If you are soon to take over a ‘new-to-you’ department or organization, I expect you are feeling pretty good about yourself.
I know I always did.
Whenever I was taking on a new team, I’d thought about what I wanted to be as a leader, what I wanted my legacy to be, and how we would be successful.
Our experiences define what kind of leader we will be and how we will operate.
I now look back on my leadership growth, and I think about what I got right and wrong.
In hindsight, I have two observations on the role of a front line and middle manager.
1. What got you here won’t get you further.
To get to lead a team, you have had to prove you were successful with those jobs that came before.
But simply applying what you learned in those jobs isn’t enough to make you successful at the next level.
Remember that what you’ve learned so far won’t automatically make you a great boss
2. Beware of doing the job of your subordinates.
At this point in your career, you’d make a great team leader.
You’d undoubtedly be the best front-line supervisor in your company.
But that’s not your job.
If you try and make it your job to be great at your subordinates’ jobs, you’ll fail.
They won’t grow, and you won’t be able to do your actual job.
Don’t throw your experience out of the window but understand that being a senior leader has differences from your previous roles.
Success is about understanding those differences and acting accordingly.
These are the three differences that I observed and have reflected on:
1. Define success
Your new role offers an unprecedented level of freedom to get to define success.
When your people complete a task with a glance of an eye, you can deliver instant and visceral feedback.
So how you define success is critical and powerful.
Your criteria for success should include a combination of performing your mission, developing your people and building your team.
Even more importantly, it should have medium- and long-term elements.
Measuring success is about how your team performs during your tenure, and whether or not you leave it in a better place than when you found it.
How you will define success will have a significant effect on your organization.
2. Set the culture deliberately
Once you know what your ‘success’ looks like, you can set about creating the culture that will deliver it.
This is a deliberate act.
When you are planning those ‘team cohesion’ events, make sure they are underpinning the stories and messages at the heart of the culture you are trying to build.
For me, it was about being an inclusive, learning and improving organization that unlocked people’s potential to better the whole organization and not just your part of it.
Decide what culture you want then set about reinforcing it as a series of deliberate actions.
3. It’s different now, so communicate differently
For everything I’ve said above, the most significant difference between an organizational leader and being a frontline leader is about how you communicate.
You should be able to remember the faces and names of all of your employees.
But you will have a tiny amount of direct influence over your people will be face to face.
Now you will have to project your leadership through you’re the people on your leadership team.
This means that when you interact with your leadership team, you must always think about the effect of that interaction on your front line people.
They won’t hear you.
They will hear someone’s interpretation of what you said and feel the effect of your message, not the words.
Similarly, the face to face interactions you have with those outside the team will be less regular but more significant.
You will touch people’s lives less often, but the fingerprints you leave will be much deeper.
The most junior employees will remember what you did and how you made them feel infinitely more than anything you said.
Enjoy the ride
As a leader, you have no choice but to lead through others.
It’s also where you gain autonomy.
These are what define its difference.
Understanding culture and communication is important to every leader.
Defining where the team is going and then creating the environment in which your people can get there is a significant part of your job.
It is all underpinned by consistent, constant communication that is designed for second-order effects.
There is, of course, much more than this.
Nor did I got everything right.
I missed opportunities.
I controlled when I should have loosened the reigns.
When things went right, it was because I had given my people the freedom to use their initiative and rectify my mistakes.
When I got angry I always regretted it.
My biggest regrets are from when I didn’t look after my people as well as I should have done.
That said, it was a wonderful experience, and I would recommend you enjoy the ride.