In part 1 of this note, I shared how power comes with a lot of responsibility and the ease with which it can be used for the wrong things and can cause harm. The 8 keys are designed to help you navigate your transition into your first leadership position or into a significantly higher-level leadership position. The first four keys to establishing yourself as a respected leader are: Stay Grounded, Be Firm, Evaluate the Consequences of Decisions, and Know the Details. If you missed part 1, you can read it here. In this note, we are concluding with the final four keys.
5. Listen to Those Who You Have Power Over
Yes, you are the decision-maker and yes you are responsible for your decisions. However, that doesn’t mean you should make your decisions in a vacuum. While you have the right to make all the decisions and dictate to your team what they are going to do and how they are going to do it, you shouldn’t. That is a major symptom of poor leadership. Talk with your people – not to them, but with them. And, don’t just talk, listen. They are in the mix, getting the work done. They will know quite a few things that you are not aware of. They will likely know things that your decision is going to impact that you may not have thought of simply because you don’t see the view that they have.
When you don’t listen to your team, they will stop speaking up. They will stop offering ideas and solutions. They will let you make decisions that they know will fail because you don’t value them enough to hear what they have to say and take their perspectives and experiences into account. They will do what you say, but they won’t do their best because you will have demonstrated that it doesn’t matter. When you finally decide to include them in the discussion, they may have a lot to say, but they likely won’t say anything. Of course, there will be times when either because of time or confidentiality you cannot discuss things with them -and, it’s okay to tell them that, but when the situation allows for it, do it. It will show your team that you value their opinions and that you want them to be invested in the organization beyond their individual roles.
6. Handle Sensitive Situations Appropriately
You will likely experience a variety of sensitive situations in your leadership position and they may all require different ways of handling them. However, there are a few things that can be applied to all your sensitive situations. First, only share information with those who need to know it. If it’s sensitive, it likely has some confidential or explosive components to it. Be sure to respect the confidentiality and control the explosiveness by limiting those involved to those who need to be involved and to the extent that they need to be involved. Second, move quickly but carefully to resolve it. Don’t avoid these situations, hoping that they will disappear or resolve themselves. They won’t. They will only get worse. Third, seek wise counsel. There may be some situations that you are not sure how to handle. That’s okay. Get help. Seek counsel on the best way to handle the situation. Sometimes this counsel may be from a peer or from your supervisor. Other times you will need to get counsel from a leader in another department whose area of responsibility is involved or impacted, from Human Resources or perhaps from the organization’s or your own legal counsel.
7. Find A Mentor
Leadership takes time to develop and you learn to manage power over time. Even if this is not your first time in a leadership role, if you are leading new people, have a different type of leadership role than what you’ve had in the past, or you are in a new organization, there is a learning curve. Find someone who can serve as a mentor to you for this stage of your career. It could be someone in your organization or outside of the organization, but you need someone you can talk through challenges with and who you can trust to guide you in the right direction and tell you when you are falling short. I recommend having a mentor within your organization and outside of your organization. The mentor within your organization has the benefit of knowing the culture of the organization and can help you navigate the official and unofficial expectations and protocols that exist. The mentor outside of your organization can give you an unbiased perspective of whatever you may be dealing with and allows you to share concerns that you may not be comfortable sharing with someone within the organization.
8. Develop and Share Your Vision
It is easier for a team to follow a leader when they know where they are going. In the first few months in your position, you want to take inventory of what your area of responsibility has -it’s strengths and weaknesses, it’s opportunities and threats, it’s recent history of successes and failures, and its current state. You also want to gauge the morale and commitment of the team and find out what they think is working and not working. Use this information to help develop your vision for your area of responsibility and the team. Don’t forget about the team. Your vision should not only focus on targets and outcomes; it needs to take into account where and how you want to see your people grow. Once you develop your vision, share your vision. Give your people the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback on your vision. Have a clear starting point to when you are shifting from business as usual to implementing your vision, so your team is clearly aware that all decisions and action from this point should be in alignment with the vision that has been cast. Sharing your vision will help your team to support you in accomplishing it and will make it clear what they are working towards. This can go a long way in making sense of difficult and uncomfortable changes. If you can get them to buy in to your vision, it’ll make it easier to get buy in for the things that are necessary to get there.