Ready for a leadership role?
Carl was great in his job. He had wonderful performance reviews and got a great raise every year. At some point, he began to think about moving up into a management position. And when his manager mentioned it as a possibility, Carl became quite excited. Ultimately, a management position opened, and Carl was promoted. He would now be leading a team of which he had been a part. Once the “honeymoon” was over, Carl got a good taste of reality. And it wasn’t pretty. He had to make some tough calls; some of his team members began to see him differently and became a bit “colder;” he had to take partial responsibility when someone on his team messed up, and then he had to deal with that team member to make “corrections.” All in all, Carl went home discouraged and upset many nights.
Carl is facing what many new leaders do – he wasn’t prepared for the challenges. The story does end well, fortunately. Through some leadership training and just plain experience, Carl “grew” into his position. For those of you who aspire to leadership positions, you might want to ask yourself some questions. And if you don’t like the answers, develop a plan to prepare yourself for success.
Question: Can you “let go” of your previous work?
Many new leaders have a tough time doing this. They cling to their old work habits and roles and fail to begin to see the “bigger picture” that involves company goals, delegation, and supervising rather than doing. You might love the new office and the “feel” of management, but if you find yourself dealing with the day-to-day minutiae of your old position, you will need to find ways to shift your focus. Often, this involves some training.
Question: How are your communication skills?
There are some important skills that must be learned. A leadership role means that you have to be able to translate company and/or project goals to your team so that they can see the importance of what they do and why tasks and task deadlines are important. And, if you can do that pretty well, how are your listening skills? Good leaders meet with their teams as a group and individually to establish relationships that are mutually respectful and caring. Part of that relationship means asking questions and then shutting up and listening. Team members need to feel that their leaders value them and their opinions.
Question: Do you believe in leading by power or by influence?
A leadership style that is authoritarian and dictatorial rarely works in today’s work environment. This leads to an “I tell them and they do what I tell them” environment leads to resentment and lack of loyalty on the part of a team, not to mention bad morale. Leadership today must be far more collaborative in which members of a team believe that they have some control over their work lives. Influencing, on the other hand, comes from relationship building – team members want a project to be completed on time and willingly pull their weight because they have loyalty to one another and to their leader. Are there times when a more authoritarian style is necessary? During a crisis, this may be necessary, but if the relationships are built, team members understand and respond well.
Question: Can you make tough calls?
A member of your team is under-performing. You have attempted to be a mentor, a coach, and a teacher, but things are not turning around. Can you give that poor performance review and outline steps for improvement and give timelines for those improvements to occur? And if improvement still doesn’t come, can you terminate that individual?
Question: Can you hire highly talented people without feeling threatened?
There are leaders who surround themselves with very mediocre people by design. Then they jump in and micro-manage to accomplish goals and tasks so that they can claim responsibility for successes. These leaders lack confidence. Good leaders see value in hiring talented people – they make life much easier. And sharing the accolades for a success is something an effective leader does.
Question: Are you willing to be held accountable for your entire team?
In a non-leadership role, you are accountable only for your own performance and behavior. Once you become a leader, however, you are ultimately responsible for everyone’s performance. And if a team member makes an error, you will hear about it and be expected to fix it. And “fixing” it does not mean just criticizing that team member. It means you look within – did you not communicate well? Did you not provide the resources for the training? Were you not paying enough attention? You will have to address the error with the employee, but you must also determine what you can do as well to avoid a repeat.
Question: Are you willing to set an example for your team members?
Management has its perks. For one thing, no one is watching how long you take for lunch if you arrive late or leave early. No one, that is, except your subordinates. If they have the impression that you are becoming a bit of a “slouch,” they will become “slouches” as well. Getting in early and staying late sends a message – you are committed to the projects and tasks just as much as they should be.
Question: Do you know how to motivate your team?
This one should not be too hard. Think about what motivated you when you were a member of a team with a supervisor or manager as a leader. Probably two things:
- Recognition/praise for a job well done. You may not be able to impact bonuses or other financial rewards, but that is not as impactful, research shows, as genuine praise. Do not shower team members with praise on a daily basis. It loses its effectiveness. Provide recognition and praise when it is truly deserved.
- Be there and willing to pitch in when necessary. A deadline looms and everyone is rather in a panic about it – you too. A good leader “joins the troops” during these times and does whatever is necessary to serve those team members as they need help, food, encouragement, and so forth. When it is all over and the deadline met, plan a celebratory event.
Some of these questions are tough. And maybe you did not have the answers or maybe you are uncomfortable with how you answered some of them. That’s okay. Becoming a good leader is a process, not an event. You have to find the resources to learn what you have to learn, be willing to admit that you don’t have all the answers, and commit to continuing to learn and grow into your position.