Seven Enemies of Success for Newly Promoted Leaders – Part 1

In a previous blog article we introduced you to the problem that many organizations and individuals are facing: Leaders fail in newly promoted roles about 40% of the time.  In the next two blog entries we will highlight the “Seven Enemies of Success for Newly Promoted Leaders” and provide some useful insights for each one. A more comprehensive look can be found in the book, The Ascending Leader.  We promise it will be a challenging yet enlightening journey, with additional onboarding services available through Leadership Excelleration.

Enemy #1: YOU…and your stress behaviors!

The first enemy of success is the Enemy Within. Is it not apropos that we must first look within to discover our susceptibility for failure?  In Chapter 1 of The Ascending Leader we address the need to be aware of our own stress behaviors and how to manage them.  It is critical because if you give in to your stress behaviors in a new role, you may inadvertently turn people off or cause people feel disconnected from you as a leader! This stress behavior seldom inspires others to follow.

What are these stress behaviors?

Identify Your Stress Behaviors

“So, what I really need to do is manage myself,” said a recent client who was learning to manage the new leader stress behaviors so commonly observed in organizations. They include: knowing it all, isolating oneself, being too aggressive, being out for oneself, repeating old habits, and neglecting well-being.

To conquer the enemy within, leaders need to proactively manage these and other stress behaviors to remove barriers that prevent us from connecting with others and building vital relationships that are essential in a new role.

Help for the Stressed New Leader

In The Ascending Leader you will find strategies and tools to help you identify behaviors and potential skill/capability gaps that could contribute to your derailment. Once recognized, strategies can be identified to overcome stress behaviors to build credibility as well as more resonance in relationships.

Enemy 2: Yielding to the Chaos

With so many demands and so little time, is it any wonder that transitioning to a new role feels chaotic?! Yielding to the chaos occurs when a leader does not allow the time to learn comprehensively about the business and its complexities, and instead becomes consumed by the crisis of the day — day after day. Rather than assessing the needs of the business and allowing essential time for learning before leading, the leader becomes mired in the minutia.

Be Strategic. Be Comprehensive. Build Credibility. Build Success.

Unlike Enemy #1, which challenges us to use introspection, this Enemy requires us to be aware of our environment and what we can learn from it.  The risk in not conquering this Enemy is that you will not be seen as a strategic leader and thus, miss out on opportunities to build credibility and key relationships.

Brad, a newly promoted CFO located in Atlanta, was working through his transition with the support of Susan, the Human Resources Director. Brad was highly intelligent and incredibly talented; however, he had so much more to learn and understand about the culture and individuals he was now leading. While Brad was familiar with the organization, since he had worked there for many years, the CFO responsibilities and his Sr. Executive peers were all new to him.

How does a new leader avoid “yielding”?

Brad confirmed his business knowledge and measured his understanding of the areas he would need to focus on by completing the Leader Success Inventory.

In The Ascending Leader we provide this tool for you so you can make a full accounting of your knowledge and the priorities.  Using the Leadership Success Inventory as your guide to organize and prioritize learning, to avoid becoming overwhelmed.  A prioritized plan to learn before performing reduces the temptation to yield to the chaos and positions you well on the path to success.

Enemy 3: Misreading Culture Cues

Has this ever happened to you?  It’s the day of the big football game and the sun is shining.  You leave the house dressed warmly enough…or, so you think.  Nothing is worse than coming unprepared to watch a football game when it is 30 degrees outside. To be in an environment without a coat on is kind of like being in a culture unprepared.

Whether you have been hired to build upon success or to lead change, learning about the culture is key. A leader can miss essential culture cues that affect ultimate success or failure by underestimating the importance of understanding and adapting to the culture before trying to lead change in a significant way.

What’s more, with this enemy we gain perhaps the most important insight since this is the enemy that is most likely to cause failure.  So why is this the most important enemy to avoid?  The simple answer is because people will reject a leader that does not adapt successfully to fit in, which causes a leader to disconnect in most cases.

Understand, Adapt, and Stay Connected

To master culture cues it is best to understand the culture first, then seek to lead desired change – with others providing input and getting on board along the way.

Mary was transferred to the Michigan Region after several years in executive positions at the corporate headquarters. As the new President of the Western Michigan market, Mary took on the role with great expectations and little time to acclimate as an internal leader. Even though Mary was familiar with the regional structure and even some of the customers, she realized quickly she would still need to understand the history, business environment, context of the market place, the existing team, challenges, and growth opportunities.

Assessing Culture Quickly

Whether you are newly promoted and/or new to the organization, the Quick Culture Assessment, found in The Ascending Leader, will help you assess, learn and adapt to the current culture of the organization. This will provide you with the foundation to lead the culture in a positive way (while honoring and preserving what works) to achieve higher performance and sustained results.

Putting to work the Quick Culture Assessment tool, Mary was able to consider all elements associated with successfully adapting to and potentially changing the culture in a positive way. This encompassed observable and non-observable elements including completing the Leader Success Inventory we learned about in the above.

These are just 3 of the 7 enemies to watch out for with newly promoted leaders.  Already there is much to think about and there are 4 more coming.  Don’t let your best leaders fall prey to these enemies.  Consider how you or your organization can adjust to avoid failure. If you know these enemies are present and want to be free of them, contact Leadership Excelleration for a consultation.

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