No one – not even you – should be able getting away with not learning from your mistakes. At the same time you want your team to stay informed enough such that they will not have to make the same mistakes either. Be grateful for the openness your team affords you. Not allowed are intentional or pattern of mistakes.
- Embrace transparency and collaboration: This breeds trust. Trust begets creativity. Realize that you cannot and should work alone. You need all the help you can get working toward common goals. The worst that can happen in business is to have success. Success can outgrown and outspend you in a heartbeat. You need a team that is nimble and fully engaged in order to make it through the ups and downs of the economy.
- Do something with what they tell you: When your team is trying to tell you that there is a systemic problem with a process, policy, people, etc. do something with this info. That is why you became the leader-manager in the first place. Do not let anyone else handle this important detail for you. This needs to come from and through you. Taking charge of difficult situations is (unfortunately) something you will to get to deal with. Do it well and people will trust you.
- Be mindful of other people’s time commitments: Knowing when to end a conversation is tough. Sometimes it feels great speaking with like minded folks about issues you are mutually facing. Cut it short if it no longer serves the purpose. Do not fall victim to scope creep either. One issue leads to the next and then there is another one, etc. etc. Trust me, there are more challenges than you can shake a stick at. Keep it to solving one short and effective issue at a time.
- Prepare meetings well ahead of time: Most meetings are really not necessary, or the are simply not effective. Too often leader-managers look at them as a “working meeting”, meaning that the problem, problem statement, and possible solution finding happen with the attendees hearing about this issue for the first time.
- Start and end meetings on time: Do this religiously. Yes, there are times when it may be necessary to run over. Attempt your very best to get a reputation for beginning and ending on time. Your folks want to get their tasks done.
Do not be afraid to fail with any of the above topics. Only very few business schools are providing leadership and soft skill training – yet. I am hoping that one day leader-manager training will become a mandatory topic at gradute and undergraduate level. Plan, Do, Reflect, and Correct your future behavior and you will have made the biggest change already. Good luck!