Reaching the point in your career when you can put “management experience” on your LinkedIn profile is an exciting milestone — but it’s not without its challenges. The truth is, it’s common for many people promoted to leadership positions to lack the support or training (and sometimes the self-awareness) they need to be effective in their roles.
So, how can you avoid the common pitfalls that many leaders fall victim to? Knowing your personal blindspots — and how to overcome them — is a great place to start.
Blindspot #1: Pretending you know it all
Having all the answers isn’t a requirement for leading a team, but some people believe that it is. Instead of putting that kind of pressure on yourself, “tell yourself, ‘I’m in learning mode’, and let people know you’re going to be asking a lot of questions,” suggests Ben Dattner, Ph.D., an executive coach, organizational development consultant, and adjunct professor at New York University.
Blindspot #2: Implementing change too quickly
Some leaders — whether they have years of experience under their belts or are stepping into a leadership role for the very first time — have a tendency to move too fast. “Many leaders might have a temptation to move quickly because they want to prove themselves and start adding value. But sometimes, there’s a reason why things are the way they are, and it’s important to understand the ‘why’ before you jump to change the ‘what,’” Dattner explains. Hold yourself back from making big changes before you understand the status quo.
Blindspot #3: Using a critical tone
“It’s very important to build good rapport with people on your team,” Dattner explains, and how you communicate is key. If you’re giving feedback, for instance, asking “Why are you doing that that way?” will only alienate your colleague. “Orienting people so they know there’s no implicit skepticism or criticism, just genuine curiosity about why things are the way they are will show you’re looking to be a partner, not trying to cross-examine them,” Dattner says.
Blindspot #4: Adding too much to your plate
Sarah Brazaitits, Ph.D., an associate professor of practice at Teachers College, Columbia University, says new managers sometimes have a hard time letting go of the work they were doing before landing a leadership role. In addition to this challenge, they might feel like they have to say yes to any ask that comes their way. Brazaitits’ solution to this problem is simple: Delegate. “As a leader, you need to see the bigger picture, to assess current and future trends, competitors, and opportunities, and to build a vision and plan accordingly.” Trusting your team to take over some of the day-to-day work will allow you to step into these bigger responsibilities.
Blindspot #5: Not asking for feedback
You may be in the practice of asking your supervisor for feedback. But Brazaitits says it’s crucial to ask for feedback from all the people you work with regularly — including your direct reports. On top of getting a diverse range of perspectives, asking for feedback from your team will make for a stronger working dynamic and will show that you are a leader who cares.
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