If you've never been in a leadership position before, you might feel intimidated when promoted to a managing role. You're the person everyone confronts with questions and issues, the one motivating your team while holding them accountable.
Adjusting to your position is a learning process, but you can help yourself adapt with these tips offered by management and HR experts.
1. Use existing strengths to meet new expectations
When you move up to a leadership position, your day-to-day activities and overall role in the company are going to change. The challenge that many new managers face is understanding how the skills and strengths they gained in their previous position can help them adjust to their new one.
"Changing roles is like making a pivot in a basketball game," said Ashley Goodall, SVP of leadership and team intelligence at Cisco. "You are anchored by your areas of strength, and they don't change as you move. But the expectations of you shift as you go in a new direction. As you move into a management position, you will be orchestrating the work instead of doing it. The trick will be to pay attention to the expectations of your new role and to figure out how to put your strengths to work in different ways."
Goodall advised identifying your current strengths and building upon them to fulfill the expectations that come with your promotion. [Want to be a better leader? Try these these simple tips.]
2. Transparency is key
As a nonmanagerial employee, you probably didn't have access to a lot of the company information your boss did. Now that you're a leader, you'll be more involved in planning and strategy work, and it's important to keep your team informed about what's going on in the organization.
"First-time managers often underestimate the importance of transparency," said David Niu, founder and CEO of employee engagement tool TINYpulse. "They often hold information that their team members don't have access to. They can avoid being seen as uncommunicative by being willing to share information such as budget, customer feedback and strategic plans. Transparency can also help staff better understand their role as part of a bigger picture and thus, feel more connected to the company and team."
3. Establish a strong relationship with your team
First-time leaders often default to "performance" mode, and are overly concerned about how productive the group is and how they look to their own boss, said Gretchen Spreitzer, professor of management and organization at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business. This doesn't work if the leader hasn't taken the time to develop good relationships with his or her team.
"Anyone in a new [managerial] position should get to know their people before they start establishing changes," Spreitzer told Business News Daily.
"Getting to know your team members and finding out how they're doing, not only in their careers but in their personal lives, is a great way to create the necessary rapport to work well as a group," Sprietzer said. Holding regular one-on-one meetings to check in with your employees can also help you establish good relationships with them.
4. Set clear expectations and goals
As a leader, you need to ensure that you and your employees are on the same page. Andrea Davis, co-founder of FlashPoint, advises leaders to define and communicate realistic expectations. While documenting performances and providing feedback, hold your employees accountable to adhering to the goals you set.
When expectations and goals are met, celebrate results and identify concerns.
"Use the information you have gathered from your previous feedback and conversations to help shape new goals and honestly evaluate performance," Davis said.
5. Recognize your employees when they do a good job
To truly build a great culture and dynamic among your team, it's important to give your employees credit when it's due.
"Frequent recognition fosters a positive team environment and creates a culture of gratitude," Niu said. "Don't just wait until the big wins to recognize team members. For example, thank employees who took the initiative to clean up after an office party."
When giving recognition, be sure it is personalized and honest, said Davis. For instance, give awards for creativity, supportiveness and innovation.
"Never assume an award has to be monetary or [has to] come from the top," she stated. "Set the stage for teams or peers to award outstanding teamwork. Always, always start with a simple 'thank you.'"
6. Accept feedback, but find your own unique way to lead
Everyone's going to have their own opinions and advice on how you should lead. While it's good to listen to what your mentors have to say, you must develop your own unique leadership style.
"My greatest challenge was to understand that I needed to figure out for myself the best way to lead and have an impact on my organization and teams, instead of worrying about other people's approaches," Goodall said. "New managers who are leading for the first time should ask themselves, 'Why would anyone follow me?' It's an easy question to overlook but one that I think is at the heart of what it means to be a leader. Everyone answers the question differently, and it's important to start thinking now about how you will lead in your own unique way. Leaders attract followers because of what they stand for and how they help their team grow."
Sprietzer noted that modeling your management style after a boss you admired is a good place to start, but being yourself is what matters most.
"Leverage and play to your own strengths," Sprietzer said. "Don't be who you're not."
Additional reporting by Nicole Fallon. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.
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