Assuming a leadership position for the first time often proves both exciting and nerve-wracking. Because undertaking new responsibilities involves a lot of hard work, leaders must develop a unique toolset while also working diligently to forge relationships with employees in the first few weeks after starting.
To succeed as a leader, you need to secure the trust and respect of your employees. While this process can take a long time, it becomes significantly easier when you lay a strong foundation right from the beginning. The following tips can help the recently promoted transition to the new job as effectively as possible:
Set time aside to meet with each employee.
One of the biggest mistakes that individuals can make as they transition to a leadership role is focusing too much on strategy and ignoring the people who actually make things happen. Within the first weeks, new leaders should meet individually with everyone on their team to learn more about their personal goals, their responsibilities on the team, and their particular likes and dislikes.
Taking the time to do this demonstrates that you care about the team and recognize the importance of being on the same page. When you use the information gleaned from these meetings to tailor your leadership approach to each person, you will gain their trust.
Listen actively to what people have to say.
Another common pitfall for new leaders is thinking that they should be the one always talking. In reality, good leaders listen as much as they talk, if not more. Active listening is one of the most critical skills for a leader. Through active listening, you can pick up on a conversation’s subtext, which is indispensable in making decisions, from forming the best teams to assigning tasks to the right person. Moreover, when employees feel heard and respected, they feel emboldened to bring unique ideas to the table. While not all these ideas will prove worthy of pursuit, hearing them out can drive innovation on the team.
Recognize that employees are not friends.
New leaders sometimes struggle because they think of their employees as friends, especially if they were promoted from the team. Listening intently to employees and their needs is not the same thing as friendship. When relationships pass from professional to personal, issues of favoritism and bias can arise. The resulting tension has the potential to hinder productivity quite significantly. Often, great leaders do develop friendships with their employees outside of the office, but they also recognize that relationships at work need to remain professional and that everyone should respect their authority.
Remove the shackles of perfectionism.
When you assume a new position, you may have the expectation that you need to perform perfectly. In virtually every situation, perfectionism is maladaptive. Often, perfectionism paralyzes us from making decisions, which, in turn, leads to more issues. You must accept that you will not be perfect and embrace the fact that you do not always know exactly what you are doing.
When this occurs, do not be afraid to ask for help when you need it and, even more importantly, admit to your mistakes. As a leader, you will play an important role in defining the culture around failure. Perfectionism leads to fear, but embracing mistakes lets leaders show their own vulnerability, gain the trust of employees, and show others how to learn and grow from personal missteps.
Maintain a positive outlook.
Sometimes, new leaders think that the best way to motivate employees is to point out the possible consequences of failure. This sort of pessimism often causes productivity to fall. Researchers have found that moods are rather contagious, especially among people with authority. Thus, as a leader, you are typically better off approaching the office with energy and positivity because your employees will pick up on this spirit and focus that much harder on their work. Learn to keep your emotions in check and put forward the type of energy you want to see in the office. Even when you feel defeated, you need to learn how to transform that feeling into something positive. Sometimes, this means taking a breather and refocusing, whether that means going for a walk around the block or taking a few days out of the office.
Get to know the previous leader.
In the majority of cases, a new leader is not walking into the role blindly. If this is the case for you, you should take some time to get to know the person formerly in your position, whether directly or indirectly. Meeting with employees will reveal a lot of information about this person, particularly what he or she did or did not do well. You can use your predecessor to build trust with the team. If the leader was effective, you can take a similar approach. If he or she was ineffective, you can gain the trust of your employees by pointing to the practices you consider destructive and explaining what you plan to do differently moving forward.