If you are a “next level” leader who is rising up into a role with higher levels of leadership responsibility, you must adopt new ways of thinking and acting, and more important, let go of old ways. This is third in a series describing 6 common pitfalls and key practices every emergent leader must pick up to cement their success based on best practices rolled into a framework called Rise Up™ Leadership Transitions.
Assume the demands of new role will be solved by the strengths and experience that worked in the past
Cultural missteps, underperformance, high stress, imposter syndrome, loss of credibility and trust
Rise Up™ Strategy:
Stretch your leadership skills to match your new level of authority
All leadership transitions require a letting go of some behaviors that helped you get to where you are now and will demand that you expand your leadership capacity to better align with the circumstances of your new role. Identify the key leadership areas that you will need to develop greater mastery in.
Tips for aligning development to match new leadership level:
Work on mastering your strengths:
Refer to your detailed discussion with your boss about the leadership expectations for your role as I describe in the Rethink self-coaching strategy. (insert link to that blog). Identify the top 1-2 behaviors that you believe are your towering strengths and that you will work on bringing your highest mastery level to without going overboard. This may sound counter intuitive to work on qualities that you are already good at, but many times the comfort and habits associated with doing these behaviors can easily result in overuse.
For example, a person with natural strength of being efficient may too easily spend time on every item on their long to-do list without first giving thought to what is a high priority. Several things can motivate this overuse such as the desire to prove your immediate value to a new company, the desire to look competent, wanting to please and be helpful, or simply getting positive energy from checking things off the to-do list. While unintended, the result of super-doing can backfire when the highest priority tasks don’t get done in as timely a manner as your key stakeholders would like.
Work on developing your gaps
Hopefully the new role is a stretch from what you have done before. Select the 1-2 behaviors you know need some work to develop. Common themes many rising leaders are expected to demonstrate are strategic leadership and the ability to influence followership. These also happen to be two behaviors that change quite a bit with a new set of stakeholders, a new culture, and a new level of authority. And they are competencies that are complex and are best learned in real time vs. a classroom. This is when having a mentor or a coach can really come in handy so you have a safe place to sort out new ideas for how to learn new ways to develop in the areas you most need to learn to be successful.
For most rising leaders, this is not a convenient time to be development focused given the amount of other learning that has to also take place as you get to know new people, operating systems, products, culture, etc. That said, under attending to these lesser skilled qualities that will determine your success when it comes time to be evaluated. You may have a short time in the first few months where people will give you the benefit of the doubt, but I’ve known many leaders who earned a marginal performance evaluation at the end of the first year by not at least attempting to raise their level of competence in the competencies they were short on when hired into the role.
Engage your boss in your development strategy
In go-it-alone transitions, it is very common for the leader and their boss to never discuss the need for development at the start of the transition. It isn’t usually get discussed until something negative happens because you aren’t skilled up enough, and then it’s about course correcting and fixing a damaged reputation. Don’t let your pride, ego or insecurity get in the way of having an open dialogue with your boss about how you perceive your new role will stretch you and agree on what those areas and how you will approach working on them. I’ve seen many bosses be their new leader’s greatest advocates and supporting them in their development, including sticking up for the new leader even if they misstep. This also engages the boss to be looking for evidence of how you are doing and gives you a framework to seek and exchange feedback.
Don’t succumb to sink or swim, go it alone transitions.
Check out these blog posts to create successful leadership transitions for you and your company!