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Tips for Making the Transition to a New Leadership Role

Posted by Louellen Essex on July 10, 2015 in Change Management, Communication, Team Development

Whether you move to a new organization or transit within your current place of work, the approach you use to begin a new leadership role can help or hinder your success. To staff members, a new leader is the source of hope as well as fear. Will you bring new insight and needed change? Or, will valued practices and relationships be damaged or destroyed? Make sure you send the right signals that calm staff anxiety and focus on building an effective collaboration that leads to a productive work environment. Here’s how.

1. Confirm expectations. Make sure you clarify with your own manager what outcomes you are expected to achieve. Are you there to put out fires and manage a crisis? Stabilize a conflict-ridden work group? Bring new ideas and innovation? Set the platform for success by knowing what’s required of you and how your performance will be measured.

2. Listen before acting. Hold one-on-one meetings with each of your staff members and stakeholders. Ask them what they think is going well and what should be improved or changed. A great question you might add is What advice do you have for me coming into my new role? Look for themes in the responses to help shape your understanding of others’ perceptions of the state of affairs and the issues you will need to tackle.

3. Observe and study. Note the way work is done and how staff members relate to each other. Walk often through the work unit and ask many questions to understand, as fully as you can, what the daily workflow is like. Study the organization chart, job descriptions, policies, and process documentation to determine what makes sense and where an overhaul may be needed. Demonstrate that you are interested in all aspects of the work, quickly learning how things are done.

4. Create a vision and goals. Drawing from what you have heard, observed, and studied, determine your leadership agenda. Prioritize goals. However, you may want to begin with a couple of “sure hits” that are easy to accomplish to show you can get things done. Meet with your staff to layout your vision and the goals to achieve it. Let them know how you have used the information they gave you in the individual sessions. Speak respectfully, not critically, of what’s gone on in the past remembering that long-term staff members may be attached to what exists. Keep your message forward thinking, optimistic, and inspiring.

5. Seek out a mentor or coach. Accelerate your learning curve about the organization by finding a wise sage who can give you some insider tips. Reading the nuances of the political dynamics within a new situation can be challenging, even if you’ve been in the organization for some time. If you are a new leader, a coach can help you avoid common errors and problem solve as you make the transition from an individual contributor to leader.

A good transition requires a well thought out strategy. New leaders get in trouble when they move too quickly without taking time to understand the context within which they will be leading. Listen, observe, think, and then act.

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In these times of rapid change, leaders can never stop learning.”

Dr. Louellen Essex