I just had two years and six months of work experience and was aiming to become a team leader for an eight-member team. I never asked following questions:
1) What training do I need?
2) How will I transition into the role?
3) What are some potential challenges?
4) Am I ready?
I had a simple rationale. Leaders do not perform day-to-day work; they just attend or organize meetings. All of us know what happens in most of our meetings. You do not need to have a profound subject matter expertise to be a part of the meeting. The correct timing of using words like “yes”, “no”,” I agree”, “It’s a very good point” , “I beg to differ” would make you an involved participant. Often, various physical gestures come in handy. In my naïve mind I was already a leader. I was doing great as a team member, so as a next step in my career I requested management consider me for a team leader role. After several deliberations, I was selected for the job.
It started well with a great Indian meal with my team and management. I assumed feedback about that meal would go hand in hand with feedback about my management style. I was so wrong. I started facing challenges early on. I asked them to perform tasks, which they never used to perform on time. I started giving negative feedback as my patience ran thin. In general, my team members did give me an impression, things were okay. After eight months, my manager had a meeting with my team to check how they are doing. After the meeting, the first sentence he uttered was “I was living a fool’s paradise”. I did not know what that meant so looked to Google for help. I was devastated. I hit very low professionally and planned to quit the job. My manager anticipated the emotion and called me in for a meeting. To date, that was my best one-on-one meeting. I learned two things. First, before taking up any responsibility, I need to ensure I am ready for it. Secondly, I cannot expect people to act on my will because I need to put myself in their shoes to assess how to deal with them.
I still follow these mantras and am committed to lifelong learning of leadership traits.
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”- Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.