“Management is the most noble of professions if it’s practiced well. No other occupation offers as many ways to help others learn and grow, take responsibility and be recognized for achievement, and contribute to the success of a team.”—Clayton Christensen
Congratulations! You just got promoted to manager! Now what?
It’s said that people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers. So having leaders who energize and inspire their teams is crucial to employee engagement and retention in the long run. But becoming a manager is effectively stepping into a completely new job. Your success in your previous role may or may not provide the skills you need to be an effective manager. While there will never be a completely comprehensive list of everything you need to know to become the world’s best manager, there are a few universal leadership skills that will help you on your journey.
Always Be Learning.
While you may initially set a personal goal of becoming an “expert” at your job, it might not actually be as useful as you think. Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, arguably a leader who knows what he’s doing, describes his leadership philosophy as “Don’t be a know-it-all; be a learn-it-all.” When you enter the arena thinking you already have all the answers and nothing else to learn, it will set you up for failure.
Nadella describes his thinking as “Basically, you can have two types of people, one with more innate capability, who see themselves as the ‘experts’ and end up as the ‘know-it-alls.’ Or you can have another with less innate capability but who, through learning, practice, and hard work, continue to improve.” Which ones do you think end up as the strongest leaders?
This hearkens back to Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset and the Valor tenet of lifetime learning. Because managers and leaders set the tone for their team, fostering an environment of growth and learning from the top down will ensure your team is poised to thrive and succeed, developing the strongest performers at every level.
Adapt and Celebrate the Differences.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if everyone on your team had the exact same work style as you? Maybe, maybe not. There is ample evidence that a team comprised of different types of thinkers leads to better performance. It can be challenging to understand a work style that is completely different from your own, especially if you never had to consider it before. And figuring out how to lead a team made up of folks with vastly different work styles requires a custom approach.
Having the flexibility to adapt to your team will produce better results than trying to force them to work the way you do. This means learning what motivates some people may not even factor in with someone else, and might actually hold them back from producing their best work. It will require you to get creative, be adaptive, and to remember that your role as a leader is to support your team to do their best work.
See the opportunities in a challenge.
Knowing how to condition your team toward optimism and proceed in the aftermath of a setback or failure is crucial. Like it or not, there will be a time when something doesn’t go as planned, a mistake is made, a deal falls through, or a launch flops. As the leader, your team will look to your reaction and response to move forward. Blaming individuals or stepping in to solve the problem yourself without giving the person responsible the time or space to fix the issue themselves erodes the trust and confidence of the entire team. But giving your employees the space they need to correct the issue not only reinforces your trust in their abilities, but it makes them stronger contributors because they know they have your support.
It’s your role as the manager to lead with optimism. It’s easy to see when things go wrong, but most of the time, things are going right. Creating a team culture where you expect positive outcomes and celebrate them will make for a more successful team versus one where the only feedback ever received is negative. It will require emotional flexibility from you as the leader, but your team will be stronger for it.