In this action-packed talent market, we’re seeing lots of first-time leaders step up to the plate. And this transition sure can be scary! Some organizations are taking a “thoughts and prayers” approach to readying these first-timers. Others are giving the gift of skills-based training. But nearly all are leaving these new leaders woefully unready – AND are missing an opportunity to empower said leaders to really harness potential and amplify results. Because stepping into leadership requires so much more than a toolbox full of skills. It requires a mindset shift, a safe space in which to practice and play and ask “dumb” questions and find support and build confidence. Our work with new leaders engages cohorts not just in skill-building (though we do that), but in a much richer experience of practice and reflection and dialog and accountability. If your organization has some new leaders coming up the ranks, here are 6 of the principles on which we build our programs.
1. What got you here won’t get you there
The great Marshall Goldsmith said it best.
Most first-time leaders have been promoted on the merits of their individual contributions. And now, so suddenly, their success comes not from what they themselves can deliver, but rather what they can unlock and harness from their teams.
This is a massive mindset shift – and a hard one to make.
We love to begin with some discussion around why this shift is critical, what it means for them, and how to translate this shift into action and behavior.
2. Manage energy like your number one asset
Because it is – yours and theirs.
First-time leaders come out of the gate hot! They’re ready for action, wanting to dive in and turn everything to gold!
But overzealous leaders are at risk of colliding with burnout – be it their own or members of their team.
We talk to new leaders about pace and priorities. About keeping an eye on their tanks, recognizing the signals that they’re dancing-near-empty, having recharge strategies on-hand, and encouraging their teams to do the same.
Keeping burnout at bay is one of the most crucial leadership capabilities of the current moment.
3. Know and flex your norms
Leadership isn’t about showing up a certain, single way. It’s about understanding how you’re showing up and being willing and able to flex based on the person or moment in front of you. We work with new leaders on discovering how their teams and peers experience them – both in moments of calm and of storm. We discuss the pros and cons of our normative styles, and strategies for adapting to moments of stress or to people who require a different approach. Flexy is the new black.
4. Connect and they will come
Establishing trust, leaning into empathy, authenticity, clarity, and just making time to get to know your people – this is the golden pathway to everything.
New leaders are often so hungry to deliver a result, they miss the boat on building a coalition with their team.
When we begin with connection, we earn the right to do the harder things – like coach, give feedback, manage performance…but also the privilege of witnessing collaboration, hearing amazing ideas, the unspoken risks we almost missed, the “dumb” questions that highlight new approaches.
5. Build a power network of peers
We learn the facts of leadership – the steps, the tools – in classes and books. We learn the art of leadership through practice and fails and pain.
The power of a peer network – others experiencing similar challenges – can’t be underestimated. As a new leader, having a safe space in which to share experiences, to practice hard conversations, test out messaging, debrief on emotional moments…it’s priceless. It’s such a valuable way to grow skill and confidence, to refine approaches and get new ideas.
Peer coaching networks are the way to go. That’s why we build these in.
6. Focus on your locus
Often, new leaders are eager beavers. They learn a thing and want to practice it pronto. And then – boom. Reality smacks them in the face. Forces outside of their control – like too many priorities or unclear decision rights or mixed messaging from above or a million other things – get in the way. So new leaders get discouraged and they freeze. There are always things we can control and things we can not. So rather than getting hung up on what’s outside our influence, we encourage new leaders to shape what’s within it. Maybe a complicated org change is in the works – and they can’t control its content. But they can control, the clarity and empathy with which they communicate the details. They can control how available they are to their teams, how well they hear concerns and address questions. There are always actions we can take – momentum that’s ours to own. We empower this belief. And it will move your leaders forward every time. I’d love to talk to you about readying your newest cohort of new or aspiring leaders. If you’d like to explore…please reach on out today!