One of the adjustments you have to make when taking on a leadership role is the assumed credibility associated with your new job. Yesterday you might have been the average Joe or Jane who went out for beers and laughs with the crowd, but today you’re the boss. You might not view yourself as changed, but for other people you’re not the person you were before your promotion.
Regardless of whether you transition into your new suit of clothes by trying to remain approachable in a peer-leader sort of way or by laying on the authority pretty thickly, this isn’t about you. This is about the perceptions of the other people who interact with you, and about their assumptions regarding leadership and leaders. Whether you asked for it or not, you’re now in charge and you need to know that your words and actions have more impact than they had yesterday – because you’re now in charge.
If you take this responsibility, this role, seriously, you might consider doing some things differently:
- Resist the urge to rant unless there’s a really good reason to do so. People are looking up to you now, and they want to be able to feel like you’ve got things – including yourself and your emotions – under control. If you allow yourself a temper tantrum you can create hours of lost productivity while your team recovers. If you need to provide performance improvement feedback, do so using describing language rather than judging language. If you feel frustrated, say you feel frustrated – then follow with the reasons why. And no profanity, please.
- Avoid making personal ties (or personal grudges) the reason for your decisions. Perceived favoritism is one of the most efficient morale-busters there is in the workplace. Even in environments where it is expected somewhat, like in family-owned businesses, employees still react negatively when one person has less accountability than another because of their relationship with the boss.
- Be careful what you say – they might just believe you. You don’t have to look farther than the front page of the newspaper to see that leaders can be taken literally, even when (they say) they don’t mean anything by it. “Reload” isn’t a euphemism for “come back again and try harder” to some people – in the ears of a concrete thinker it means “go get your weapon and make it ready for firing.” Really.
- Be serious about your promises. Don’t toss them off without some degree of confidence that they will be fulfilled.This is a corollary to the prior point. When you make a commitment you are creating the potential to increase your power and influence. If, however, you don’t come through your unfulfilled promise will be remembered as evidence that you can’t be trusted. And as a leader, trust is the main asset you’ve got.
- Catch them doing something right. In your first few months in a new leadership role you’re being tested, and not just by the boss or your shareholders.Your employees are figuring out whether you’re worth going out of their way for. They are deciding whether or not they should be firmly on your team. When you catch them doing something right and acknowledge it and show appreciation (especially publicly) you set the stage for a repeat performance. And with the combined efforts of the members of your team you can be unstoppable.