Whether it’s a larger promotion in leadership, or your first time leading others, jumping into a new role can be exciting and rewarding long term. Despite all of your goals, dreams, and ambitions, you can flounder in your new role, if you approach it the wrong way. You must be able to change yourself, your leadership style, and your priorities in order to be successful in your new role.
The phrase, “What got you here, won’t get you where are going” certainly applies to this critical juncture as you transition in your own leadership.
Be willing to let go of things that you love
We all have things that we love to do in our jobs. From the super quirky to the very relevant, there are just things that we love to do ourselves. It’s also highly likely that you are the best person at whatever the particular task is and you also get a nice level of satisfaction for completing the task.
One of the personal rubs that you will have to overcome in your transition, are the things that you love doing. Those projects or tasks that you enjoyed so much are likely not appropriate for you to be doing at that next level of leadership.
Continuing to do those old things that you loved will mean that you are leading a level down, which means that you are likely going to frustrate those that you are serving and cause things to be less efficient.
Let go of those old things that you love and give grace and space to those that take up your previous passion projects. Rest assured, the work will still get done and you’re likely to find a whole host of new passion projects in your new role.
Adapt how you lead
Your leadership style is going to need to change as you make your transition, regardless of your current leadership status.
For those leading others for the first time: You need to really lean into delegation and supporting your team to avoid the temptation to try to do it all yourself. Stay close to your direct leader and a trusted advisor or mentor to help keep you on track with what to prioritize and delegate.
For those that were previously leading people: You are now likely leading leaders instead of individual contributors, or you are leading a full segment of the business. Your influencing skills need to take center stage for you know as you lead leaders. Prioritize your direct reports and make sure that they are prioritizing their direct reports (instead of you) to ensure the vision, and the message are getting down to the front line people.
Other items that you’ll need to assess and change are your communication style, how you spend your time and the way that you carry yourself among other things.
Consider your sweet spot
I’ve seen many leaders over the years get unpleasantly surprised with then promote a great employee from within. They showed all the right signs; high performance, and dedication to the job and to others while having a can-do attitude. Once these great people got into their new roles they floundered. The leader was frustrated, efficiency dropped and many times the employee ended up leaving.
The person was extended one past their sweet spot. Your sweet spot is your calling. It’s your happy place where you are the most impactful and feel the reward in what you do. You are typically very good at what you do and that’s why leaders are naturally drawn to give these people promotions. They think, “They are wonderful at this role, then they’ll be great at the next one.” Once the person is extended past their sweet spot, they will drop in engagement and capability. It’s not really the person’s fault. They just aren’t in the role that was meant for them anymore.
Based on your personal goals, passing and personal calling, you should have a fairly good sense of knowing if you’ve hit your sweet spot or not. Once you do, don’t continue to move up the organizational ladder. You’ll be doing the company and yourself a disservice. Instead of passing through a leadership transition that you shouldn’t, invest in yourself by going deeper in your expertise or by gaining new knowledge. This will keep you relevant for the future and help you from getting bored in your everyday work.
A lot is said about micromanagers and overmanaging people on the team. On the other end of the spectrum is the leader who undermanages their team. These types of leaders are discussed as much because they typically aren’t noticed. While the micromanager is always around and in someone’s business, the under-manager is nowhere to be found.
Under-managing can have as large of an impact on a team as over-managing but without obvious overtones of micromanaging. If you feel like you are too busy, don’t have enough time with your people, or don’t know your team well on a personal level you may be undermanaging your team.
Build authentic engagement
Check-ins that are surface level, may feel like you are staying on top of your people, but in reality, you aren’t engaging them in a way that adds value. be mindful of the questions you ask and move the conversation to a deeper level, both in their professional work and their personal life.
Move from “How’s it going?” to “Tell me how your camping trip went last weekend.”
Engage in value-added questions and conversations. Share personal things from your own life to build trust and transparency with the person.
Ask “Tell me how the progress the team has made on the project (or task).” Instead of “How’s the project going?” The first asks for more details and involvement on your part while the second one may garner a simple, “It’s going fine”
If the person responds back with a surface-level answer like “It’s going fine,” follow up with additional questions to dig further. Many under-managers will leave the conversation here and believe that they got a good update.
Just as in everyday life, it’s easy to go through the motions and just skim the surface. Slow down and maximize the time that you spend with others during personal check-ins and conversations.
Assess your week
Most people want to spend time with their leader unless the leader is bad. Do what you can to free up time to be with your people. Meeting are giant time sucks taking blocks of precious time out of your daily leadership. Assess which meetings that you truly need to be involved in. Could some be delegated to someone else as part of their development? Does the meeting need to happen as often as it does? Does it need to happen at all?
Schedule open teamwork and team-building time in order to protect it and ensure that happens on a consistent basis
Check your own personal engagement
Even good leaders can fall into under-managing when they themselves are no longer bought into the organization. The root of the issue is not that they don’t care for their team, it’s that they have an issue with someone or something else in the organization. Sometimes it’s a new leader, a big change, your own changing motivations, or even burnout.
If you feel like your engagement is pulling you away from leading others, take some time for yourself for thought and reflection. Seek advice from trusted advisors and mentors. Reconnect to your Calling and Why you do what you do. This can help motivate you to get back into your sweet spot of leadership or may be a wake-up call that it is time to do something else.
Another way that you check your self-awareness about your level of under-managing is by seeking feedback from your team, peers, and upline partners. You may discover that your level of engagement is not uniform around your circle of influence. You may be well engaged with your team, but not your peers or other partners. Maybe you are really close to your supervisor, but that level of relationship doesn’t extend down to your team.
Ask for the feedback, accept it well, and improve your leadership.
You likely care a great deal for your team. Give them the engagement that they deserve and provide them the support to thrive in their role.
One of the guarantees in your work life is that you are going to be a part of new teams as you go on your career journey. Whether you are jumping on a team as a leader or a follower, it’s important to begin building that trust with them as early as possible.
While the reminder of building trust is a good one for us to consider, it can be far more challenging and complex to live out and be successful at. I can think back to times when it was extremely easy to build trust after they previously had a poor leader. Other times it was like climbing up a vertical mountainside because the team was so committed to the prior leader. Here are some strategies to think about as you work to build trust with that new team.
Find small wins to show you care
Ambitus leaders sometimes jump the gun a bit when they are with a new group. They want to show their strength and want to affirm their boss, and themselves, that their promotion or hiring was the right move. A mindful leader takes the time at the very beginning to learn about the pain points that people are going through and then they quickly and decisively make a move to secure a quick win. Some areas to look at include:
The common areas/break area: As a field leader, one of my first areas to get a quick win in was the breakroom. It’s amazing what a coat of paint and a little updating will do for morale trust-building. Common areas are another great area to consider. This need may not be voiced as much as in other areas, and that’s because they’ve gone blind to how bad it is. Use those fresh eyes you have to find a few quick facility-related wins. If you don’t have the authority or ability to make changes to areas like a breakroom, look for ways that you can enhance, clean, or add value to other areas of the shared workspace.
Efficiency opportunities: If you ask a new team what holds them back, frustrates them, or would be something that they would like changed, and they’ll often point back to an efficiency breakdown, an outdated process or redundancy in work. Pick out one or two that you can fix with a lower amount of effort and put them in place. People love when they can do their job easier.
Be accommodating: Get to know each individual and listen to their workloads and personal situations. Look for ways to be more accommodating by adjusting schedules, bringing in additional help, or helping people perhaps even change how and where they work.
If you can help in those three areas, you just showed your team that you care about their work environment, eliminated hurdles that get in the way of great work, and you an invested in the whole being and not just their work life. A powerful combo to build trust, wouldn’t you agree?
The key here is speed. The quicker you can get these kinds of wins the better.
Listen and learn before you change
It can be hard to walk into a scenario that’s especially challenging and not want to immediately change and fix everything. The trap here is that if you do start executing a large amount of change without the buy-in and trust of your team, your change won’t likely stick long term and your turnover rate is going to increase dramatically. Unless it’s a moral, ethical, or compliance issue, the problem can wait at least until you do some learning and discovery around the why behind the breakdown and what other circumstances may be leading to the issue. Be sure to approach the scenario from a curiosity perspective instead of one that is accusatory or as if you already have the answer.
“I would love to know more about…”, goes a lot further than “We need to talk about why this scenario is where it is.”
As much as your people want to hear from you, be mindful to listen more than you speak with your new team.
Gaining trust as a follower
Unless you are the CEO, you’ll also be joining a team as a follower as well. The temptation is similar here to try to shine and prove your worth immediately. Take a slower and more mindful approach here as well. Learn the dynamics of the group, who speaks up more, who holds back etc., while providing your input when it’s relevant.
Understand the people and build relationships with those you work with to help get an understanding of work proverbial land mines are out there and to get an understanding of some of the unwritten rules at the company. Also, consider:
Being genuine in your desire to learn about others on a personal level
Understanding how much time and space you are taking up in conversations
Keeping the same curious approach to understanding new areas of the business
Get your stuff turned in on time and be on early to meetings
Get to know those you lead and work with as you enter your new role and look for those easy early wins and be intentional to build relational equity early. You’ll be well on your way to establishing that trust that you so need as a leader
I think it’s fair to say that most people appreciate knowing where they stand in the organization, affirmation of their performance, and guidance to reach their fullest potential. The reality for many people in the workforce is that this has not been a true reality for you yet.
Continual feedback is a set cadence of both formal and informal touches where the leader and the associate sit down to discuss development opportunities both personal and professional. Whether you influence the entire organization or lead a small team, you can implement a continual feedback process that will add value to others.
As in most things in life, you don’t want to dive straight into the deep end of this change. Here are the general steps that teams take as they strengthen their process.
Annual Reviews: This is the baseline that you start from. This conversation helps wrap up the previous year and set goals for the upcoming year. These are typically a little more formal but certainly can adapt to the culture of your organization and team.
Quarterly Check-ins: This allows you to keep a consistent conversation of growth centered around the personal and professional goals that you made together with your leader.
Natural Informal Check-ins: These are typically sprinkled in between the quarterly check-in and may be focused around a particular growth opportunity or situation that the person is facing.
Advanced Feedback Methods: There are many tools out there to provide targeted feedback through technology or leveraging other people on the team. 360 reviews are helpful, but be very cautious and mindful if you do conduct them. They need to be implemented at the right time, at the right audience, and under the right cultural settings, otherwise, you will do more damage than good.
As you build this continual feedback process to engage better with your team, remember to add in continual recognition and appreciation as well.
Make the time impactful and meaningful
The time that you spend together should be mindful and wrapped around something specific that you want to discuss and give your perspective on. Without an agenda, the time can easily pass by before you get to the reason for the meeting in the first place.
Some tips to help the time have the most impact and value:
Be willing to accept some feedback yourself during the time. Seek feedback for your own leadership during your time together. This will help you hone your own leadership skills and show the other person that you are open to feedback as well and value their input.
Set the right tone. This may be awkward for some people, especially if they have never had continual feedback in their role. Set the right tone and setting for the meetings. Choose bright and open areas for in-person meetings and the cameras on (Be well lit!) for virtual meetings. Mind your voice (Ep 202) and body language (Ep 186) to ensure you are consistent in your communication.
Celebrate progress. Be sure to highlight progress from previous meetings to acknowledge and reinforce positive behaviors and changes that the person has implemented.
For the associate/employee
So maybe this all sounds wonderful and your ideal situation, but you are not in a place to implement this level of culture change on a large scale. I would encourage you to, at a minimum, lead up to your supervisor. Take the initiative to ask your leader for time to sit down and discuss your performance and potential. Make it easy for them by suggesting the cadence and length of the meeting and be willing to bring topics that you want to grow into the first few meetings. Remember to start out small and work your way to more consistent times together.
Take time to have those important people conversations with your team. They will be more engaged in the company and will be one of the factors that help keep them around with you longer.
Sit down, spend uninterrupted time together, and help your team strive.
We should act with humility when things go wrong….and then make them right.
I get things wrong sometimes. Unfortunately, I’m not a perfect leader. There are times when I miss the mark and other times that I’ve outright blown it. None of us are perfect.
There are going to be times when you drop the ball as a leader and your team falls short. There are going to be occasions where you’ll have a big miss as well. It’s just a part of life! When you disappoint a customer or client it’s almost always in one of these three categories: Operational breakdown, service blunders, and widespread tragedies.
Three types of service failures that deserve an apology When you disappoint a customer or client it’s almost always in one of these three categories: Operational breakdown, service blunders widespread tragedies.
Operational breakdowns: These types of service failures occur when there is a breakdown in the process that causes frustration for your customer. Not having the right product for a sale, service, or product not arriving when promised or a policy that gets in the way of service are just a few examples.
Service blunders: We’ve all experienced these. People say one thing and then do another or they don’t answer your communications in a timely manner. Another obvious example is how a person treats the customer or client.
Widespread Tragedy: These are certainly out of your control. Think natural disasters, or a tragic loss on the team. While you can’t control when or how these occur, how you react and accept responsibility does matter immensely to the customer.
These types of service failures don’t just apply to your business life. Operational breakdowns happen as you lose control of your time management, service blunders happen as you drop the ball on a commitment and we all go through tragedies in life.
Tips to apologize in an authentic way
It’s easy to say the words, “I’m sorry.” It’s more difficult to believe it yourself sometimes, much less convincing the other person that your apology is truly heartfelt.
Have a swift response: A disgruntled person only gets angrier if they feel like they are being ignored. Think about a time when you experienced a service issue and no one gave you the attention you needed. You likely felt your patience wear thin pretty quickly
Show humility and empathy: This is one of the key actions to turn around a bad situation. If your apology is authentic, you’ll be on a much quicker road to resolving the situation. if your apology is perceived as fake or just lip service, then the situation may escalate even further.
Accept responsibility: Avoiding responsibility is one of the quickest ways to dig yourself into a deeper hole with the person you let down. Take responsibility to fix the problem even if it wasn’t your fault. Own the issue that is being communicated to you.
Provide an honest explanation: Truthfully share how the failure in service or commitment occurred while avoiding making excuses. Don’t hide behind a policy; it’s an easy out that no one likes to hear.
Extend an olive branch: Right the situation and rebuild the relationship. You should feel empowered to take care of concerns and complaints as they happen. If you don’t feel empowered, let your leader know so the two of you can work on a potential solution together. Do what needs to be done within reason to amend the mistake.
Instead of running away from responsibility and trying to push blame elsewhere, step up and own the mistake. Apologize with sincerity and authenticity and work to make things right with the other person. This is a lost skill in today’s public eye. Stand out above the crowd by turning your apologies into a strong point of your leadership.