My top 3 thoughts when new to leading others
I finally made it. Now that they made me team leader, I can actually be in charge of others.
First thing tomorrow I will tell my team what they have to do.
Do you remember when you were first made manager or team leader? What were your thoughts? How did your first weeks or month go? Did you face any challenges or delicate situations? What were your main struggles, if any?
When it comes to leading others there are always immediate questions arising (especially when you are new to it) like “Am I good at leading others?” or “Do I have what it takes to be a great team leader?”.
And this is normal because most of the time there is no formal training or education involved in “How to successfully lead others”.
Wouldn’t it be great if someone would tell, show and teach you “how to actually be good at leading others?”.
Reality looks more like this:
As of tomorrow you are in charge of ~xyz. And there you go. Good luck and don't mess it up. No instructions on how to actually deal with people, manage, structure or develop them; let alone how to on top deal with your own duties.
Since you know that doing something is better than doing nothing, you for sure will give 100% because you want to get it right from the gecko.
So, what do you do first?
Well, there is no right or wrong here, depending on your position and industry you are in. There are too many external factors - to have a one size fits all solution.
Here is my take on it:
#1 don’t panic. It’s just people. They have not changed overnight, neither have you. So, relax and act normal. Just because you are in charge does not mean you need to turn into a mini dictator straight away. The calmer and more normal you act will reflect on your team’s behaviour. You will see.
#2 get your team’s perspective. Leading others is "expectation management" in its purest form. Take your time with everyone separately before you go full on into team meetings. Get to understand each and everyone’s needs and concerns. This way you get more clarity of how to cater to both the individual and the team. Even though this one is easier said than done.
#3 don’t sweat the little things too much, but have the overview. Consider staying away from trying to manage every single little detail. What I mean is as a team leader you have to have more of an 360 degree view while your team is supposed to work more on the details.
I’d like to called it the 360 vs. 90 degree view. So, realize that you are now more of a generalist. Sure, you need to understand the fine print to be able to challenge or question things, when needed.
#4 Figure out who is who. Everyone is holding a certain position in your team.
Figure out who your key players are, who supports and who is just riding the wave.
Then find ways to keep you key players engaged, motivate them and see how they can support you in bringing the team together.
The supporters in your team might need a bit more attention, since they can make or break things. You need them and want to develop them, so they can become key players one day.
Same thing goes for the ones who are trying to simply get by. Figure out what it is that motivates and demotivates them or what it is that triggers their current (under)performance.
Take a deep breath. I know there are a million things you can start doing, especially in the beginning.
Understand that even the best and most brilliant leaders around you once started like you do these days. Do you really think they were born perfect. Well, as far as I know, they did not. Maybe some but the majority struggled just as much as you.
Get experience. Allow yourself to fail. Learn from it. Figure out what works and what doesn't.
But don’t you think, not even for a split second that greatness in leading others would come from not making mistakes. The opposite is the case.
Go out there and get all the experience you can get.
No theoretical management course can teach you how to become and be a great team leader (OK, it might help getting you more perspective). This would be like knowing how to theoretically fly a helicopter but you have never sat in one.
So, what's your first move?