Stepping into a management role isn’t just a change of task — it’s a fundamental shift of identity.
“To be successful, first-time managers must make the transition from a person who gets the work done themselves to a person who gets work done through others,” says Kim Leahy, global portfolio manager of CCL’s Maximizing Your Leadership Potential (MLP) program for managers of individual contributors. “It requires a different definition of success, a new level of self-awareness and an additional range of skills.”
Your definition of success must now include the success of others. Rather than focusing on your own performance, you need to be asking, “How does the group or team accomplish its work?” “Are they effective as individuals?” “Do they collaborate?” “Are team members committed and engaged?” “How are individual motivations and needs connected to the work and the organization?”
At the same time, you should take stock of your own strengths, weaknesses and patterns. “Who you are drives how you lead,” Leahy explains. “Even though the emphasis is no longer on your individual performance, you need to understand your behaviors, preferences and tendencies — and consider that the most effective way to lead others may not always be your default approach.”
For example, you might be a person who thrives on the pressure of a tight deadline and, as an individual contributor, earned a reputation as someone who will roll up your sleeves and get the job done. As a manager of others, these same practices and preferences could lead to poor planning, micromanaging or inadequate use of resources. If you assume everyone operates the same way you did as an individual contributor, you won’t see or leverage the array of talent on your team.
To make the transition from an individual performer to leading a team, you’ll want to build a foundation of what CCL calls the “Fundamental Four” leader competencies: self-awareness, learning agility, influence and communication.
Other key competencies for leading others at this stage of your career are:
- Building and maintaining relationships.
- Resolving conflict.
- Leading team achievement.
- Coaching and developing others.
- Confronting problem employees.
- Embracing change.
- Innovative problem-solving.
- Adapting to cultural differences.
“In today’s flattened and downsized organizations, many skilled people are put into team leadership or management roles with little preparation and support,” says Leahy. “But these emerging leaders are crucial for the implementation of the organization’s day-to-day work. When they understand what is required to manage others and learn — in a practical way — how to be effective leaders, they can be powerful agents for organizational success.”
Maximizing Your Leadership Potential: Skills for New Managers
Attention new manager: Now is the time to become a versatile leader!
As an “official” manager of others, you need to learn new ways of achieving results. Success isn’t about your individual contribution. It’s about getting the best out of each direct report to meet the group’s goals. In this new role, versatility may be your best asset.
“Being a versatile leader means that you can choose a range of responses to achieve results,” says CCL’s Kim Leahy. “Versatility requires you to open your eyes to your own preferences and behaviors, read others accurately and learn a variety of tactics to deal with common challenges.”
Participants in CCL’s Maximizing Your Leadership Potential program, for example, focus on self-awareness, communication, building and maintaining relationships, constructive responses to conflict, influence and learning agility. “With a foundation of these six key competencies, you can better manage your own strengths and weaknesses, as well as seek to understand the perspectives of others. You have the tools to encourage and model effective communication, seek solutions instead of blaming, give constructive feedback and find ways to connect individual and organizational needs,” Leahy explains.