Establishing yourself as a credible and positive leader is important and challenging. Here are some all-too-common missteps of first-time (and even some hapless, experienced) managers. Avoid them in good health!
- Leading-off with, “Things are going to change around here.” Too many managers enter into a new role assuming everything is broken and that they’ve been elevated to right the wrongs and inanities of the prior regime. Unless your boss has suggested that your function isn’t functioning at all, you need to show some respect for the work of the group, the team members and yes, the prior manager. You won’t win any hearts or minds by suggesting that everyone else was incapable of functioning without you around.
- Leading-off with some variation of, “I’m the New Sheriff in Town.” I’ve lost track of the number of times a new manager has compensated for his insecurities by overplaying the “I’m in charge” card. The credibility conferred by your title lasts until you open your mouth for the first time. Don’t set a new land-speed record for blowing it.
- Leading-off with, “Nothing’s going to change.” Yes, something will. Don’t try and assuage concerns about you as the new boss by telling a lie to kick things off. You might even believe that things won’t change, but it’s your job to help things improve over time and that means change.
- Leading-off with an immediate restructuring. Senior managers inheriting crises make quick calls after assessing talent and workplace dynamics. You shouldn’t do anything in this area quickly. In your role as a new (and first-time) manager, plan on investing a quarter or two to assess talent and dynamics before remaking the group. And don’t forget to ask for your team’s help.
- Leading-off by listening to just the noisy ones. Chances are, some of the the best ideas and insights are found in the brains and hearts of the quiet people on your team. Don’t equate noise level with gray matter…or even good intentions.
- Leading-off like a solo consultant. I owe this one to an accomplished consulting colleague who admitted to investing the first 60-days in his first-ever role as a manager (with a VP title) by studying (investigating) everything and failing to engage his team. In his own words, “I squandered a start-up opportunity with my team by boiling the ocean on the business. I operated like a solo-consultant and not a manager responsible for others.” Balance in this case, would have been appropriate.
- Leading-off by trying to be everyone’s friend. This one is particularly common to those first-time managers promoted from within a group. Sorry, but the relationship has to change. You’re no longer one of the gang.
The bottom-line for now
Treat everyone with respect. Ask questions. Listen more than you talk. Find opportunities to help. Establish a culture of accountability. Share your values. Learn the business. Learn the people. Learn. And then begin to act.
Art Petty is a 25+ year experienced marketing and sales executive in business intelligence software, retail automation, life-safety and building automation markets.
Over his many years of leading and building businesses into market leaders, Petty is most proud of the many great professionals that have graced his teams and have gone on to tremendous careers and accomplishments of their own.
About the Author
Petty’s runs Strategy Management Innovations, LLC, a management consulting firm serving Business to Business and Technology organizations.
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