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.

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.