One of the most courageous (and sometimes life-changing) decisions you can make in your career is to step into a new leadership role. The job of a leader doesn’t come with a transition or “honeymoon” period. This means that the problems of the company or organization almost immediately become your own. What’s more, everyone under you is looking at you for solutions to these issues.
When you’re taking on a new leadership position, you have to take steps to make sure that you get off to a fantastic start, even though you know that learning about the needs of the company will take time.
Here are four strategies to make the transition to your new role smoother for you:
1. Learn the Difference Between a Manager and a Leader
Understanding the difference between the two is instrumental to your success. As a leader, your goal should be to have people follow you. This is different from managers wherein they have individuals working for them.
Leading your staff also means taking charge. Seah Moon Ming, chairman of SMRT Corporation Ltd., says that this quality is what sets a leader apart from a manager. He emphasized that the job of a leader is to provide the top-driving force and vision of the organization. This entails energizing employees and peers into achieving the goal of the organization.
Apart from taking charge, leading a team means investing your time to learn who your employees are and giving them the tools they need to succeed.
By leading instead of managing, you inspire confidence and a sense of trust to your direct reports.
2. Communicate Effectively and Consistently
Some people holding a leadership position think that they communicate adequately when they send e-mails a couple of times.
This effort, however, isn’t enough. Your direct reports might view (or worse dismiss) your ideas for the company as “noise.” If you want to convey your message effectively, you’ll need to communicate it several times to make sure that everyone understands what needs to be done.
When communicating to your people, schedule an all-hands meeting as soon as you arrive on the job. If you’re taking care of multiple locations, arrange an in-person meeting in each place. Take a cue from SMRT Chairman Seah Moon Ming who went the extra mile to meet his staff during one weekend.
You want to meet your direct reports right away, so they get to find out more about you — even if you’re unable to provide answers to their issues. A vital piece of info you could discuss with your team is a list of areas and issues that require attention. Although this won’t be a surprise to your staff, it will be good for your team to know that you’re planning to tackle these issues.
After being on the leadership role for about a month, come up with a detailed report to your boss. Discuss the problems holding back the organization, your proposed solutions and the resources you need to accomplish your goal. This enables you to set the stage for a long-term partnership with your boss as you take on the job.
3. Get People to Adjust to Your Leadership
Not everyone is open to change. You’ll encounter some employees who are resistant to the idea of accommodating new management. This can become a challenge if you’re assuming a role that demands you to make big changes on how your organization does business.
What you should realize, however, is that individuals can tolerate and later on accept change provided that they see the reasoning behind it. So, take the time to discuss your plans in detail with your team. Also, get them to participate in your decision-making process. Make your team members part of the change instead of delegating them as mere supporting characters or passive actors in the organization.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Make Unpopular Decisions
Sometimes, the individual stepping into the new leadership role has amazing plans for change. A few months later, however, they become accustomed to the workplace culture and simply go with the flow. As a result, they end up making a few changes here and there, but ultimately fail to fulfill what they set out to do.
If you’re taking on a leadership position, don’t allow the ways of doing things derail you from making serious changes. Stay on course and do what’s best for the organization, even if the changes seem unpopular or unpalatable to your staff.
Transitioning to a new leadership role will take you some time to figure out just how much change is required to improve the organization. Following these four suggestions will help you start on the right foot while determining what you need to do to move the company forward.