Leadership Seven Leadership Secrets For New Managers – Taking control of your career

Well, maybe not. Now that you’re manager, there’s no guarantee that those hands on the wheel are exclusively yours. Truth is, your success – or otherwise – from this point on, is largely controlled by others. Most significantly, your new subordinates.

Sure, the boss will always have say in your success, and peers have role to play, too. But at the close of day, that old saying “Promotion is push-up not pull-up process” places your future in the collective hands of those who now work for you.

The significance of this is that, for newly promoted managers – or experienced managers on new assignment – it’s important, very early on, to get leadership skills right. It’s not something that can be put aside for later date, after you’ve settled in, or once the office layout suits. The leadership clock starts ticking immediately – hour one, day one, in your new job.

Here, then, are the leadership secrets that place career success firmly back under your control:

* Do your homework
Being ‘put right’ by one of your staff is hardly life-threatening. Indeed, as new manager your level of maturity and willingness to learn must send clear message that you fully appreciate your shaky start on this new learning curve. However, when it comes to fundamental issues such as HRM or work safety, knee-jerk decisions – or worse, dithering uncertainty – can diminish credibility. It might take weeks, even months, to recover.

Presumably, your specialist skills and expertise are sound. (You got the job, after all.) But in the eyes of your people, particularly during the critical early days, that’s rarely enough. An understanding of corporate practice in personnel matters, industrial relations, workplace safety, and job-specific administration is crucial, both to staff perceptions and your confidence. Learn as much as possible, as early as possible – preferably before you arrive on the job.

* Important first impressions
No question, initial impressions are the most enduring. Organise an introductory gathering of all your people as soon as possible, even if you need to hire venue to do it! Prepare formal – but unwritten – presentation to set the scene of your tenure. Give them an insight into who you are, brief details of your background, and reveal one or two cornerstones of your leadership style – perhaps your ‘open-door’ policy and team approach. You might also convey an awareness of long-standing problem areas on which you will be “seeking their assistance” to resolve. Use lots of “we” and “us” rather than “I” and “you”.

Keep in mind, too, that displays of ‘authority’ are out of place in this forum. Sure, remain businesslike, demonstrate firm grasp of the ‘big picture’, and speak confidently (despite the butterflies!). But the value of projecting friendly, open manner cannot be stressed too highly.

Remember, they’re already ‘sussing’ you out, forming opinions, and perhaps in some isolated cases, deciding whether or not to give you fair go. Smile lot, acknowledge their important contribution to company operations, and where appropriate, weave the role of supervisors and other key people (by name) into your presentation.

It’s best not to bog down in minor operating issues at this stage but, if someone feels strongly enough to bring something to your notice, be seen to jot it down, and agree to speak with him or her after the meeting.

Leave your people with the promise that you will be out and about over the next few days to talk with each of them at their workstation, to become fully acquainted with the ‘vital role’ they each perform, and to get coal-face view of day-to-day problems. And this, by the way, is promise you must keep.

* Leadership style: side one of valuable coin
Your appearance and manner are vital on day one. But if all that open friendliness was something of facade, you must keep at it until it becomes entrenched in your character! And, be aware of the image you project: how you dress, how you conduct yourself. The aim is not to parade your authority, but more an acknowledgment to all that you understand your position and responsibilities.

Avoid the not uncommon tendency of trying to be one of the boys or girls. Managers promoted in-house can find this very difficult to overcome. But in career terms it’s dangerous approach. That old khaki mantra “fair, firm and friendly, but not familiar” holds true, even in the most enlightened civilian workplace.

By all means, have the occasional tea break with your troops, and get involved in company-wide social programmes. Enjoy their friendship, have bit of fun, but don’t lose sight of the fact that you are now leader with qualities and standards that are, hopefully, worth emulating.

Don’t, however, wear your new ‘management status’ like medal. On the contrary, quality of leadership depends on your actions, not where you park your car, or the size of your desk. You could seek opportunities to play down any symbols of position. If, for example, your staff’s working day commences at 7am, arrive at the same time regardless of management norms. And if there is some necessary weekend overtime, turn up – at least for while – to demonstrate your willingness to be around if needed.

That open-door policy you signed up to earlier should be in place as soon as you have an office. Accept that, as manager, you’ll get countless interruptions. But remember no one is as important as one of your staff with problem. They are now the number-one imperative in your career progress.

Next, sit down with each of your key people – supervisors, union delegates, security, whomever – to get some idea of their view of the world. Here is where you will discover those day-to-day issues that work for or against your operation. Walk the floor with them, make notes of what bugs them, and where necessary, initiate prompt corrective action. These people are the link between you and ‘the floor’. Runs you score here quickly add to your grass-roots support.

You need to spend as many of your early days as possible amongst your subordinates: the old MBWA – management by walking around. This is your opportunity to see the team in action, get to know little of their private lives, and maybe assess their work ethic. Wherever you see good work, make big deal of it: “praise loudly in public”. On the other hand, get the supervisor aside to criticise obvious poor performance “softly and in private”.

If supervisors need help in correcting problems, provide guidance, support or coaching. And when matters such as poor work standards or discipline come to your notice resolve them as quickly as possible, within corporate and union parameters. Paradoxically, it’s not just your boss who expects it, your subordinates do too!

Decisive action takes courage, particularly when unions get involved. You will encounter many aspects of leadership where old-fashioned “intestinal fortitude” provides the only route. For instance, when you make mistake (which will happen). The solution, though simple, is far from easy: Admit it – immediately – both to your boss, and your staff as well. Tell them the mistake was yours, but simultaneously explain what you intend to do about it. Trying bluffing your way through, making excuses, or passing the buck works against you, every time, no exceptions.

Courage has flipside: honesty. Its principal side effect is respect. There are few other ways new managers can earn it. Never be afraid to tell subordinates the truth, whether it’s company direction, job security or changes in the wind. Providing corporate confidentiality is not breached, you have responsibility to keep your people informed about anything that may ultimately affect their lives.

There is at least one other way to earn subordinate respect, and that’s by ensuring that your ‘requests’ (rarely ‘orders’) get actioned within reasonable timeframe. Here again, courage is the key. Having noticed – during your daily

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