What new leaders need to know

Katharina Stickling

Being thrust into a leadership role for the first time can be overwhelming, and especially so if you are suddenly overseeing the work of people you used to be on the same level with. What the heck am I doing? How is this all supposed to work?  

Leadership in its essence is taking on the responsibility to serve other people. What is often misunderstood here, is that taking on the responsibility to serve doesn’t necessarily equal having to make all the decisions or knowing all the answers. This misinterpretation can be a daunting prospect for new leaders who are more often than not just beginning to learn the tools, processes and skills to support their teams. At times, they are left overwhelmed or in self-doubt over this unrealistic expectation of self. 

What does it mean to support others? What should you focus your energy on, considering the limited time available to develop new skills and build new leadership muscles?

Well, mostly pay attention. A great way to learn to understand and guide the people on your team is by way of observation. 

First, listen closely during conversations – What is being said and how? What is communicated through non-verbal communication? Check in on their body language and facial expressions.

Second, reflect before you speak – Become aware of your own response to what has been said and filter it through a set of rational questions before reacting.  Am I somehow triggered or activated? Am I responsible to provide an answer, or can I offer words of affirmation, coach or advice instead?  With this in mind, choose how to reply. If you need more time before replying, communicate that and take the time!

Third, take note of the behaviours you observe and learn to interpret them correctly. You are a lot more likely to communicate, support and lead effectively having really understood the humans on your team. 

Below is a list of the 7 essential responsibilities of leaders that you should learn to do:

1. Create a safe environment

  • Encourage team members to voice their opinions/ideas.
  • Model vulnerability and honesty.
  • Make everyone feel safe to speak up.
  • Welcome diversity of thought and behaviour.

2. Motivate people

  • Create a vision for your team within the wider business vision.
  • Empower people to own their work. Give them their own piece of the vision that they are in charge of – even if it’s small. 
  • Listen out for what motivates the individual and leverage that motivation. 

3. Think ahead

  • Think ahead about what is coming up for the business in the future – do appropriate analysis.  
  • Get expert help where you need it, so you have the best future focus you can possibly get.
  • Think about what is needed today and make decisions that make the business ready for the future.
  • Allocate and deploy resources from your pool of talent, activating their abilities according to the situation and their skill level/interests.

4. Make decisions

  • Understand the power of decision-making activities to keep the workflow going.
  • Focus on decisions that matter and are most likely to succeed.
  • Facilitate dialogue between team members to enable them to reach strategic decisions.
  • Identify issues that disrupt your team’s momentum. 
  • Solve problems.

5. Foster a good team culture

  • Build a team that works well together; invest in relationships.
  • Clearly delegate responsibilities to the right people.
  • Set priorities for work/responsibilities.
  • Communicate expectations.
  • Be accountable to others and hold them accountable.

6. Help people become better at their work

  • Challenge people to think and stretch for more.
  • Measure and reward performance.
  • Give continuous feedback, advice or coaching when needed.
  • Make a way for people to learn and grow. Find out what your people want to learn (ask them) and make a way for this to happen.

7. Lead by example

  • Take responsibility for making relationships work.
  • Take responsibility to develop people to be confident and to bring out the best in themselves.
  • Establish an atmosphere that encourages best efforts (not exposes insecurities).
  • Be mindful of your own actions.
  • Ask questions and seek counsel where necessary.
  • Stay open to feedback from others.
  • Follow through on commitments.

Start here by asking yourself, which of these 7 leadership areas do I believe I do well?  Which do I need to develop and why?  

Then rank the skills you want to develop by their priority for your team and yourself. Start with your number one priority and try to use or learn about the skill every day for a week. 

For example, if the skill to develop is ‘stay open to feedback from others’, set yourself the goal: “This week, if someone provides feedback or questions what I have said or done, I’ll just listen and thank them for their input.” Then continue by choosing your second priority the following week and so on…

We help leaders in businesses who have people in their team that they want to grow because the potential is there, or need to grow because without it the individual and the organisation could get a bit stuck.  

Harrowfield is a strategic learning agency. Working to a specific client brief, we draw on the disciplines of organisational and behavioural psychology – and common sense –  to determine and execute strategic and tactical programmes for personal development and team development. 

Can you see a learning opportunity or a behavioural frustration? We help business leaders to bring out the potential that they see in their people by shaping habits of thinking, communication and action in the workplace. Talk to us today.

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