First days and weeks as a Leader. Guide for the Lost.

Today is the first day of your new life, life as a Leader. You’ve made up your mind, opportunity has arrived and there is only one thing left to do – to plan first day, week and month in the new role. At the beginning I promised that in all those articles we’ll be talking about truth so also in this case let’s focus on facts – first months will be difficult, a bit stressful and for sure they will cost you a few sleepless nights. But you’ll get through this and with the help of those couple tips I’ll try to make it easier for you. The key to success her is a plan, detailed and realistic plan.

One of the things that you need to think about is the first team meeting. Don’t wait too long and try to organize meeting with whole team in the first days in a new role. For sure your team members will be curious who’ll be leading them. Giving them the opportunity to know your previous experience, plan and what’s even more important to ask you some questions will be priceless. Usually such meetings are beneficial for both sides as you’ll have an opportunity to hear what people think about their job. If you’ll gain their trust you may also collect some important information about what is wrong and what are the expectations towards you. During the meeting try not to interrupt, let people speak honestly, this may be one of the few occasions that someone is really listening to what they’re saying.

Try to note every important idea or suggestion, what is really helpful is to make a summary of what have been discussed at the end of the meeting. This way you’ll be sure that you got everything right and your team members will notice that you take those matters seriously. Next step is to proactively work to make things better, you need to show that you do care and there are real actions made after meetings like this one.

Other thing it to schedule individual meetings with your employees. This step depends on the size of your team but for sure you should have such meetings scheduled with your direct subordinates. Benefits related to this form of contact with your team members are undeniable. Things like building positive relationship, providing feedback or keep people informed about short and long-term goals can be best performed during those meetings.

Now when you’ve scheduled all required meetings, you need to start getting familiar with the process that you’ll be responsible for and of course with all your duties. In case if you start doing something completely new there is one golden rule which should help you. To be honest, if the new position is somehow similar to the one of your previous jobs it will be easier, but this rule will also apply here. The rule is: Always make notes!

It might sound simple, and probably we’re not making significant scientific discovery but believe me, many people do this mistake. Of course, you may be able to remember all the details connected with your new duties (I do not deny that there are such people) but let’s approach this realistically – your life will be more difficult without proper notes. During first weeks there will be too many details related to company policy, procedures and new people, to remember them all on required level. Let’s not also forget about stress, which wont be help you to remember everything. Make your life easier and for each meeting and training take a laptop or notebook with you. Believe me that from a time perspective you will not regret this.  

Be prepared that you’ll be making mistakes, what’s more important- you’re allowed to do them. You’re new in the role and considering that first weeks will be spent on trainings and introduction to the new role, things like this may happen. The key to approach this in a right way is to be honest with your superiors about the issues that appeared and also to be proactive in resolving them. If you’ll also prepare some ideas on how to avoid those mistakes in the future I think that skilled Manager or Director will understand the situation and what’s even more, will guide you with some helpful tips.

Last advice is to prepare detailed plan with goals for you and your team for upcoming months. Try not to do this before you’ll get familiar with full knowledge about the processes that you’re responsible for. Once this will be done you can share the plan with your Team, show them that you know what course this ship will take. I think that it would be also a good idea to ask for a feedback, as mentioned before it’s crucial not to underestimate the voice of your Team. If you’ll be there for them, they will always help you.

To Lead or not to Lead?

At some point of your career you may ask yourself a question – Would I be a good Leader? To find out if you’ll fit into this role, you need to know the big picture behind the whole management process and going further to understand all the advantages and disadvantages related to the role of the Leader.

Let’s start with the brighter side of management process, advantages:

First of all being a Manager gives you a great opportunity to help developing other people. Starting from day one, you will be able to effectively support your team members. This means that you’ll have a significant power to help them grow in organization, guide them and what’s more important change their life. Sounds great? It is, what can be better than helping other?

However, together with that opportunity also responsibilities go.  Be careful with advices in cases which go beyond your personal experience. If you’re not CEO, you probably have your own boss which should be able to support you if needed. Other important thing is to help in development process when people want you to support them, try not to force anybody to change their life because you think that this will be best for them. You may cause more troubles than benefits and in worst case scenario your employee will start to look for a brighter future somewhere else. 

Second thing which is worth to mention when it comes to the role of Leader is motivation. Let’s focus only on positive motivation because in most of the cases this will be right path to follow. We don’t want to manage by fear – not that century, not that style.

To successfully motivate your employees, you’ll need to know them. Sounds simple but it’s not. You need to talk with your team members but the key to do it right is to really be interested in what they feel or think about their job. You need to know what problems they have and what’s even more important try to help in solving those problems.

In this process you should be honest and don’t fake anything because people are intelligent, they will figure out that you’re trying to convince them that you do care when in fact that’s not the case. If you don’t feel that at the beginning of your management journey let it go, focus on other aspects and probably at some point of time this will come. It’s like with negotiation skills, some people are born with that and some need to learn it from scratch.

Other thing which is not mention very often is a Vision. Being a Leader gives you opportunity to plan your actions and moves. You will need to find goals that you and your team will try to reach in specified period of time. This process is strictly connected with the Vision that all good Leaders should have.  Vision is the thing that will motivate you and your team to work effectively, it’s the common goal that you should be proud of. Where would be Amazon or SpaceX if Leaders who established those companies didn’t have Vision? It’s a bit different scale but process is exactly the same. Thinking about goals for your team and share it in the way that people will support you with achieving them is the best thing that can happen to you. Good vision can move the mountains.

Next thing are rewards. As a manager you’ll have many available options to reward your employees. First and the easiest way is of course money but believe me or not this is not always the best solution. Salary raise or some bonus will work but only for short term. Some time ago I heard that salary raise can motivate people only for first couple months. I’m starting to believe in it.

As a manager who will try to motivate team members, you’ll have a great opportunity to ask them directly what motivates them the most. You may be surprised how many people will tell you that they just want to be appreciated for the job they did or hear a few good words from their Leader. It just shows that at some point we may forget that maybe money is not the most important reward?

Last of the most important advantages that comes with being a manager is your development. Previously we focused on the Team but there is always a place to work on your skills. Things such as negotiation and communication, effective planning or process management will improve with every small experience or solved problem.

The more time you spend as a Leader the more you’ll be confident in making right decisions. Month after month you’ll face new challenges that before becoming a Leader you would not even think about.

As a Leader you’ll be responsible for things like health and safety of your team members. This aspect is not so interesting at first glance but please bear in mind that during 8 hours which people spend in the Office you need to be sure if they are safe. Any issues with hardware or facility equipment should be reported immediately to responsible employees. It’s very helpful to share such information with your Team. Going through this again and again on the meeting can be boring but this is a part of Leader’s role.

Other challenge relates to Conflicts and relationships between your Team members. If you’ll be lucky, you’ll manage the team where everyone will like each other but let’s consider a bit more pessimistic scenario. You found out that two of your subordinates have some kind of conflict with each other, it slowly affects whole team. Worst thing that you can do is try to wait until conflict will disappear by itself. First of all, talk separately with both sides of this conflict and try to resolve it. Next step if this wont help would be to meet with conflicted parties and act as a mediator. If this also won’t help you’ll need to consider getting involved someone from HR. Usually those people will have more experience in resolving such problems. The ultimate solution of such conflict may end in moving one of the employees to another Team.

Beside that there are subjects related with recruitment process, labour law or results management which should be also considered as a challenges that newly appointed Leader will have to face, but let’s keep those topics for a different discussion.

Based on what we touched you can see that this role has some great advantages and the same time we’re able to point out important responsibilities. Decision of becoming a Leader should be made based on full knowledge about the Role, I do hope that this will help a bit.

Management Styles vs Reality

In the literature you may find many different divisions of management styles. Some of them are more complex some of them are simpler. As always, the through is somewhere in the middle.

I believe that one of the most accurate division has been prepared by Hay Mcber, although I think that we may consider adding some additional styles based on personal experience. But let’s start with official list that already exist in Leadership world:

Directive style – first style that originate from distant past. We may consider that from the start of our civilization all Leaders were acting based on directive style. You can imagine working in Factory or some Farm in XV century, it’s hard to think that your boss will be leading such important undertaking using democratic-type style or by coaching employees. It just wouldn’t work. I’ve mentioned that this style is from distant past because we can assume that other styles started to develop after 50s and in state-owned companies this may exists to this day.

Using this style Leaders have direct control over employees telling them what to do. Such Leaders will not motivate employees and not discuss any decisions with them. Like in army there will be direct order which must be followed without discussion.

When it comes to these days such style may be useful during crisis in company when issues must be fixed very fast. To accomplish the task Leader will have to work with skilled employees which will know how to perform dynamic without additional questions.

Can you imagine that Leader using Directive style can effectively manage Team of people born after 90s?

Authoritative style – second style, and in my opinion the best for stable Teams with experienced specialists. In this case Leader is providing one of the most important things in management world – VISION. Based on this whole team is aware why certain actions are performed and what effect we want to achieve. Person using this style should have strong position within company’s structure and experience based on which credibility can be built. Mutual cooperation is based on trust and Leader’s awareness that team can work independently. From manager using this style you won’t hear very often how to do certain things “You know best – you have this knowledge!”.

I’m sure you have already figured out that this won’t work in new teams or in recently established companies. Employees with small experience will thing that you just don’t care about them while those more experienced will be grateful for your trust.

Affiliative style – third style build on beautiful dream that Leader can focus only on people while other things are less important. It would be great but still we need to deliver certain result as a Managers and based on the result we are evaluated. Leader that will use this style will try to avoid any conflicts in the team and try to make sure that everyone is happy. All issues or difficult cases will be managed by Leader and based on this person in charge will not be able to fully focus on job management and quality. How this will end? I fell that with an overtime, but to be on the same page – this overtime will not be made by Team.

It would be wise to use this management style together with other, based on the situation that we have in the team. For sure such style will be helpful during crisis or when people are leaving company, but you need to use it carefully. Someone once told that “People are your greatest asset” but at the same time we need to remember that our goal is to report good result at the end of the month.

Participative style – while in previous style Leader was focused on good relationship with the team here we go a little bit further. We’re giving Team ability to decide. Here we’ll be able to built good atmosphere and positive environment for cooperation between employees we need to ask one important question – what if the things will go wrong? Who will be responsible for that and how we’ll get out of the crisis?

It will be extremely hard to do this using this style therefore we need to think in which environment such style will work. Three words: IDEAS, STABILITY & EXPERIENCE. Based on this we may consider that companies in IT or Advertising market would be a good place for using such style. Same as in previous style for corporations on Financial market, I’d recommend using this together with other styles and for carefully selected tasks.

Pacesetting style – for the team of Experts and highly motivated employees this style may be interesting. Manager is leading by example showing very often how things should be done and then expecting that certain tasks will be delivered on the same (high) level as it was done by Manager. To finish with a good effect in a long-distance Leader need to feel how Team reacts on such style. It is possible that at some point based on too high standards and pressure our colleagues will start to look for a new challenge somewhere else, where their invention will be more appreciated. This problem may appear in case of young Leaders that were promoted from the position of Specialist.

Coaching style – last style from the list of Hay Mcber but probably most dangerous one these days. Why?

Because coaching is so popular these days that sometimes you may find more coaches than employees in the company. Unfortunately, most of them don’t have a clue what coaching is and that it doesn’t take one book read to become a coach. The reason why I’m saying that it’s dangerous is that people believe “coaches” and very often try to do (in good faith) what they recommend. My advice would be to confirm experience of mentioned coach, education and ask for the overall coaching background.

In case you have met real coach, this person will be focused on building positive environment as a background for preparing strong relationships with team members. Leader will give them feeling that they can grow based on coaching methods and that those advices change not only their professional career but sometimes even approach to personal life. Those experienced coaches will be focused on employee’s development and usually they will use mentoring methods to build their credibility.

As for the additional styles that I’ve mentioned at the beginning. During last couple years I was able to observe such enigmatic examples:

  • Silent Observer
  • Fighting Parent
  • Missing Workaholic

Maybe you’ll be able to figure out what are the general features of those three styles. I’ll tell a bit more about this in one of next posts.

Is there a management Bible?

For those of you who start a fantastic journey in the Team Management world I have a good news – There is a Bible or maybe let’s call it a leadership guide. In my humble opinion this book is a great collection of knowledge and advice helpful for a fresh Leader during first months in the new role.

“Managing People. A Practical Guide for Line Managers” written by Michael Armstrong was the first book that one of my Professors recommended to me during my postgraduate studies. After a couple years since I bought it I must admit that it’s really helpful to come back to this book on regular basis, especially when some unusual situation happens.

What are the information that you may find helpful?

  • First of all the process of motivating employees. I think that we need to be aware of how important this part of of our job is. How positive motivation can help us in building strong and stable team and mostly how this affects people engagement and morale.
  • Second thing worth reading is recruitment process and how interview should look like. Another good example of how short conversation can influence your future results. This part will explain how important it is to be well prepared Recruiter and how the meeting should be lead. Believe me that for most of the Leaders this part should be regularly refreshed. Even from my friends I hear lots of stories about how not prepared recruiter discouraged them from choosing the company.
  • Last part that I really enjoyed was a chapter about manager’s responsibility for people development. I’ve already mentioned this in my previous post but this is the top priority on the list of things that you need to take care of. People will expect that you’ll support them in their growth and make everything that’s possible to open right doors for them. In this part author is also showing us how to manage training programs and how to analyse the results.
  • Other than that we can find information about delegating tasks, results management and one of the most difficult part – salaries management.

There are many books on the market that can help you on the first stage of you leadership career, this one was a huge help for me, therefore I thought that it would be good to share it. If you know any other titles that can be recommended feel free to use comment section.

Forced Leaders- Is it a sign of the times?

Last time I’ve mentioned about interesting situation of promoting people who are personally not convinced to became a Leaders. It may sound a bit odd but this situation seems to be getting more common this days and the impact that it may have on companies can be significant.

First of all, how this is even possible? Answer is very simple, market needs generate the situation where gaps have to be filled as quick as possible. One way or another. In this case companies in development phase look for Leaders to run their teams and secure quality of delivered processes. First and most natural move will be to find experienced Leaders inside own playground. If this won’t happen we need to extend our researches and look on the market. But what happens when your operating in city like Warsaw, where biggest companies are opening their offices practically every month? What happens if you don’t have enough Leaders inside and outside of your company?

Usually companies have three available options:

  1. Office can be moved to another country or city. In this case company need to make a decision if they will pay for that process, which is quite risky by the way, because we can’t be sure if the quality of delivered services will remain on the same level after mentioned change.
  2. Company will offer better salaries than competition to encourage potential employees to choose them. Again we’re talking about additional costs but in this case quality of work wont suffer. To be honest it can even increase if we’ll make a good decisions during recruitment process.
  3. Complement existing shortages by looking for potential talents in own company. In my opinion most reasonable approach but unfortunately at some point we can face a situation where we wont be able to find promising talents. Usually those people will be gems in the Team and as we all know ‘gems’ are quit difficult to find.

What then? What happens in case where company don’t want to go in the direction described in points 1 & 2 and point 3 at some point is impossible to implement because we used all available talents. Yes, that’s the point when bad decisions take place. Directors and Managers try to convince people who are not ready (or will never be) to became Leaders. In those cases most of the potential Leaders will accept the offer because change results in higher salary, promotion, prestige. It’s nice to say to your family and friends ‘Guys, I’ve been promoted to a Leader’s role. I’ll manage my own Team now’. Every mother will be proud hearing that her son or daughter did that.

But at the same time when such decision is made and new Leader take over the Team it’s expected that features such as decisiveness, organizational skills, communication skills, exceptional moral values and especially a vision will come to a scene.

Person without all of mentioned features will make mistakes, sometimes without bad intentions and sometimes without having a clue why something happened. It wont be so important but in this case Leader is responsible for employees. Every mistake may have an impact on their career or even family life. That’s why it’s so crucial to promote people that feels it, people that need only some small experience to wake up their leadership skills.

Do you observe same trends in your city? I’m really interested if such issues appear in other countries around the world.

In the next post I’ll try to shed some light on the best time for make a decision about being a Leader and the effects related to that.

Greetings and some previews.

Dear Readers,
Considering how fast the Word around us is changing and the impact that those changes have on our lives and professional careers I decided to create a place where we’ll be able to discuss and dispute about most interesting topics connected with our professional life. Mostly because on daily basis I’m responsible for managing a large Team, I’d like us to focus on topics related with Leadership. Of course I don’t want to provide you only with my opinions, many of them will gave some value add although I thought that my posts will be also based on the literature and work of biggest Leaders. Those that influenced this area and mentors that were able to transform their ideas into great profits.

Considering how fast the Word around us is changing and the impact that those changes have on our lives and professional careers I decided to create a place where we’ll be able to discuss and dispute about most interesting topics connected with our professional life. Mostly because on daily basis I’m responsible for managing a large Team, I’d like us to focus on topics related with Leadership. Of course I don’t want to provide you only with my opinions, many of them will gave some value add although I thought that my posts will be also based on the literature and work of biggest Leaders. Those that influenced this area and mentors that were able to transform their ideas into great profits.

Having in mind one of the latest discussions that I had with my good friends I remember that we touched the topic of promoting people in corporate structures who are not personally convinced to became a Leaders. The market on which I have a pleasure to work (Warsaw market) created quite interesting situation in which there are not enough experienced Leaders available. To fill this gaps companies are forced to look for the candidates in their own structures. Sometimes even promoting people that are not sure that they want to become Leaders. This topic seems to be interesting therefore I’d like to shade more light on this in the next article.

Feel free to put some comments or questions.
See you soon!

Piotr Kosiński