There's a niche I'm filling in the leadership development world. It's the gap between a newly promoted I'm-so-excited-to-be-here-I-am-going-to-change-the-world manager and the I-can't-do-this-anymore-leading-people-is-hard-I-think-they-hate-me manager.
Think about it. Most companies promote their people to first level leaders because of job knowledge. The employee is smart and talented. Gets shit done and gets results. Makes money.
Those new leaders almost always fail. Sure, that failure might not be as evident as a resignation or role change, but it's there. And when it happens, the team suffers and the manager suffers and everyone is left fighting low morale and disengagement because what else do you do when your manager sucks?
The skills that get people promoted aren't the skills it takes to be a successful leader.
The most successful new managers I coach make it a point to do one thing differently in their role. Instead of proving why they deserved the promotion or implementing changes just because they're in charge now, they simply press pause on their ego ...
... and connect.
In the first 60 days, then connect with their team. With their new peers. They listen, they seek to understand, they build trust.
They Listen. Active listening is different from I-hear-you-but-I'm-really-just-waiting-for-my-turn-to-speak listening. Active listening is eye contact, head nodding, and keeping your mouth closed. It's saying "Tell me more about that" to encourage the other person to keep sharing. It's asking, "What's been challenging this week?" and "What are you most proud of?" and "How can I help you?" in 1:1 meetings. And oh yeah, it's scheduling those 1:1 meetings the very first week because there is no better forum for listening than in a regular (ahem, weekly or biweekly) 1:1 meeting.
They Seek to Understand. Successful new managers don't come out of the gate trying to make sure everyone understands their point of view. They don't try to be the loudest in the room, the smartest one in the meeting, or the one who's always right. They genuinely try to see where others are coming from and work to incorporate new points of view into their thinking. They ask questions like "Why do you think that is?" or "What would you do differently?" to uncover what's on everyone else's mind. And then (you guessed it) they actively listen to the answers. And sometimes they throw in a "Tell me more about that" for good measure.
They Build Trust. There are two kinds of trust that a new manager builds. The first is subject matter trust, the belief that my new manager knows what's going on and can help me in my job. This one usually comes first because most managers are so eager to prove themselves. The second kind, the more difficult one, is relationship trust. That's the you've got my back and you care about me and you're willing to support me no matter what trust. That kind of trust takes putting ego aside and (a shocking revelation is coming ... ready?) putting others first, mainly by listening and seeking to understand.
I coach so many new managers who, because they haven't had leaders do this for them, don't understand the value of connection. Of putting everything else on the backburner and using the first 60 days to get to know people. We aren't robots. We all come to work with a deep need to feel valued and appreciated. And connection provides that.
Tess Ausman is the founder of CLT Leads, LLC, a virtual leadership development company that transforms overachieving young professionals into confident, self-aware leaders and turns small business owners into talent development gurus. She is passionate about the soft skills it takes to grow a career: self-awareness, empathy, and a healthy dose of humilty. Check her out on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/tessausman/ and www.instagram.com/thecltleads .