You are several weeks or even months to your new leadership position, and you are struggling. You can’t figure out why, but you don’t feel like a leader (or your employees don’t treat you like one), and each day brings challenges that you weren’t quite expecting when you accepted the promotion.
If that is the case, or even if you just want to become a more effective leader, read this list to learn what key actions you may have missed early on in your new position. Here are the first seven things you should have done when you were promoted:
- Get clear expectations. The first thing you need to do is understand your role. What do you expect of yourself, what does the organization expect of you, and what does your new boss expect of you? Expectations form the basis for your success, and a misunderstanding or misalignment of expectations is the fastest way to frustration and failure. Schedule a meeting with your boss to clear up any confusion you have.
- Set your goals. You have an exciting (or scary) task in front of you. What do you want to accomplish and why? Set both personal and career goals that align with the organization’s goals and the expectations you’ve already outlined.
- Get to know your new boss. Doing so increases the chances that you will work well together. Learn his or her preferences for working and communicating. For example, does your boss want you to stop by her office for a quick briefing each day? Or would she rather you submit weekly written updates? Also, find out how much decision-making power you have. What decisions can you make? Which do you need to run past the boss? Finally, ask what you can do to make your boss more productive, efficient and successful. A strong working relationship with the boss will make both your lives easier.
- Focus on building relationships. No one is an island, and you can’t do it alone. Invest time in building relationships with your new peers, people in other departments, your boss, your customers, and most important, your employees. To build a foundation of trust and respect, you have to prove to people that you see them as more than just workers. Take interest in their lives outside of work, and get to know their preferences at work. Perhaps most important though, is that you don’t do anything to break their trust early on, such as, keeping information from them or stretching the truth. If you have already done that, prepare to start from scratch, and work hard to rebuild their confidence in you.
- Learn what you need to. You don’t know everything that is required for you to be successful in your new job. Focus first on building that knowledge and skills. Attend an online training class. Study the industry. Schedule meetings with other managers to pick their brains about procedures. Or learn from employees, for example, ask one to train you on unfamiliar software the team uses and another to walk you through a process. You’ll gain more respect if you admit you don’t know something than if you fumble through it.
- Celebrate. A promotion is a big deal, so you should take some time for yourself and with those closest to you to celebrate your progress and accomplishments. Too many people, especially first-time leaders, allow the anxiety and fear to override the fact that they just achieved something really fantastic. Giving yourself time to be excited and proud, can give you a boost in confidence, and if you are confident, you will be more likely to succeed. That said …
- Stay humble. As in most things in life, balance is important. You should absolutely be happy with yourself for earning the promotion. You also need to keep it in perspective and at least some of it to yourself. The person in the next cubicle might have wanted the job you got, and others might doubt your ability to lead. Remember that you don’t know it all, and be willing to cop to your mistakes and admit when you are out of your element.
The good news is that even if you missed several of these steps, you can do them now and start to make changes that will improve your work relationships and help you get back on track to becoming a great leader.