The Ultimate Checklist For New Leaders

The Ultimate Checklist For New Leaders

The Ultimate Checklist For New Leaders 

By Mark Wager

There’s a lot to think about when you become a Leader for the first time and it can be incredibly daunting. Until now, you have been judging others and quite rightly praised for the work you have done but now as your Leadership starts you will realise that from now on you will be judged by what other people do. It's your team that matters and it’s up to you to ensure that the team runs smoothly. This requires a completely different mindset and a wider range of skills that you have worked hard for you previously. Congratulations and welcome to Leadership. In this article I want to share with you some of the key things that every Leader needs to focus on a checklist that will help you navigate this difficult transition period.

Have you defined success? 

The first thing a new Leader needs to check of their list is to have a very clear definition of what success is. You can avoid many misunderstandings in the future if you have a chat with your Manager and get an understanding of what they want you to do. While this may seem obvious at first, I’ve had many conversations with Senior Managers who are disappointed with a Leader they hired only to find that they and the Leader both had very different t ideas of what the job should look like. Don’t allow assumptions to derail a career before it starts and have a chat with your Boss. Ask “if in six months you believe I have done an exceptional job what should I have  done to make you believe that?” Or “What is your definition of success?”

Do you know what the team wants from you?

Now you are a Leader you need to understand that the team doesn’t exist to serve you instead the leader exists in order to serve the team. You can’t serve anyone unless you first know what is it they require from you. Everyone in the team has a job to do a series of tasks to perform so the primary job of the Leader is to ensure that everyone in the team has the skills, attitude and resources in order to perform. So  ask the team “What do you need from me in order to do your job at a high level?” Leaders are always surprised just how different the answers are from people within the same team. Some want close supervision while others want to be trusted to do the work. It's  fine because everyone is different but having this conversation will avoid your intentions being misinterpreted.

Does your team know what you need from them?

The next thing to check off your new Leaders checklist is whether  you spoken to the team about what you need from them so that you can do your job. This may be something as basic as explaining reporting requirements, the type of information they need to supply you with or it may be more personal such as how and when the team should approach you with issues. If they have questions who do they go to? If they are unhappy with something a co-worker has done what should they do? If they are unclear about a task or a task is going to be late who do they talk to? The relationship between the Leader and a team member is an important one and like all relationships can be improved with clarity and discussion.

What is your Leadership philosophy?

The number one reason why people are happy at work so because the values they personally hold dear are not  reflected in the company they work for and the most visual representation of their company is their Leader. The person they report to is so important which is why people don’t leave companies they leave their Bosses. This is why it’s stressful for a team to have a new Leader because their happiness at work depends on what kind of person you are so don’t allow them to guess or worry unnecessarily. Share with them your philosophy. If you don’t have one then tell them what type of workplace environment you expect, how you want people to interact with each other, what kind of attitude you expect from the team, what kind of person you are. All the answers to these questions will give the team a clear idea of what it is going to be like working with you.

How are you going have those difficult conversations?

A challenge for new Leaders is to talk to members of the team after they made a mistake. This is the biggest departure from not being a Leader and for a lot of people these conversations require a certain amount of courage yet it doesn’t have to be this way. You need to remember that no one comes to work in order to do a bad job. They don’t mean to make mistakes and they don’t intend to upset other people but this happens and when it does a conversation needs to happen in order to ensure it doesn’t happen again. These conversations can go a lot more smoothly if everyone has an understanding of how you are going to approach these situations and how ideally you want people to respond to them. We all know these conversations have to happen and we’ve all witnessed what happens when bad behaviour or performance is allowed to continue so by explaining what will happen it will make these conversations more acceptable to everyone.

Do you have the resources in order to do your Job?

The most common conversation that new Leaders regret having is the one about the level of resources and support your team needs to do their job and that includes having realistic targets to achieve. The longer you delay these conversations the more unlikely it is you are going to get what you need so the sooner the better. Think about having the right number of people in your team and are they the right kind of people. Do you have the tools that you need and that includes the skills and techniques that you will need to learn as a Leader. You  have a lot to learn and it’s fine to admit that you have reached the top of one ladder and now you are at the bottom of a new one and you will need help climbing it. If you do not have a mentor or a coach then your learning curve will be a lot longer than it has to be. A regular chat with an expert on a monthly basis will provide you with an opportunity to seek advice on how to deal with the many challenges that you will face. 

About the Author

Mark Wager is a Leadership Coach with over thirty years of managerial experience across a range of industries. A former Broker Sales Manager with a London Finance House and a National Manager for the Ministry of Justice Mark specialises in working with Leaders helping them overcome the barriers, both technical and mental standing between themselves and success.

A strong believer in taking complex leadership & psychological theories and making them accessible to people regardless of their background, education or industry Mark has helped develop Leaders from some of New Zealand’s leading organisations such as Fisher & Paykel, Heartland Bank, NZRL, NZ Netball, NZ Soccer, NZ Basketball, Amnesty Int, Barnardos, Oxfam, Red Cross and many more.

Posted: Wednesday 24 February 2021

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