The QuickBase team is growing across the board and some folks are stepping up as new leaders. This is true for our sales organization, which I was recently brought on board to lead and drive positive change. I’ve been a part of many sales teams over the years and I’ve seen many sales people rise up in the ranks to become managers. I have seen both wins and failures and have studied both. All new managers face challenges, but new managers of growing teams face an additional set of hurdles. They must engage existing employees, effectively manage change, and simultaneously avoid the challenges associated with bringing on new talent. In that spirit I wanted to share my point of view to help other newly appointed leaders avoid some common pitfalls and grow their team successfully.
Here are some of the risks of a team member stepping into a leadership role so you can spot them and correct your course:
1. Preaching your past success like it’s gospel. “I did it this way and was successful so you should too” is an approach that can strip your employees of the chance to add personality and style to their roles. It’s true that you’ve become a manager because your methods were successful, but this way of sharing your ideas can leave your team feeling demoralized and preached to. It sends the message that it’s your way or the highway and can take away the pride associated with employees owning their own process.
2. Start with the big picture. Don’t get into the weeds of your employees’ tactical plans right off the bat. You may miss the big picture and end up with a team rowing in different directions. Work down from the strategy to ensure alignment on key objectives and then address individual plans.
3. Don’t overdose on the Kool-Aid. Now that you’re the boss you may associate more with the leadership at your organization and adopt some of their language and behaviors. While it’s important to propagate positive aspects of company culture, this doesn’t mean you should start acting like “the Man.” BE YOURSELF. Your team will respect you for it.
4. First impressions count. Whether you intend to or not, you are going to build your brand as a leader early on. Getting off on the right foot is critical, so if you notice a potential issue, address it immediately and with transparency.
5. Customize your approach. Understand how each person wants to be engaged. Don’t assume the way you liked to be coached and engaged is the way for each person.
6. Avoid micro-managing. It sends a negative message to each person and tells them you do not trust them. Lead with trust always!
7. Watch your tone. Tone and volume can set the stage for everything from your working relationships with employees, to your presentations and individual conversations. Since first impressions are made quickly, be mindful of this when you take on your new role.
8. Open up. Let your employees get to know you. This helps establish a more efficient rapport and opens the door for your employees to give you feedback, collaborate with you, and ultimately, help the team innovate.
9. Slow down to speed up. Don’t try to assert yourself as the new leader by force because it probably won’t work. Before you can be an effective leader, you must earn your employees’ respect and trust, which happens on its own timeline. It’s your job to sense when that shift happens then begin to ramp up your expectations on the team.
10. Don’t be a bull in the china shop. Be mindful of existing process your new team has in place and likewise, the process your newly hired team members are bringing with them from previous experience. Chances are these processes are important or at least a part of how they currently do their jobs, so by demanding changes right off the bat, you may be causing frustration and churn.
My final word to new leaders, whether new to a company or stepping into a leader role for the first time, is to play the student role for the first 30 days. Listen and learn first to avoid early missteps. Get to know the people in the organization, what they do and how they factor into the bigger picture. Get to know your team members and understand their direction and objectives. Every great leader I have ever worked with took the time to build relationships with the people doing the work. I hope you found this article helpful.