Tyler had been working with his company for about three years when he was promoted to a management position. He was excited not only because of the increased responsibility and money, but also because of the status the title brought and the respect it garnered.
Tyler's position was to develop a new branch office within his company, which required him to attend a week of "management training" at his corporate headquarters. This training focused solely on logistics, such as payroll, human resources and corporate structure. He was then put in charge of recruiting and hiring a team of 15 people. Kristen, an assistant who worked on his old team, now wanted to come work with him on his new team. Tyler had also worked with Tiffany a few years earlier, and she decided to join him on the new team as his operations manager as well.
Tyler felt excited; things were on the right track. He continued to interview filling quite a few different positions. After several weeks of putting together a small staff they were ready to open the doors. Everyone had a great attitude and felt excited to be a part of something new.
Over the next couple of months, Tyler and Tiffany continued to interview and hire the complete compliment for the team.
Tyler had never held a management position before, yet he knew Kristen and Tiffany were both strong employees with great work ethic. He was also confident that everyone he and Tiffany had hired possessed the same work ethic and drive to succeed. However, this quickly proved false and became disastrous. The team failed to produce what was expected and bickering was widespread. Over the18 months he held this position, Tyler was never able to garner the respect or success he had hoped for.
The truth is, most first-time supervisors or managers earn the position by simply doing the job well, yet without proper training in both management and leadership, disastrous outcomes like Tyler's are more prevalent than you might think. Just because an employee is a good (even a great) employee, does not mean he or she will be a great leader.
If you are striving to transition into a leadership position, what can you do to ensure you don't end up like Tyler?
There are several pitfalls to avoid.
Since most frontline supervisors are promoted because of their skill sets, it is common to then rely on these technical skills, in conjunction with old habits, as a way of leading and managing. In other words, one will rely on his personal skills to accomplish a task in lieu of using the power of others to accomplish tasks. If these old habits are held onto they can prove to be devastating to a career. The good news is these old habits can be re-trained.
Some of the common "old habits" include:
Doing everything themselvesweak or no delegation.
Micromanaging othersdemonstrating a lack of trust.
Acting as a bottleneck for productivitydouble checking everything.
Not developing better employeesnot sharing the spotlight.
New leaders who fail to re-train these habits have a destructive impact on customer relationships, not to mention a demoralizing affect on the team. A new leader must understand the power of the relationship she has with each and every employee on her team. If she doesn't, there is a direct cause-and-effect on employee behavior, which results in poor customer interaction, and leads to reduced profit. This negative outcome stems directly from the interaction with the immediate supervisor or leader.
Let's break this down into two segments; before the promotion and after the promotion.
Before the transition to leader:
Ask yourself a few questions.
Do I like working with people? If you do not like working with people, this transition will be difficult. Being a supervisor is one place in your career when working with others is at the crux of your future development. Remember, leadership is about leading others while management is about managing things.
Am I ready to take on this responsibility? Just because you do a good job does not mean you are ready to take on the added responsibility of teaching and developing others. You might enjoy doing the work so much that you will find yourself bored when no longer in the trenches.
Are others ready to accept me as the team leader? Sometimes you might be ready, while others are not quite ready to have you as their supervisor. Have you been working on the transition by naturally taking the lead and helping others develop as a frontline employee, or have you just been "doing your own thing"?
What leadership training have I had to assist in this transition? Think back to Tyler's situation above: He never had any training as a leader... and the only reason he got his position was because he did the job well. Be sure to take training courses (even if you have to pay for them yourself) and take responsibility for developing yourself.*
Is my company going to support me with difficult challenges as I grow and develop? It is a given: You will stumble and occasionally fall from time to time. The ultimate question is, does your organization have a leadership development plan to help you develop?**
After the Promotion:
If you recall, once Tyler was promoted, he went to his corporate office for management training. The problem was the training focused solely upon formalities and logistics, which are critical to "managing" but not for "leading."
Here are four strategic areas for a new leader to focus on:
One of the most difficult things for a new supervisor to completely grasp is how his or her team fits into the organizational structure. As an employee, we each typically focus on ourselves and our immediate team. This strategy covers two critical areas: First, the team and how it fits into the organization, and second, how you fit into the next level of leadership.
It is imperative that as the new leader, you take on a sense of ownership and belonging to the rest of the organization and the larger purpose. Are you contributing to the team you are now leading, as well as to the team you are now a direct member of?
Just how good are you at "the basics" in managing and leading? Do you understand how your role has changed from team member to team leader, from being a co-worker to being the boss? These areas include:
a. Assessing the skills of your team members
b. Delegating effectively - and avoiding the nickname, "Dump-N-Run" manager
c. Setting performance standards
d. Managing the overall flow of work
e. Knowing your style of leadership, and what course of action is necessary to make corrections and handle poor performers
One of the biggest challenges for any employee moving into his first leadership position is to continue his own self-development. The pressure to help the team grow will weigh heavy on new leaders, and while growth is vital, let's not lose sight of our own development. It is critical to participate in ongoing training and continue to read non-fiction books. The most successful people in the United States take between eight and 10 days of training per year, split equally between industry specific and non-industry specific arenas. They will also read between five and 10 non-fiction books per year to help them develop their skills.
Working with people is the lifeline to becoming a dynamic leader. Think back to the best immediate boss you have ever worked for; what are the top three reasons you thought of this person first? In most cases, it comes down to interpersonal skills; how well she rewarded people on the team, how he pushed me to develop, etc.
*See our article, Ten Little Words on taking personal responsibility.
**See our article, How to Keep Employees Engaged for more on how organizations can help in developing, and supporting the transition.
Contact Gregg today and see how his keynote speeches and breakout training sessions can help your company or organization.