This is a time of transition, a fresh start and opportunities to make changes. To mark the occasion, here are some ideas about managing transitions into leadership roles.
- Move into the role mentally and let go of the past. It is comfortable and confidence boosting to keep doing what you know how to do but the new role will almost certainly require you to take on different tasks and to learn new skills and behaviours. An assessment of your strengths, weaknesses and problem solving preferences can be invaluable in identifying immediate development needs.
- Don’t make the mistake of arriving with “the answer” or “the right way to do things”. Find out what you need to know about your organisation, department and team. What are the important questions you need to ask and where can you find the answers? A genuine willingness to listen can increase your credibility and influence. Start to develop your long term goals and priorities.
- Look for ways of securing “early wins” to energise people and build your credibility. During this transition period, stay focused on one or two promising areas or issues and concentrate on turning these into your “wins”. Try to ensure these early successes will help your longer term goals.
- Establish the relationship with your boss and take responsibility for making it work. Start immediately to understand and manage expectations. If possible, get some time to do your diagnosis of the situation/issues first and develop an action plan, rather than be pressured into taking some immediate action or decisions. Find out your boss’s way of working. How will you communicate? What decisions do you need to consult on? What are the implications of any differences in styles?
- Build your team. Get to know them. What are the team dynamics? Who are the stars? Who is underperforming? Are there gaps in necessary competencies? How is the work organised? You may need to consider restructuring the team, changing roles around and creating a development plan. Consider the most appropriate timing for any team building activity. Sometimes it is better to wait until you have made any important changes and have your core team in place.
- Build relationships with your peers. Often, the focus of relationship building is upwards with the boss and downwards with direct reports. However, at some point, you will need the support of peers and those outside the organisation. A useful way to start this process is to ask your boss for a list of up to 10 main people who you should get to know and then set up early introductory meetings. It is never a good idea to approach people for the first time when you need something from them. The transition into a leadership role can be liberating, exciting and energising. It may also be problematic - even painful - involving letting go, developing new patterns of thinking and developing a new identity as a leader. However, with some deep thinking and careful planning, you can successfully step up.