I was talking with a client the other day. She had just been promoted to be the team lead for her group, which she was thrilled about. She also had to deal with some challenging situations with a few of her new direct reports, which she was less than thrilled about.
She repeatedly asked me for guidance and advice on what she had to know and do as a new team lead, which in many ways, I was more than happy to give. However, it also made me once again acutely aware of how successful individual contributors are promoted to a management role with very little, if any, guidance on how to succeed at that new level with its new set of requirements.
Spoiler alert – it takes different skills and mindsets to lead and manage than it does to contribute on one’s own, and very few organizations effectively support and prepare their new managers for these new requirements and situations.
To make things even more difficult and confusing, new managers generally believe that they need to already have all the answers and know how to triumph in their new roles, without asking any questions or for any support or guidance. (Unfortunately, this mindset continues as many move up and through the leadership ranks at work.)
I shared with my client that it made complete sense that she wasn’t sure how to handle the new challenging situations, because, as I wrote above, it takes entirely different muscles and skills to manage versus to produce, and she simply hadn’t been taught them. I “gave her permission” to ask her manager for input and feedback, and I strongly recommended that she do that.
I also shared other suggestions, a few of which are:
- Ask your new direct reports what they want and need from you, as well as what would motivate them and what gets in their way. One of the best ways to know what matters to them, good and bad, is to ask. Other than that, you’re probably making up stories based on half-information.
- Ask your manager for guidance and input, but go to your manager with a solid understanding of the situations and some possible solutions. It’s great to ask for help, and even greater to ask for help when it’s obvious that you’ve tried your best to think (and feel) through how to handle the challenges you’re facing.
- Take classes on managing and leading that are offered by your organization.
- Catch yourself doing things right so that you can begin to trust yourself and your approach.
Stepping into a new role can be thrilling and it also can be scary and confusing. It’s normal to doubt ourselves, however that can only get in our way. Do your best to find ways to learn what you now need to know, practice new behaviors so that you can gain confidence in your own ability, and powerfully ask for guidance and help. With that, you are more likely to succeed sooner and more easily.
How have you successfully stepped into a new role? What have you learned?
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