I thought I was ready when I took on my first ‘official’ management role as a performance manager. I had technical ability (I’d undertaken a good deal of additional, unpaid supervisory work, under the guise of ‘development opportunities’ prior to that) and I had a professional attitude so I thought I was good to go.
Ha! Boy, did I get that wrong? The main difficulty was that I didn’t know the difference between leadership and management.
If you’re a new manager, some of the lessons that I and countless other leaders have learnt (and I’ll be learning as long as I’m still here) will, hopefully, help you to transition into a management and leadership role in a more authentic way.
1. Prioritise being the leader your team needs, rather than doing everything perfectly
Chances are you’re a conscientious woman with high standards so you don’t need to stress about being seen to be doing a good job; that’s a given. It’s better to work out what your team needs from you than to focus on ticking every box. Spend time with your new colleagues, get to know them and find out what they need most from you, whilst you learn more about the role.
2. If change is needed, find a way of working that works for you and your team
You’ll need to develop the confidence to challenge the status quo, which takes guts, especially if you’re managing a group of people you only just met, or you’re new to the organisation.
3. Overstand your values
Yes, I said overstand. It’s one thing to be aware of your own values; it’s quite another to understand how your values serve you and influence the way in which you lead. The best leaders have a high level of self-awareness. Check out this article for more on understanding your values. If you’re not already, spend time getting get clear on your values.
4. Start reflecting
There will be days when you feel more like an infant school teacher than a manager and there’ll be days when you feel on top of the world because things are going so well. Spend time reflecting on your day or week and ask yourself what you did that was good and should be repeated and what wasn’t so good. How can you do things differently next time? Reflecting like this helps to improve your practice as a leader and is a pretty good de-stresser, too!
5. Don’t try to switch up your persona
Pretending to be someone you’re not is hard work and tiring. If you’re not a suit kinda person, don’t go for a power suit, just because you’re now in a leadership role. If you’re a soft-natured person, don’t try to come across as hard-nosed. People will see straight through you and inconsistencies in the way you treat and lead will cause others to doubt your credibility. Do you, boo.
6. Don’t be afraid to be a bit vulnerable
Exercise wisdom, of course (this ain’t therapy!) but being honest about things you’re not sure of can help your new team to connect with you as another human being and see you as more than just ‘the new boss.’ If they can see that you’re ok with your imperfections and limitations, they can relate to you and come alongside you far quicker. It’s also freeing for you to release the pressure that striving for perfection creates.
7. Just because you’re the manager, it doesn’t mean that you should, or will have, all the answers
It’s not your job to know everything, it’s your job to facilitate your team in coming up with solutions and support staff so that they can do their job.
8. You will make mistakes
Get comfortable with the fact that things won’t always go to plan and that’s ok. You’ll learn for the next time.
9. Being liked as a manager is underrated
Yes, it’s true that staff need to respect you but being respected and being liked don’t have to be mutually exclusive. It’s a lot easier and more enjoyable for everyone when you’re likeable.
10. Boy, is leadership great for your growth?
Try not to compartmentalise your learning. Growth is growth so be intentional in transferring the development in your professional life to your personal development. A year from now, you’ll have grown immensely through your experiences so soak it up, my dear!
What’s your experience been? What do you wish you’d been told earlier on? Let me know in the comments below.
Tamaan Wilkinson is a She Leads Africa contributor as well as Career Coach & Consultant for women. She has coached hundreds, assisting people into a range of careers and roles, from teachers to directors. Trained and skilled in advice and guidance, as well as leadership and management, Tamaan knows what it takes for you to breakthrough to success. Her passions include women’s personal and professional development, growing healthy, beautiful natural hair and faith.