How to Win as a New People Leader

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5 Tips for First-Time Managers:
How to Win as a New People Leader

Congratulations on your promotion to manager! You’ve worked hard to get to this point, and now you have the opportunity to make a bigger impact on your team and organization. However, transitioning into a leadership role can be a daunting task, especially if it’s your first time. That’s why we’ve put together five fast-action tips to help you hit the ground running and set yourself up for success.

According to a survey conducted by CEB (now Gartner), 60% of new managers underperform or fail within their first two years in the role. We are on a mission to change this and give every first-time manager a fair chance to succeed. Below are five tips based on research, data, and the wisdom of some of the most respected leaders in business and management.

Tip #1: Clarify Expectations

One of the most important things you can do as a new manager is to clarify expectations with your team. A study by Harvard Business Review found that 70% of employees say they are more engaged and motivated when they know what is expected of them at work.

You need to communicate what is expected of them and what they can expect from you. This includes:

    • setting clear goals and behavioral expectations
    • outlining roles and responsibilities,
    • as well as establishing deadlines.

Be sure to communicate these expectations early and often to avoid confusion or misunderstandings. Doing this upfront will make sure everyone is on the same page from the start and eliminate confusion down the line.

Tip #2: Ask for Input

As a new manager, it’s important to recognize that you don’t have all the answers. You need to rely on the expertise and experience of your team. Asking for your team’s ideas shows their opinions matter, which encourages employee engagement and creative thinking within the organization.

Consider setting up brainstorming sessions or quick polls among your team to gauge interest in new projects or get feedback on existing ones. Encourage your team members to provide input and ideas, and be open to feedback. By doing so, you’ll foster a culture of collaboration and continuous improvement.

Dig deeper into having a curiosity mindset in Episode 77, “Curiosity: Your Doorway to Positive Relationships & Collaborative Leadership – with Alison Horstmeyer.”

“Great leaders are willing to learn from anyone who has something useful to say.” – Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric.

Tip #3: Be Decisive

As a leader, you’ll be faced with many decisions, both big and small, and your ability to make urgent decisions quickly is an important part of managing a successful team.

A study by McKinsey found that decisive leaders are 12 times more likely to be high-performing than those who are slow to make decisions. Being able to make urgent decisions quickly, even when risks are involved or when adversity is expected, ensures that tasks are completed in a timely manner with minimal delays or confusion among team members.

To help improve your decision-making skills, there are two things you can do. First, be intentional about avoiding indecision or analysis paralysis, as this can lead to a lack of progress and frustration among team members.

While it is okay to take time to consider options, be sure not to procrastinate too long when time is of the essence. Once a decision has been made, be sure to communicate your decisions clearly and explain the reasoning behind them. This will help your team understand the decision and feel more engaged and invested in the process.

Secondly, delegate decisions to empower your team and ensure objectives are met. Poor delegation skills can have negative impacts on both management and employees. As a new manager, take the time necessary to properly delegate decision authority where applicable.

Being decisive is less about making rash decisions, and more about being intentional with your time in the decision-making process. Through avoiding indecision and delegating ownership and the agency to make decisions when possible you will be able to make timely decisions that are well-informed, thoughtful, and effective. This means you can prevent delays and frustrations for yourself and your team.

“Leadership is about making decisions and the right decisions are those that are made with the best information and with the best intentions.” – Colin Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State.

Tip #4: Focus on Solutions, not Problems

According to a study by the University of Pennsylvania, a positive work environment leads to a 31% increase in productivity. Whether the problems are due to technical errors, inefficient processes, or interpersonal in nature, the sooner problems such as these are addressed, the better. Choosing to ignore them will only cause them to increase in size or escalate over time, which ultimately damages relationships and erodes trust.

It’s essential for new managers to shift their mindset from being problem-oriented to solution-focused. This means that instead of dwelling on the problem, you start by asking, “What can we do to overcome this challenge?”

Shifting this perspective not only empowers both you and your team but it creates a more positive and proactive work environment. Your team members will feel encouraged and motivated by a culture that fosters problem-solving and innovation, which in turn drives your organization to continuous improvement.

Another reason it is important to focus on solutions is because it demonstrates your ability not only to identify problems but to take decisive action to solve them. This can open doors for career growth and opportunities to increase your value as a leader.

For more information about how to respond when your direct reports vent, be sure to listen to Episode 95, “Do You Validate or Elevate Your Directs?”

“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” – Ronald Reagan, former U.S. President.

Tip #5: Listen to Your Team

Finally, it’s crucial to listen to your team members. They are the ones doing the work, and they often have valuable insights and ideas. According to a study by Harvard Business Review, employees who feel heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work. Be sure to listen actively and attentively, and avoid interrupting or dismissing their ideas.

When you take the time to listen to your employees and consider their perspectives when making decisions, it will help create an environment of trust and respect between the team and the management, enabling better collaboration and higher productivity overall.

By doing so, you’ll create a culture of respect and trust.

“The best leaders are the best listeners.” – Chris Hadfield, former astronaut and author.

For more information on how to navigate your first 30 days as a new manager, check out Episode 58, “Your First 30 Days as a New Manager.”

Sources for the data, statistics, and quotes mentioned in the blog:

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