3 tips for transitioning to a leadership role

By Nate Eichinger, Generation Next Governor at Large Fontaine Modification

This article was originally published in the July 2022 issue of Generation Next Edition.

You've done it! You have been promoted into a leadership role in your organization and are now set, right? Not so fast, there are still a lot of things that you need to learn and focus on for yourself and those you are now leading. Transitioning to a leadership role can be a great career move – more responsibilities, upward mobility potential and hopefully financial growth as well! However, it can be a difficult transition if not properly planned and supported, leading to frustration, confusion, and doubts in ability. Here are three things to keep in mind if you are looking to take on a leadership role:

1. Fundamentals of leadership

To be an effective leader, you will need to be able to guide your team through the ups and downs while keeping an eye on the big picture goals and monitoring KPIs. You do not need to be an expert on everything, and people will see through it if you try to fake it. Rely on your team, their experience and expertise to help you. It will be key to learn how to set goals, both short and longer term for your team members along with clear expectations of performance. Creating SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) will help to develop a clear and mutual understanding of what is expected. Make sure that you are giving constructive feedback if you see things that need to be improved. When those you are leading succeed, you succeed as well.

Being able to successfully manage conflict when it inevitably arises will be a test for your leadership skills. Keeping a cool, calm head, trying to diffuse the situation and separating facts from emotions will help to ensure that you get to the root cause of the conflict. Avoid jumping to any conclusions and hold any judgements until the full facts from all perspectives have been collected and reviewed. Do not be afraid to ask from help from your supervisor and/or HR if needed. The way in which you handle conflict and stress will set the tone for your team members and their interactions and response as well. Consider completing a DISC assessment (or other similar assessment) for yourself and your team members to better understand your own style as well as theirs.

2. Delegation

Another fundamental key to successful leadership is time management and delegation. You will need to be able to balance your time and energy while delegating necessary tasks to your team so you don't get bogged down and lose sight of the bigger picture team goals. It may be difficult initially to not try to ‘just get it done’ yourself, especially if this is part of how you have been successful so far in your career. This is something that I personally struggled with early in my career, and it takes time and a focused effort to not pile everything on to yourself. 

You need to trust your team members but also follow up and verify that things are being done correctly, while providing them with input and feedback on their performance so they understand where improvement is needed. Not everything can be delegated, but when applicable it will help build engagement in your team by making them a part of the solution while also developing their own skills and understanding of not only what is happening but why. When something works well, do not forget to celebrate it! It is important to ensure that good performance is recognized and celebrated, don't focus only on negatives.

3. Communication

Communication is one of the most critical components of effective leadership. Think about any great leader in business, sports, politics or anywhere else; the common thread is that all are likely great communicators. It is extremely important to be able to provide information and instructions clearly and concisely to your team, whether it is regarding project deadlines, production schedules, company initiatives or sales targets. You do not want to allow someone to assume they are doing the correct things only to find out later that it was not what was expected due to unclear communication. Make sure you are not just telling people what needs to be done but including (as appropriate) why it is being done as well.

Take time to have regular discussions both one-on-one as well as in a group; this will help prevent roadblocks that keep your team from doing their best possible work. This will take time from your day, but will be very helpful in building and maintaining a good working relationship and trust. Make sure you are truly listening to their feedback and do not discount anything before fully understanding their viewpoint. Pay attention to your body language as well as theirs - this can make as big a statement as the words being used. If you do not fully understand what they are saying, take time to ask for clarification and confirm their intent. 

Taking on a leadership role can be a very rewarding and fulfilling next step in your career. It can open many new doors and allow for advancement and professional growth. By building a great team, you can be prepared to meet the challenges that happen along the way.

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