So, you've reached the summit, you have the corner office and now the buck stops with you. It's time to relish in victory, right? Well, not so fast. Now is when the real work begins.
Those long days and nights vying for the top spot got you here, but it won't get you “there.” Where, exactly? The time and place where you're recognized as a respected leader who steers the ship with operational excellence.
Transitioning from an individual contributor to leader can be challenging, so as you begin your journey, make sure to avoid these five mistakes along the way, and remember what John C. Maxwell once said:
1. Being Stingy With Trust
Let me guess, you believe trust is earned over time? You trust only those you deem worthy, right? When you begin leading, you want to adjust your thinking on this one.
Author Steven Covey wrote a book explaining the importance of trust. The central theme is that trust levels are proportionate to operational speed. Higher levels of trust lead to operational quickness, while lower levels make things sluggish. Trust me, it couldn't be more accurate.
Just as the saying, “You get what you give,” is true for many things in life, it nails the reason why trust should come first. In order to gain the trust of your team, you must give yours first. Don't keep it locked away; let it free. When both sides trust one another, things move lightning fast.
Here's a quick tip: If you pepper in phrases like, “I trust your judgment,” or “I trust you,” it helps the process move even faster.
2. Usurping Your Authority
As a new leader, you'll likely fall into a trap. Which one? Making requests with unnecessary attachments to increase urgency. I've witnessed this many times over. And yes, I've also done this before (especially with difficult employees).
What exactly do I mean? If you need something accomplished quickly, you likely attach some reason other than your own merit. For instance, you give the task some oomph by saying, “I need this quickly because [insert your bosses name] needs it,” or my favorite, “I need this quickly because corporate needs it.”
Doing this invariably usurps your authority. Any requests you make as their leader should hold enough merit, which means resisting the urge to add some “oomph." By resisting, you avoid attaching unnecessary reasons for things to move urgently in the future. Trust me, it bypasses many headaches.
3. Avoiding Uncomfortable Conversations
Tim Ferris said, “A person's success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.” And I assure you, he's spot on.
All you need to remember is that uncomfortable conversations are just that: uncomfortable. They aren't death-defying, biohazardous, life-altering conversations (typically). Nope, they're just uncomfortable. The good news? You'll live through them and grow.
Whatever you do, don't avoid them. “Eat the frog,” as Brian Tracy says, and tackle immediately. Keep in mind that the longer you delay, the larger the problems become. Either have one conversation today, or two, maybe three, tomorrow. You decide.
4. Piggybacking Problems
A mentor of mine once said, “Give me a banana or a gun when you bring me a monkey.” First off, we both love animals, so no monkeys were harmed in this metaphor. The point he illustrated was simultaneously bringing solutions alongside problems.
During the beginning stages of leadership, your eagerness to help employees solve problems is tremendously high. Why? Because doing so validates your role and feeds your identity. It feels good to help. However, it harms you and your employees in two ways if done too often.
First, problem-solving for your employees consumes time, and you may begin to fall behind in other responsibilities. Eventually, you're spending a disproportionate amount of time solving their problems.
I know you're thinking, “Isn't that what a leader is supposed to do?” Yes, and no. Yes, you are a problem solver at times for them. And no, you're not to solve all their problems.
This leads to the second point. You stifle employee growth. Ultimately, your job is growing your employees. But when you're solving all their problems, you're not giving them the opportunity to grow.
And now we've come full circle. For every monkey (problem) your team brings you, require a gun or banana (solutions) simultaneously. Make this expectation clear, and hold them accountable to it. You will help them grow, and they will thank you in the end.
5. Making Your Team Frantic
Once promoted into leadership, your constant desire to prove yourself worthy for the position can subside. Otherwise, you will make your team nuts. It's counterintuitive, I know, but follow me. When you ease up and make a mental shift, you're less likely to make your team frantic.
What's the mental shift? You shift from proving you're worthy for the position, and you focus on proving you're worthy to lead. There's a major difference. Having the position and leading people are separate entities.
My advice is to relax and settle in for the journey of being their leader. This doesn't mean you halt ambition; you're just shifting your thoughts.
Always remember your team becomes a reflection of you, their leader. If you're frantic, they're frantic. If you're calm, they're calm. Keep this in mind and start off on the right foot.
There are the five things to avoid as you embark on your leadership journey. Not only have I lived through each one personally, but I've also coached countless people in these areas.
Along the way, remember you're not alone. Leadership is a craft you must work on to improve. The more work you put in, the more effective you become. And there are thousands of places to turn for help if you need it.