The first few weeks in a new leadership role can be challenging and bewildering. The excitement of being promoted is often coupled with an underlying fear about how you will cope with more authority and responsibility and whether you are really up to the job.
Getting off on the right foot is crucial. The actions you take and the relationships you build in the early days will help you earn the respect of your peers and set you up for future success. New leaders, however, have a tendency to rush in head-first when faced with new challenges and unfamiliar situations. They feel they should know all the answers and want to be seen to be making an immediate impact.
So what can you do to take a calmer, more measured approach to your new role and avoid some of the common traps new leaders fall into during those difficult, early days?
The top five pitfalls are:
It’s natural to want to get your team and other departments quickly by responding positively to their requests. The quickest way to lose your credibility as a leader, however, is to promise things you subsequently can’t deliver. Make sure you know the limits of your authority and have the full picture before you make any big commitments.
Being afraid to ask for help
New leaders often feel they will be perceived as weak or ineffective if they don’t immediately have all the answers. There is no shame, however, in asking for advice if you are unsure of what action to take. Don’t sweep problems under the carpet if you don’t know how to tackle them – they won’t go away and will probably only get worse.
Failing to prioritise relationships
Make building relationships a priority in the first few weeks of your new role. Developing an understanding of the dynamics of your own team and how you can get the best from everyone is important – but don’t overlook the need to make connections and form alliances across and outside the business.
Don’t just focus on the ‘official’ movers and shakers – it’s often those without the title who have the information and the influence.
Speaking instead of listening
In an attempt to make their mark, new leaders often over-talk and under-listen. Make sure your door is open to give your new team the chance to share information and raise concerns. Ask plenty of questions and listen carefully to the answers for what is being said as well as what is implied or not being said.
Trying to do it all yourself
Managers who step up into leadership roles often find it hard to let go of the practical or specialist tasks they would previously have done themselves. Don’t fall into the trap of taking on the whole team’s work because you feel you can make a better job of it. Your role as a leader is to delegate the day-to-day so that you can provide direction and give your people the chance to learn and grow.
Ashridge Business School delivers integrated corporate education solutions for working professionals in the Middle East. For more information visit www.ashridge.ae.