For many newly appointed managers, holding a leadership position for the first time can be challenging and even unnerving. In order to ease themselves better into their new appointment, fresh managers would do well to remember that they wouldn’t be in that position if it weren’t for their hard work and dedication to their profession.
The most basic challenge that comes with being a leader for the first time is that one’s success is no longer just tied to one’s own performance. Whether you have one, five, or ten people working for you, your performance as a professional is now shaped and affected by the actions of the people who are working for you.
Then there’s also the challenge of navigating your professional relationships. You will now have subordinates who used to be your contemporaries, some of whom might even be your close friends. There might be those who don’t like you very much, or even individuals who are outright envious of your new position.
If you’ve never been in a leadership role before, the thought of having to be responsible for your coworkers can be an intimidating prospect indeed. However, there will always be opportunities to learn the ropes. Many new managers acquire their leadership skills as they progress in their career, but there are also a few things that you can keep in mind to help you in your new role. Here are a few of them.
Learn to be more assertive, not aggressive
Assertiveness is a key professional skill that everyone working in a team environment should master. Rank and file employees must know how it works in order to enjoy good working relationship with their peers, while leaders can use it to their advantage to gain the trust and respect of the people working for them.
Assertiveness is a positive approach to communication that empowers you to express your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs without disregarding the desires of other people. It is not akin to being aggressive, which is self-centered and disrespects the thoughts and feelings of those around you. Aggressive bosses rarely praise their colleagues, and they often respond by putting their subordinates down.
Having good interpersonal skills means you are aware of the different ways of communicating and the various types of response that each approach may produce. Refine your communication skills by reading relevant materials on psychology and leadership, as well as by attending assertiveness courses that can provide you with strategies for developing strong and productive working relationships with your colleagues.
Sit down with your team regularly
When you become a new manager, it’s tempting to be self-centered when it comes to work. That’s understandable since you want to prove to the higher management that they made the right decision in promoting you. However, don’t get into the trap of being overly concerned about your own performance. Instead, also consider your colleagues’ needs, interests, and ideas.
Aside from meeting your entire team regularly, you should also sit down individually with each of your team members. Find out how they are doing, what motivates them, and which tasks they are having difficulty with. Provide both positive and constructive feedback about the work that they do, and never forget to praise them when they do a great job.
By mentoring and holding regular meetings, you’ll become more effective and efficient in your own role. You and your team will become more empowered, and you won’t feel the need to micromanage. Most of all, you’ll earn the trust and respect of the people around you.
Build the right kind of relationship with your team
As a manager, your subordinates will look to you for answers and will be constantly observing the things you do. They will be making interpretations based on what they see and hear from you. Now that you are orchestrating the team’s work instead of simply playing a part in it, it is important that you pay attention to what others expect of you as well.
Figure out how your current strengths can help you achieve your goals, and find out what you can do in order to address your weaknesses. Do you feel that you are micromanaging all the time? Are you inconsistent about the expectations that you are setting? Are you more attached to some of your team members compared to others? All these can affect your working relationship with the people around you.
Finally, make sure that you are sending the right message all the time. Let your team know that when it comes to work, you really mean business. Outside of the workplace, some of your subordinates might even be your close friends, but you should never tolerate substandard performance even among people that you value on a personal level. Never avoid confronting poor performers and troublesome employees. Of course, as previously noted, you should do so in an assertive manner, and never in a passive or aggressive way.