Yeah, I know that no one was there to show you the ropes when you were drafted into your first supervisory role. And yes, instead of sinking, you figured out how to swim. And of course, we’ve all heard the saying, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
Putting all of those experiences and maxims aside, the only right thing to do is to support your first-time leaders by paying attention and offering frequent feedback. I’m not suggesting that you provide the answers and I’m certainly not suggesting you micro-manage. I am however, encouraging you to take on the coaching role that is so often not a part of the confusing universe of our newest supervisors.
“I was told about the new position on Friday, and my boss left for a month-long overseas tour on Sunday. Those first few weeks with the team were uncomfortable to say the least. Fortunately, only one person quit.”
You might have great faith in the ability of your newly promoted leader to figure it out, and that’s good. However, faith in this setting doesn’t replace the need for you to support this person all the way to success. He or she is an extension of you and your brand, and you are not doing anyone any good by releasing a poorly prepared and generally lost new leader on your team.
“I was excited that she saw leadership potential in me. It’s too bad that my inexperienced interpretation of how a leader was supposed to act resembled something between a despot and a dictator. Once my boss finally caught on, it took several months to unwind the damage.”
Few first-time leaders have proper context for their new role and how to effectively carry it out. That should come as no surprise, as the only true way to learn how to lead is to actually gain experience doing it. Good coaching leaders recognize the need to allow people to make mistakes with the reality that proper and timely involvement can shrink the learning curve and in some circumstances, lessen the potential for new-leader fallout.
The Bottom-Line for Now:
Choose your new leaders carefully. Provide ample context for the journey. Serve as a sounding board for ideas while resisting the urge to provide all of the answers. Offer your positive and constructive feedback liberally, and most of all, pay attention.
Your presence as a coach and a stakeholder in the development of the new leader will have a significant impact on the outcome for this emerging leader. And your positive example will be visible to all to learn from and emulate.