By Angela Civitella
Seeking the role of leader, no matter how large your team or whether you are starting a new job in a new firm or being promoted from within, is a challenging situation in the best of times. After all, no matter how you look at it from your side, to the people you are going to manage, in some way you are the new kid. All eyes are on you when you walk into a brand new company. Work culture? Do not know. Social culture? Who knows? Policies and procedures? Some are formal, some are evolutional. And what are they?
All of these questions take on a different perspective and urgency when the role you’ve been hired for is that of a leader.
So, for kicks, you not only have to figure out all of the above, you also need to figure out what kind of leader you need to be for all those eyeballs looking to you for answers. Oh boy.
The pressure is on. You need to demonstrate your worth, the value you bring and why you’re being paid seven figures. Even though it is a given that you were tried, tested and true in your old role, this is a whole new ball game. And your flock needs some convincing that they need to follow YOU now.
For leaders in all situations, here are ten actions I’ve identified for a successful transition into a brand new scenario.
1. Ask away. Don’t be shy. You can’t never know too much. Ask away. Every person is a knowledge source for you. Managers, subordinates, and colleagues. State why you’re doing the asking, and show interest and that you are curious, about everything. If you show you’re genuine, everyone will want to help you. And you’ll forge new relationships along the way. Winning.
2. Strengthen your network. Be intentional about the network you have. Leaders get things done through other people, so be mindful who you include and why. Put dedicated focus as soon as you are anointed. Give yourself 60-90 days to establish who’s in, and who’s out. Make connections and personalize them. Get to know your people’s personal lives and ask them what matters to them. Get to know your people on a personal level and be willing to talk about what matters to them — their families, their hobbies, their interests.
Personal touches, from bringing treats for celebrations to positioning people for advancement, show people that you care about them. They will reciprocate with their trust.
3. Understand the culture. If you come in wanting to change the culture, you need to understand it first. Don’t get frustrated over frustrations and restrictions that you are walking into. Uncover the obstacles and navigate around them. Do this and you will build trust with the people, making it more likely that they’ll be open to changes when you propose them. Demonstrate your interest and open-mindedness.
4. Show empathy towards the people you are leading. A new leader translates into change for people. So that means a heightened sense of fear and uncertainty. All eyes are on you to see who you are and what you are prepared to do for them. Communicate clearly, consistently, and frequently so they get to know you. Manage expectations and make it clear to people what you bring.
5. Show yourself. Do not, I repeat, do not hide in your office. You really need to be present and accessible to your people so that you can build relationships and get to know the people and the culture. Walk around, engage in informal conversations, as well as scheduling more formal discussions. Note what you observe and talk to your manager or a mentor about your observations.
6. Pause before going forward. You have ideas and you’re ready to make a difference. But before you charge ahead, step back into learner mode. Too many changes too fast can scare people and create resistance. Start with a soft touch by making suggestions and asking questions. Give your team the opportunity to get comfortable enough to start sharing their expertise and guidance. Huge trust builder if you go at it slowly and surely.
7. What’s important. Learn how to triage demands made on you so you can tackle the most important issues and work your way down. Know what to delegate, and what to postpone. Avoid feeling the pressure to move too quickly to action. Instead, observe, listen, and then take action. Be smart about it.
8. Little wins matter at first. As you get to know the organization and formulate a strategic plan, look for quick wins that you can realize in the short term. These wins can motivate people and build trust.
9. Deal with conflict right away. You may ruffle some feathers at the start. Some may feel they deserved to be the leader. You may not “connect” between what you were told during the hiring process and the reality you encounter on the job. The only way to handle conflict is to address it directly and right away.
10. Breathe. You aren’t going to have all the answers—at least for a while. And you’re going to make mistakes. So, be your best ally and give yourself permission to learn.
Angela Civitella is a business leadership coach and founder of Intinde. www.intinde.com