The New Leader’s Series here at Management Excellence, is dedicated to the proposition that one of the most valuable things we can do is support the development of the next generation of leaders on our teams and in our organizations.
Those who look back and reflect upon the start-up period in their first leadership role will frequently describe this stage as having been awkward or uncomfortable. The transition from individual contributor to supervisor or manager is abrupt for many and lonely for most.
At that time when coaching and guidance is most critical for the new leader, too many promoting managers bestow the mantle of responsibility on their unwitting team members and then disappear into the bowels of their organization in pursuit of something seemingly more important than supporting the new leader.
Adopting the mantra, Engage, Inform, Inspire can help remind the new leader of his/her core responsibilities and serve as guidance for daily activities. While learning to lead is much more involved than memorizing a cliché, it never hurts to have a simple reminder of where to focus our energies.
Learn the business of your new team…and perhaps most importantly, strive to get to know your team members as individuals…as humans. While we’ve developed a litigious society that seems to be filled with rules around what we can and cannot say, there’s no harm in observing someone’s pictures on their desk or asking about weekend plans or an upcoming vacation. Engaging on a personal level opens the door to a dialogue that moves beyond the typical robotic work discussions to those issues that are true priorities. This paves the way for developmental and career discussions and it introduces a human element to a relationship that is often characterized by distance, lack of trust and sometimes, outright suspicion.
Engage also serves as a reminder to look at people as experts and to seek out their ideas and opinions. There’s no better form of respect than genuinely appreciating the insights and experiences of a team member in the workplace.
Important caveat. There’s no definition of Engage that you’ll encounter that translates this term to mean “micro-manage.”
Context is King…we do our best work when armed with an understanding of how our goals and activities plug into the organization’s goals and activities. Spend time with your own boss learning about his/her priorities and the goals for the function and how they support the organization’s goals. And then share this information. Build reports and metrics to support analysis and then work with team members to develop new goals and targets linked to the bigger picture. You are a bridge to information for your team members and your outbound communication should be educational and informative.
It’s difficult to inspire on command, and you definitely don’t inspire others through what you perceive are your motivational speeches and appeals for performance. Those mostly fall on deaf ears.
The best way to inspire is over time through your own visible deeds and actions in front of your team. Supporting an individual for a new position or promotion is inspirational. Treating people as important individuals is inspirational. Ensuring that accountability means something and that the rules of accountability are applied fairly and easily is inspirational. Screwing up the courage to have a tough developmental discussion…and then working with the recipient to develop a way forward to growth is inspirational.
Deeds and actions over time inspire more than you may ever know.
The Bottom-Line for Now:
Engage, Inform, Inspire. Easy to remember. Not so easy to do on a daily basis. Develop your leadership routine around these three however, and you’ll be well on your way to developing the habits required for competence and success at this most difficult of roles.
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An ideal book for anyone starting our in leadership: Practical Lessons in Leadership by Art Petty and Rich Petro.
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