Have you bumped up to the next level recently? Taken on a leadership role? Congratulations! Just keep in mind that what got you there might not be what keeps you there. Today we’ll take a quick look at a common pitfall new leaders often succumb to, and some good questions to ask that will keep you headed in the right direction.
What Got You There…
Often when someone moves up to a leadership position it’s because they demonstrate competence at a certain skill – they were the best computer coder, or the top salesperson, or the most skilled mechanic. But the skills you need at your new level aren’t necessarily the ones that got you promoted.
With new responsibilities, it is important to recognize that you have to look beyond yourself and your immediate skill set, and begin thinking more about the others on your team and what their skills are and where the team as a whole is heading.
Leaders who don’t make this mental adjustment continue to look at their world the same way they always did, but that can lead to a common pitfall.
Sooner or later, a problem will crop up that you know you can solve based on your expertise. The temptation is to jump in and do it yourself. After all, you were the best. It seems like a good way to show that you can continue to contribute directly to your team’s production.
Besides, your competence is your comfort zone, so it can feel good to slip into the old groove again.
But that’s where many leaders get into trouble. To borrow an expression, “You’re doing it wrong.”
You’re Doing it Wrong…
You might get that specific job done, but at what cost?
When your head was down doing that task, what else was happening that you missed?
Is everybody else on track with their part of the project?
Is the whole team fully and constructively engaged?
Did you miss an opportunity to teach someone else how to do the skill so that you won’t have to be so involved the next time?
Could you have used the time to support the whole team better in some way?
Coordinate future actions?
Protect the team from outside distraction?
The Takeaway – Find a new Comfort Zone
Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should, even if you are the best at it.
Ask yourself, “Who else can do this?” so you can stay focused on the big picture.
Ask “Who else can learn and grow by doing this?”
Ask, “What should I really be doing, as the leader?”
Be honest with yourself about the answers, and proceed from there.
It’s not that you don’t do work; it’s that your work is different now; you have to build a new comfort zone, one that includes new skills like how to plan, delegate, set goals, teach others, build your team, provide feedback, react to crisis….the list goes on.
As a leader, you are doing it right if your whole team is motivated and productively engaged to accomplish the task at hand, whatever it might be.
Success for you now means keeping your head up, staying a few steps ahead of the team, anticipating problems, and integrating the efforts of your team with all the others. When that becomes your new comfort zone, you’ll know you have started to make the transition.
Question: What has been the biggest challenge to you in making the transition to leader?
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