MANY professionals struggle with the transition from management to leadership. While you believe you have developed the skills and the experience, the real issue lies in the fact that you have not changed other people’s perceptions of you. You haven’t taken the next step to set yourself apart.
New leaders are expected to “hit the ground running”. They must produce results quickly while simultaneously assimilating into the organisation. The result is that a large number of newly recruited or promoted managers fail within the first year of starting new jobs.
New leaders’ challenges
You are now a manager or supervisor and will assume a leadership position soon. Adapting to your new role will take time. Your responsibilities have grown, and relationships with co-workers have changed. The organisation’s expectations of you have also changed.
This period of transition may feel exhilarating but also unsettling. You may feel happy about the promotion, but under more pressure to perform to higher expectations.
Much of your success as a leader will depend on your social intelligence — the relationships you have with the various stakeholders including peers, employees and the organisation’s senior leaders.
You may find your priorities, concerns, worries and goals changing as you adjust to your new role. Your viewpoint and loyalties may also change. Understanding the challenges ahead will ease the way.
The specific challenges leaders face depends on the types of transitions they are experiencing. Leaders who have been hired externally (on-boarding) confront the need to adapt to new business models and organisational cultures, and to build supportive networks of relationships.
For those who have been promoted internally (role-to-role transitions), the challenge lies in understanding and developing the competencies required to be successful at the new level. Hence, it is essential to carefully diagnose the situation and craft transition strategies accordingly.
What got you here won’t get you there
According to Marshall Goldsmith, the executive coach and author of the bestseller, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, the corporate world is filled with executives — men and women who have worked hard for years to reach the upper levels of management.
They are intelligent, skilled and even charismatic. But only a handful of them will ever reach the pinnacle due to certain limitations or negative behaviours.
Mr Goldsmith offers up a seven-step plan for fixing these behaviours, both individually and as a whole:
• Feedback: Whenever feedback is given to you in any form, never respond by arguing about it. Instead, write it down and consider it later when your immediate flared passions are calmer.
Thank the person for offering his opinion, put the advice aside for a while, and then look at it later with a cool head, and you’ll often find something specific you can improve on. If you want to be proactive about feedback, don’t be afraid to ask for it, but never argue about it.
• Apologising: If you realise you have done something wrong, either recently or in the past, apologise. Swallow a bit of pride, go up to the person, and just apologise for whatever it is. You’ll both feel better for it — you will lose at least some of the bad feeling and the other person will feel better too.
• Telling the world, or advertising: Now you have apologised, what will you do to change? The next step is to define the changes you will make and let everyone know about them, especially the people you have apologised to.
• Listening: When someone speaks to you, listen to him. Don’t interrupt, and try to fully understand what he is saying before formulating a response. This is always a strong tactic to use when someone is trying to talk to you.
• Thanking: Whenever someone does something beneficial for you, thank him. Just be sure to take the time to thank everyone who contributes to your success, both directly and in public opportunities when given the chance.
• Following up: Once you have started to really work on eliminating the negative habits from your life, follow up on them. Stay diligent yourself, and try to remind yourself often of your goals. Constant follow-up keeps you on task and on focus with anything in your life.
• Practising “feedforward”: At this point, you are making real progress on your negative habits. Now, step back and ask for some future suggestions on where you should go with these changes.
Ask someone whom you trust for two specific things that you can do in the future to help with the behaviours you are working on, listen, thank them, then work on implementing them. Much as feedback talks about the past, “feedforward” talks about the future.
Everything looks like a nail
The biggest trap new leaders fall into is to believe they will continue to be successful by doing what has made them successful in the past.
There is an old saying, “To a person who has a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” New leaders should focus first on discovering what it will take to be successful in the new role, then discipline themselves to do the things that don’t come naturally if the situation demands it.
Article by Professor Sattar Bawany, chief executive officer of the Centre for Executive Education (CEE Global). CEE Global offers executive development solutions including executive coaching and leadership development programmes for professionals. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.cee-global.com