5 Tips Every New Leader Should Know
Having been in the Client Services Director role at Assurance for approximately 18 months – now in the process of onboarding a new supervisor to the team – I’ve found myself reflecting back on what I’ve learned about being a leader and manager. The first of which is that the roles are very different. It’s one thing to manage a team and ensure the work is completed and processes and procedures are followed. It’s entirely something else to lead a team. And although I’ve learned many new things, I’ve managed to summarize my top five lessons in leadership. Here’s what I’d share:
1. Prioritize forming strong relationships with the individuals on your team.
When you move into a management and leadership role, it requires a shift in mindset. Often what made you successful in your prior role can work against you in a leadership position. As an individual performer, you focused on accomplishing your tasks and achieving your individual goals. Your success in that role is likely a significant reason why you’re in your new role now. However in a leadership position, it isn’t about you. Yes, you have goals of your own and expectations you must meet. However, most importantly, you must form strong relationships with those on your team and support them in accomplishing their goals.
2. Understand the importance of “why.”
I’d highly recommend reading the book Start With Why by Simon Sinek. It changed the way I approach leading a team, and particularly how I approach change. Rather than beginning with what the change is or how a change will occur, I try to start with why the change is needed. While this can be a more time consuming approach, taking the time to explain to your team “why,” leads to greater understanding and therefore greater buy-in.
3. Have difficult conversations.
One of the most challenging aspects of my role is having difficult conversations with employees and colleagues. Addressing a problem – whether it’s a performance issue, conflict related, etc. – is difficult to do, but often critical to the success of the team. Thus I’ve worked to change my mindset about these conversations. Rather than viewing them as “difficult” or a confrontation, I try to look at them as opportunities. They’re a chance to help the individual improve as well as an opportunity to better the team. There is nothing that hurts team morale more than failing to deal with an issue and letting it fester.
4. Know yourself.
Moving into a leadership role will highlight both your strengths and weaknesses. It can also bring insecurities or doubts you may have to the surface. I remember when I first started in my current role, I felt like a new kid at school. While I had been with the company for more than 2 years, I was joining a new team with people that had been working together for quite some time. In new and uncomfortable situations, you may find yourself resorting back to your natural tendencies. For instance, if I’m uncomfortable I tend to turn inwards and keep to myself more. Even though I knew this about myself, I still struggled with this tendency in my new role. For me, this experience reemphasized the importance of being self-aware and willing to check yourself when needed.
5. Value the importance of a support system.
Being in management can be an isolating experience if you let it. It’s important to seek out support from individuals in a similar situation and/or position as you. I’m incredibly fortunate to work with an amazing group of Client Services Directors that I consider to be both confidants and friends. We mentor and challenge one another, have regular lunches to discuss issues we’re experiencing and genuinely support one another.
While on the surface these may seem to be relatively simple lessons, I believe they’re critical to the success of any leader. They’re also areas I continue to focus on as I grow and develop as a manager, and most importantly as a leader.
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