We all have to start somewhere as leaders. That first time that you’re formally tasked with leading a team, and there is a decision to be made…. Then, every head in the room turns to look at you for your insights.
It’s up to you to make a call. Defend a decision. Or manage a problem.
As a first time leader a few years ago I struggled with this. My personality is such that I see both sides to issues, and it made it hard for me to manage on occasion. Here are a few tips that helped me to be a better leader.
One – Write your own definition of leadership and your personal vision and values as a leader. This way you have those to refer back to when you’re faced with decisions or figuring out how to communicate on a project. Knowing what you value and how you lead will help you be consistent, transparent, and give you a litmus test to decisions you’re making.
Two – Invest in your own development. Often times, when you’re new to a leadership role for the first time, you still have work responsibilities, too. So you’re leading people but also getting things done. It becomes easy to sub out professional development time in order to get things off your “to-do” list. Don’t do that. Instead, ear mark time for you to read, learn, engage, and connect with others in the industry. It’s hard to help a team if you’re own creativity is on empty.
Three – Create the culture that you want. As leaders, we are responsible for culture work. I know that often times culture decisions may be decided outside of us. That’s okay. Within your realm, create a culture you want. That could be prioritizing self care, finding ways to make work fun, thinking about how to honor your team.
Four – Be decisive. When there is a decision that needs to be made. Make it. Use the information you have and do the best you can. Waiting longer or delaying decisions can cause angst and less completion time for your team. You won’t get them all right, but your team will appreciate your willingness to make a call in a tough spot.
Five – Watch out for Monkeys. If you’re coming into leadership from a prior peer role, it’s so easy to take on projects just to be helpful. Taking these monkeys makes it challenging to get your own work done. Instead you’re managing monkeys swinging from the lights, sitting on your desk, or messing with your computer. It comes from a place of wanting to be liked, but it really is a better practice to coach the team, instead of taking the project for them.
More to Come
Pipelining future leaders is such an important role. I think we as current leaders bear a responsibility for preparing those who come behind us. I hope these lessons help to play a role in that.
And of course, I have additional thoughts, so I may have a few more posts on this in the future.
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