Advice for new (out of their depth) leaders.

We’ve been hearing a lot recently about people finding themselves in leadership roles with limited experience.

The main reason for this is the shortage of good and experienced people in the current market. There simply aren’t enough leaders, so upcoming talent is having to step up even if they’re not quite ready.

While getting promoted is a plus, if you’re not feeling confident in your role because you haven’t got the ‘required’ skillset, don’t worry. We’ve got some tried and tested tips and advice for leaders to help you successfully step up to the task.

Consider your shift from team member to leader

Common complaints from new leaders include the struggle to manage work friends since being promoted and not feeling confident in delegating.

Success here largely comes down to how people perceive you. If you don’t feel like a leader or exert the confidence and authority of someone in charge, people won’t follow your direction, and you’ll remain a team member.

This perception is related to the Goldman Sachs concept of the ‘leadership shadow’—the influence or unconscious impact you have on your team.

Your leadership shadow is made up of the following:

  • What you say (your written, spoken and non-verbal cues)
  • How you act (your positive and negative actions and behaviours)
  • What you prioritise (the things you value)
  • How you measure (recognition or accountability)

Think about what your shadow is saying and portraying. Is what you’re doing and saying clear, consistent and powerful? Do people see you as a leader? If not, this is something to work on.

Be a leader who sets a good example, develops your team and fosters a positive culture. This will give you a presence people listen to and emulate.

Create your 30-60-90-day plan

The 30-60-90-day management plan can help you hit the ground running in your new leadership role. It sets you up for success with a three-month step-by-step strategy that links personal success to business success.

Essentially, the plan outlines what you hope to achieve in the first 30, 60 and 90 days of your role. Think of it as the mini handbook for out-of-depth managers and a safeguard against anxiety and poor performance.

Here’s a quick run-down of what to do at each stage:

Days 1-30: Immersion and understanding

The first 30 days are about getting to know your new role and stakeholders. If you’ve joined a new company, familiarise yourself with the culture, values and goals, ask questions, gather info, and build relationships with team members and stakeholders. The more you put yourself out there, the easier it will be to find the answers.  

Days 31-60: Strategy and planning

This middle stage is when you take a step back and consider the current status quo. What’s working well? What needs to shift? How can I make this shift happen? These are the kinds of reflective questions you should be asking. You then need to strategise a plan of action to set the wheels of change in motion.

 Days 61-90: Implementation and analysis

The final 30-day stage should be focused on implementing the new actions developed in the middle stage. Make sure you’re consulting and communicating with your team and being transparent at each stage. You’ll be much more successful if people are engaged and on board.

Set the communication cadence for your team

When, how, and what you communicate to your team is critical to your short and long-term success as a leader.

Sporadic and disjointed communications just won’t cut it. Instead, you need to set a communications cadence—the meeting rhythm you want for your team.

Think about the types of meetings that will happen: one on one, team and department. Also, consider how often these meetings will occur. This could be weekly, fortnightly or quarterly, depending on what your team needs and feels would be most valuable and beneficial.

Don’t set meetings for the sake of it or to tick a box. Each meeting you set for your communication cadence should have a specific intention, purpose or desired action. Plus, when setting them up, ensure you set clear expectations and everyone understands them.

Importantly, encourage strong, two-way open communication at all times. Our go-to questions are: “What do you need for me?” and “How can I support you to achieve the goal or task?”

It’s time to go from surviving to thriving

Being a new leader isn’t easy, especially when you’ve been placed relatively unprepared into the role. But by taking these tips and tricks on board and making them the foundation of your first three months, you can set yourself up for leadership success.

If you want to find out more about how we can support new leaders to go from surviving to thriving, let’s chat

Meet the author: Stacey Kelly

Stacey brings extensive industry experience and knowledge, as well as the energy, passion and inspiration of a great leader. She previously held senior people/cultures roles in private and public organisations, including Hunter TAFE and Insurance Australia Group (IAG).

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