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Promotion to Pressure Cooker

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Many of us aspire to be leaders so we work hard and prove our worth, deliver results in hopes we will get noticed. The big day comes and we get the promotion and then things get really interesting. Most leaders get the raise because they are good at getting the work done, often times independently of managing others. So what happens to our abilities to get results after we take the promotion into management? How can we make the transition from individual contributor to manager?

I call this phase “Promotion to Pressure Cooker” because the strategies, communication and skills we used to achieve results as individuals are not enough to build a team, create trust, and manage performance to deliver the results through those we lead. Often times we are not given the development and training necessary to become leaders that can successfully motivate and inspire the people who depend on us. Upper management often erroneously pontificates that if you can deliver as an individual you can deliver as a manager. Yet being a leader takes practice, experience, development and new skills that take time to master.

Numerous studies have been done on this topic, among them the Harvard Business School, which found that 40% to 60% of new leaders fail when they make the leap from individual contributor to manager. This is an alarming rate of failure and here are a few strategies for three key areas to prevent from being included in this statistic.

A.  Direct Reports – First create a relationship with your direct reports.

    1. Set up one-on-one meetings with your direct reports. Take time to listen to them, find out about their projects, and answer any questions they may have.
    2. Start to build a relationship with them that is based on open communication, trust, and respect.
    3. Work to set clear expectations and deadlines with them so they know where you stand and what you are expecting….don’t make assumptions that they know these things by osmosis. Most people are not mind readers!
    4. Another major thing to stress from the beginning is that you want them to succeed, because if they do not succeed you do not succeed.
    5. This is a mutual relationship where they are going to help you get the results your leader is looking to you to deliver, and you need your team to help you succeed in this. This is no longer a one person show, it is a team effort! Don’t forget it!!

B.  You – Start noticing how you communicate and behave around others.

    1. Practice emotional intelligence by thinking before you speak, responding instead of reacting.
    2. Exercise patience and remain calm in situations instead of letting your emotions drive your behavior.
    3. Try counting to 10 in your own mind or pausing before you speak to help you gather your thoughts.
    4. Find out your communication style and the characteristics of that style.
    5. Are you task or people oriented? Do you prefer to tell people or do you ask questions? Is your pace fast or slow? Before making a decision do you need time to think and analyze, or can you make it with as much information as you have? What are your hands doing when you are talking?
    6. Once you figure out your style start working to understand your direct reports styles, are they the same as yours? Complementary? Opposites? Understanding others people style of communication can help you to interact more productively and create a more effective working relationship with them.
    7. Build cooperation among members and foster an open, honest and collaborative working environment. One way to do this is to use inclusive language, be up front with information and include them in decisions that affect them.

C.  Other leaders – Start listening more and observing other leaders you respect and admire.

    1. What qualities and characteristics do these leaders embody?
    2. How can you begin to incorporate one or two of those qualities into your behavior?
    3. Set a couple goals to develop these skills and keep accountable.
    4. Find out if your company has a mentoring program or if one of these leaders would be willing to mentor you?
    5. Ask about training or development opportunities in your workplace that can help you build your leadership capacity.
    6. Make a list of your strengths and areas for improvement.
    7. Find a book on leadership that can provide insights and skills for you to learn and apply.
    8. Ask your boss for feedback and advice on areas that you know are not your strong points.
    9. Set up regular meetings with them to support you as you are transitioning into your new role.
    10.  If you are really courageous you can also ask your direct reports for constructive feedback on how you could meet their needs better.

Be open to new ideas, ways of doing things, and be willing to learn! Great leaders are not born but develop one day at a time and learn from their experiences, people, and mistakes. By being aware of your behavior and communication you can learn to self-correct and build your leadership capabilities. Practice these strategies to help the process and strengthen your talents and skills. A way to accelerate the process is to get a coach or mentor who can keep you accountable, develop your potential and provide insights. Any way you do it leverage your promotion and become the best leader you are capable of becoming….you won’t regret it.

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