New Managers: Three Keys to Success

So you’re a new manager, eh? Congratulations – this role can be one of the most gratifying of your career! Or, it can be a very frustrating experience. We don’t want that, so let me offer some advice from over 35 years of working with effective leaders. Grab a latte and let’s talk.

Who Are You?

First you need to understand yourself thoroughly. Answering these questions will help clarify who you are as a person and as a leader.

  1. What is your life’s purpose? What are you striving for, to serve whom, and to what end? Here is my purpose statement: “To use my expertise and passion to inspire and encourage leaders to clarify their personal values and lead with authenticity.” Feel free to use my statement as a template for yours.
    Realize that this initial step will take a bit of time, a bit of wordsmithing, and a bit of testing. Once you’ve drafted your purpose statement, share it with people you trust – family, friends, co-workers. Ask them if it rings true, based on what they know of you. Listen and refine.
  2. What are the values that guide your plans, decisions, and actions every day? Effective values statements include the value’s definition and behaviors that describe how you’re acting when you demonstrate your values. My values and definitions are listed below. Note that your values will likely be much different than mine – and you can use mine as a template. Then, share it, listen and refine.
    • Integrity – do what I say I will do, keep my commitments, act on my values, so I may “hold my head high” at the end of each day.
    • Learning – scan the environment for current research and discoveries that can enlighten me, my colleagues, and my program participants.
    • Joy – celebrate the pleasure derived from doing work I’m good at and enjoy with interesting, willing learners, and bask in the core grace I feel when helping others grow.
    • Perfection – deliver what I promise so that objectives are exceeded, clients and partners are wowed, and continuously sharpen the saw so future results are better than today’s.
  3. What are your beliefs about leading and motivating people? These beliefs will flow naturally from reflection about the people who have influenced you in your past and from your purpose & values. If, for example, you believe that ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things when goals are clear and leaders serve followers’ needs, you’re on the road to effective leadership.

The vital question when you are done with this first phase is, “Will you be a servant leader or a self-serving leader?” You’ll be one or the other. If you’ve clarified your purpose, values, and beliefs, our research indicates that servant leadership more frequently results.

Clear Agreements

You want your people to understand what they can expect of you and what you expect of them. First, share your purpose and values with your direct reports; your leadership philosophy is heavily influenced by your purpose, values, and beliefs. Then, share specific performance expectations, and formalize standards, deadlines, and outcomes so there is a clear definition of what “A+” work looks like.

These clear agreements help staff understand the standards you require. Letting people know what you expect of them underscores that effective leadership is a partnership.

Partner for Performance

Leadership isn’t something you do TO followers, it is what you do WITH them. With expectations clear, you now must assess what staff bring to the work. Are they learners or doers? You must teach and guide learners, and support and challenge doers. Adapt your leader behaviors to your follower’s task-specific needs.

Most importantly, stay connected, meeting one-on-one weekly to gauge goal traction, celebrate progress, and redirect if needed. Keep an eye on goals and tasks, as they typically evolve over time with changing requirements and customer needs. Regularly ask each direct report, “How can I help?,” then listen and respond.

New managers, follow these three steps, and you’ll build a trusting partnership with staff who perform well and love what they do.

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