Earning the nod to steer a team is a tremendous honor. It takes time, though, to develop your true identity in the role. First-time managers sometimes tie themselves in knots trying to deftly manage new responsibilities under the gaze of the various audiences they are taxed with impressing. It can be tempting, with that kind of pressure bearing down, to collapse into the assumption that a cool kid guise can save the day.
But finding your management self isn’t about assuming some packaged persona. It’s about reaching the members of your team, connecting with them, assuring them of their place and their value. Instead of worrying about how your team sees you, look at them. Connect with them. Focus on them.
After all, you can’t keep a manufactured persona going during times of stress and struggle. The challenges of leadership will reveal the real you anyway, so why not start from an authentic place? Here’s how to dig in and become the leader that your team needs.
Finding your leadership identity can be challenging because management training is often lacking. Those who earn management roles sometimes get the promotion because they excel as subject matter experts. But being a leader is a different job, and it’s every bit as nuanced as the one which earned them the promotion.
Mark C. Crowley, speaker, podcaster, change agent and author of the bestseller “Lead from the Heart“ advises:
“The very first piece of advice I would give to anybody who’s moving from a star performer into a management role is to bathe themselves in the notion that I’m no longer a salesperson. I’m no longer an architect. Now I am the manager of salespeople or architects. I am a supervisor of human beings, and I get my work done through them. It’s a mindset shift.”
At the core of that shift is the notion that the people who you manage are really where your focus should be. Who wants a manager who’s preoccupied with trying to act cool when they can have a manager who’s genuinely interested in them?
Take time to learn as you get acclimated. Crowley explains: “When you get promoted to manager, you may think you have to make really quick moves: ‘I have to go in there and show them who’s boss.’ Even in a team that’s doing well. You may think ‘I’ve got to put my stamp on there. So here’s how we’re going to do things.’”
Consider how it might feel to your team to have systems that they endorse revamped without their input. Crowley called that “the biggest mistake a manager can make.” He explains: “It’s not only unnecessarily disruptive, but it destroys trust. It makes people think ‘Why would you mess with this? This is working. You just changed it for the sake of changing it.’”
Instead, Crowley recommends connecting with the members of your team. Talk to them. Listen to them. Learn about them. Crowley explains: “I believe that you fundamentally can’t manage people until you know their story. And people resent it when you come in and you start telling them what to do without you even knowing who they are.”
He asserts that once that once you’ve established that relationship, then you can ask your colleagues for their input. He’s found success with questions like: “What changes would you make if you were me?”
Crowley points out: “Not making quick moves demonstrates maturity. It demonstrates trust. It demonstrates patience.”
Another benefit of building trust and inviting input from your team is that it creates a feeling of safety. The members of your team can see that providing input is worth the risk because you understand and value them. Crowley points out that this doesn’t mean that you have to use every suggestion they make. But you want to recognize their input.
Crowley explains: “Making people feel good has a very powerful effect on their motivation . . . And so when you come back and say ‘I’m taking time to get to know you, I’ve learned what you’re thinking and I’m taking your ideas and my ideas and these are the changes I want to make.’ People are going to be on board to support you because of your process . . . It makes people know that their manager really does care. He really did want to know their thoughts and feelings.”
You best serve your team when you can authentically and confidently be yourself. Crowley explains: “The definition of authenticity comes down to two things: knowing who you are and knowing who you aren’t, and not pretending to be something that you aren’t. Your thinking around being the cool manager is [because] we think we have to be all things to all people. The best leaders are people who know themselves.”
You earned this role because you’re good, but so are the people around you. Connect on that level. You don’t need props. You’ve got this.
Originally published at www.glassdoor.com