By Denis McLaughlin
Earning a promotion into a leadership position is an intimidating and exciting challenge. If you want to keep moving up the corporate ladder, you need to demonstrate your ability to lead. Transform one leadership role into a long, prosperous career by completing these effective steps. Few leaders take these steps because they require tremendous planning, focus and humility.
Understand your team’s purpose. How is success defined for the team you now lead? How do customers define your team’s success? How does your boss, board of directors or investors define it? How do team members define it? Make sure all the definitions align and that the agreed-upon definition is communicated and achievable.
Define the vision for achieving your team’s purpose. Achieving your team’s purpose comes through a vision that consistently delivers small achievements for each team member. Once you establish your vision, repeat it and demonstrate it through quick wins. To maintain focus, identify no more than five activities that will move your team closer to the purpose. Each win should have an immediate benefit to the team and to each member. This will establish trust in you as a leader while moving the team closer to achieving its purpose.
Understand conditions that may affect your team. Internal and external factors may affect the quality and timeliness of your team’s work. Uncertainty about the economy or your industry can distract employees if not addressed openly. Internal factors that may affect productivity include job satisfaction and career opportunities. Find out if team members are happy; if they aren’t, find ways to change that.
Be prepared for detours. If you prepare team members for the likelihood of change and introduce any changes in a calm and accepting manner, your team will respond well. But it’s important to realize that some people resist change no matter what the circumstances. Remain calm when someone challenges you. It isn’t personal; it’s a natural response to change. Listen to the person’s objectives without judgment, and nudge them in the direction of the rest of the team.
Partner with other leaders. There may come a time when you aren’t able to advance the team’s progress on your own. If you want to extend positive results beyond what your team is currently accomplishing—and mega-leaders do—make room for others to share your leadership journey. Every leader will discover the need for other leaders to help carry out the vision. Reach out to other leaders for partnership opportunities.
Be a mentor for your team by example. You hired your team members for what they already know and for what they can achieve through your mentoring. Have faith in your abilities, and delegate responsibilities that cater to team members’ strengths. Explain how you lead in each situation and the benefits of your approach.
Be a mentor through experience. Some team members will want to get the feel of leadership. Let them take the lead on a project or action necessary to achieve the team’s purpose. Let them run meetings and make decisions. Stay close to remind them of all they have learned.
Develop team members’ confidence. Once your team members have led projects, encourage them to create and lead their own teams. Your role then becomes one to help with resources and staffing, respond to problems when they ask for guidance, and review the outcomes. Turn your leadership team’s attention from you to their teams. Teach your leaders to do for their team members what you have done for them. They must take ownership for achieving the purposes of their own teams. Change mentoring sessions with your leaders into discussions about their teams’ morale and development.
Share success. Your achievements will open doors for you to share your knowledge and help others. Your team will achieve its purpose through the actions of your leadership team. Look for opportunities to mentor other leaders in your organization. The purpose of any leader is to create leaders out of his or her employees. Constantly search for opportunities to develop team members who show potential as leaders. When they are ready to lead their own teams, let them go. You may lose valuable members of your immediate team, but you will gain supportive partners and advocates who will help you accomplish future goals
The author wrote The Leadership GPS (Independent Publishing Platform, 2012). He can be reached at www.denisgmclaughlin.com.
Reprinted with permission of the Society for Human Resource Management, www.shrm.org. ©SHRM. No other republication or external use is allowed without permission of SHRM. The information is not intended to serve as a substitute for legal advice.