I was 21 when I got my first job leading a team. I managed people who were not only much older than I was but were also mostly male. On my first day, I confidently put on my high heels and power suit and unapologetically told myself that I would do a bomb job in my new role.
I wasn't bothered that I was the newbie, that I was the youngest in my department, or even that I was leading a team that didn't look like me. None of that mattered because I felt like I was called to lead for a reason.
I was in for a rude awakening.
During my first few months as a manager, my job title was good, my pay was even better, but I sucked as a boss. There was so much that I should've prepared for prior to taking on such an important role. Over time, I discovered what my leadership weaknesses were and focused on how to become a better leader.
If you're looking to get promoted or you're starting a new job as a manager, here are some things that you should prepare for and skills you should gain before deciding to lead a team.
As a manager, you're often responsible for not only your team, but also for a multitude of projects and tasks. Because of this, it can be pretty easy to get caught up on the work and not on the development and performance of your team.
Good leaders are able to clearly see and act on the vision, manage projects, and can develop their team at the same time.
As a leader, sometimes you'll manage several departments at once that are vastly different from one another. Despite this, you're the boss so their success is still your responsibility. It's important that you know enough about what they do and how their department should operate so that you can know how to manage your expectations and be able to answer questions and help when needed.
Being a manager, you'll be expected to clearly communicate and execute projects from start to finish. During this period, in order to successfully execute a project, you have to be able to successfully prioritize, organize the tasks, and inspire your team members simultaneously.
When you're the boss, it's easy to look at every project as your "baby" and become obsessed with it. Instead of letting your obsession turn you into a control freak, you have to tap into the power of delegation. Keep in mind, delegation does not mean pawning off all of your work to your team. Instead, it means understanding the role that each team member has, the deadline of the work, the nature of the project, and strategically assigning portions of the task to each member based on those elements.
Once you start delegating though, the work doesn't stop. You have to remember to also trust and verify the work.
Being organized comes naturally for some people but seems impossible for others. Nonetheless, when you're responsible for people and projects, it's critical that you keep your space at least neat enough so that you can clearly find what you and your team need. Also, being organized in your space helps you become organized in other aspects of your work life including managing your team and project timelines.
Shit happens and things change in business. Sometimes, these changes are very unexpected and it disrupts you and your team's normal way of work. As the leader, you have to be able to be adaptable and be comfortable with change. On the same note, you have to be able to know how to properly prepare and communicate these changes to your team.
As a boss, you'll often be given several assignments that might have conflicting due dates, or you may discover that you actually don't have enough team members to efficiently execute. Being able to prioritize with limited team members, stretched resources, and conflicting deadlines will help you become a better leader. It will also help you learn to reasonably set expectations and prevent employee burnout.
A large part in successfully leading a team is having emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is defined as "the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically." Having emotional intelligence will help you understand and motivate your employees, especially at times when they need it the most.
In your line of work, you will be tested every second, and sometimes you'll feel like you're failing. Having a high level of confidence will help you get past the hard times when employees are underperforming, revenue is down, and projects are giving you a difficult time. Maintain your confidence, and understand how to instill a high level of confidence in the people you lead.
As a manager, you may find yourself between the thin line of wanting people to like you versus just wanting to become a good leader. Sometimes you have to have hard conversations and make the tough decisions that people won't like. However, you have to be courageous enough to lead and follow through with directives, even when doing things they don't like makes you uncomfortable. You have to be bold enough to remain focused and to also not be intimidated to tell your team members what you need from them.
Now that you've checked out the skills you need to prepare for a role in leadership, what are your thoughts? Are there any skills that you struggle with the most right now? Tweet us and let us know!
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