Four Warnings for New Leaders

I was only 25 the first time I became an official leader.  My title was Branch Manager at an employment agency where I was responsible for the branch’s daily operations, P&L and its five employees.  Yet no formal team leadership training was provided.  I was simply let loose to lead these employees in driving a profitable branch.

Fast forward nearly 15 years later to my most recent leadership position and I can confidently share that I didn’t know what the hell I was doing back then!  I did many things well, but for every one success there was an equal amount, if not more, failures.

These successes and failures served as learning for my improved performance and perhaps my four warnings will serve in helping new managers shorten their learning curve in order to experience success earlier than I did.

1.  It’s not about you.

Determined to excel as a newly promoted manager, I focused more than the fair share of my attention on my own performance.  I was going about my job in much of the same way I had prior to my promotion – concentrating on my individual contributions thus seeking individual success.  Through all of these efforts I lost sight of my team and what my new role was truly about.  Once you’re a leader, your priorities should no longer be on you as an individual contributor but rather the team, and your success is now a result of the team’s success.


2.  They’re not just a number.

To create a healthy environment with a productive team, take an authentic interest in team members’ well-being.  Get to know them on a personal level (as much as they’re willing to let you in).  Simply treat them as a human being.  When your team truly believes that you sincerely care about them in and out of the office, and that they’re not just a headcount at the organization, they’ll be more productive and more likely to commit for the long-term.


3.  What motivates you, may not motivate them.

What drives you to succeed, may not be the same driver for your team.  And trying to create an environment solely based on what motivates you may not only fail to move the needle, it could potentially backfire and demotivate the team.  Instead, schedule one-on-one time to discover individual motivations – monetary rewards, recognition, time off, etc.  This provides you with a foundation to either personalize your motivational system or at least create a variety of group incentives that rotate on an ongoing basis.


4.  Don’t go at it alone.

Even tenured leaders shouldn’t work in silos.  Find a mentor, someone with more experience and one with a highly retained team.  You may seek out an individual at your organization or a professional at another company.  If you don’t have access to someone like this, connect and follow an expert through LinkedIn and/or seek formalized training.  I recommend following John Eades, President and CEO of LearnLoft.  He provides amazing content through his articles and podcast episodes, plus he offers specialized training.  Check him out!


Final Thoughts

The attributes that brought upon your exciting promotion will not be enough to lead with excellence.  And it will no longer be enough to simply become proficient in the details of your organization’s industry.  Now it’s vital to invest time into studying leadership to build success for your team and you.

What’s your story as a new or experienced leader?