Seven Enemies of Success for Newly Promoted Leaders – Part 2

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In part one of this two part series, we took a look at 3 of the 7 enemies of success for newly promoted leaders. They are sneaky enemies that can easily take you by surprise, which is why so many really talented individuals fail in new roles.  A deeper dive into each enemy can be found in the book The Ascending Leader, or by contacting Leadership Excelleration but we’ve provided plenty to get you started. We’ll jump in where we left off, at number 4.

Enemy #4: Misfiring with your Manager

Like an automobile engine that is misfiring, newly promoted leaders who are misfiring with their managers find themselves misunderstanding expectations and being out of sync with expectations.

In fact, it’s impossible to overstate the critical importance of developing an effective relationship with your manager and “firing on all cylinders”! Research from Gallup as well as Development Dimensions International (DDI), suggests that approximately 70% of an employee’s satisfaction on the job (and whether or not they leave the company) is tied to this relationship.

Unfortunately, many managers don’t even realize the lack of connection is happening, and they certainly don’t wish it to happen; they simply go about their overwhelming myriad of meetings and responsibilities, heads down, getting the job done.

What is Expected of Me?

It’s up to the new leader to proactively seek awareness of expectations. In addition to meeting expectations, it is essential for a leader in a new role to establish proactive communication and a meeting rhythm to support success.

Given all the demands of the role, it was natural for Travis, a new Clinical Director in a large healthcare system, to spend his time focused on the team, key stakeholders, patients, building relationships with peers and understanding the organization and culture in the context of his new team. As a newly promoted leader within an existing organization, Travis also had the added responsibility of assimilating with a team in an expanded role that would require him to build collaboration on a leadership team with physician and nursing leaders.

With all of these responsibilities, Travis hadn’t realized that he was not as connected with his Manager as he should have been.  It was not until problems began to arise that Travis recognized the need to proactively calibrate more effectively with her.

Get Aligned, Be Constructive

The Manager Discussion Guide in The Ascending Leader provides a structured approach to ensuring alignment and a constructive working relationship.  It will guide your discussions and help you quickly align with your manager, so that you work well together, confirm expectations, and ensure you have the support needed to build effective relationships.

Leveraging the Manager Discussion Guide, Travis gained the confidence needed to be more effectively calibrated with his manager to be successful in his role.

Enemy #5: Overlooking Stakeholders and Peers

As we get into the fast-paced work world, something we may begin to overlook is the importance of relationships and the insight they provide into the culture of organizations and groups.  Instead, we focus more on lists, gaining knowledge, and attaining a promotion. This can be even more evident in a new role.

“I don’t have time to sit down with all of my peers and key stakeholders now.” Overlooking peers and key stakeholders often happens due to being immersed in the crisis of the day or being pressured by the strategic imperatives given upon hire by a manager.

Leaders think these relationships can wait, not recognizing that peers and key stakeholders have vital information about the leader’s manager, customers, the culture, and the organization. When connected, these individuals will share vital information.

To connect with stakeholders and peers is to allow these individuals not only to contribute to the leader’s learning, but also to advocate for the leader’s success.

Leveraging Relationships

Jim was a highly successful and experienced marketing executive.  He first worked his way up the corporate ladder in consumer package goods Brand Management positions, then leveraged this experience to become Vice President of Marketing at a manufacturer of children’s products and later General Manager of a sporting goods company.  While this was a satisfying career and one that kept his keen intellect challenged, he came to realize that as he rose in the ranks he got further and further away from what he loved: the creative process.

Then, Jim landed the perfect new role as a consultant in the strategic brand/new product positioning arm of a respected advertising agency. There was so much to learn! This was a new industry for him, a new culture and an entirely different way of doing business than he was used to. To succeed, he needed to leverage relationships inside and outside the agency, including his manager (the agency’s President), his clients and, very importantly, his peers.

Strategically Beneficial, Necessary in the Now

The Stakeholder Assessment & Strategy Plan tool in The Ascending Leader will help you start with a best leadership practice — building relationships that will be strategic to your future and beneficial in your current role.  This tool will help you focus your precious time and energy in the most efficient way, while building vital relationships and ultimately helping to maximize your success.

Jim learned valuable lessons from the Stakeholder Assessment & Strategy Plan. He was able to begin building relationships that span a career and, sometimes, a lifetime.

Take a Lesson from Basketball…

History would readily agree that the inimitable college basketball coach at UCLA, John Wooden, was a great leader.  On his way to the National Basketball Hall of Fame, he won 10 NCAA championships while molding young men into successful student athletes as well.  Having passed away in 2010 at age 99, it was what those who were led by him remembered about him that was compelling.  The memories gave us insight into the importance of leaders engaging their teams; that team members have a connection with their leader and trust their best interests are being served.

A former player of his, Bill Walton, reflected, “Coach Wooden taught by example. He never asked or expected anyone to do anything that he hadn’t already done himself. He gave us the ability to learn how to learn, and to compete. His keen knowledge and foresight to always be about what’s next, always about the future, enabled him to lead an incredibly active, constructive, positive and contributing life.”

We learned about Overlooking Stakeholders and Peers and that leaders must not become so immersed in the crisis of the day or the strategic imperatives as to overlook peers and key stakeholders.  Today, we take an even deeper dive into the relationship theme and explore Enemy 6 of the “Seven Enemies of Success for Newly Promoted Leaders.”

Enemy #6: Alienating Your Team

The early-going for the new leader of a team is an opportunity to get off to a great start. When it happens (and typically it is no accident), the energy and dynamics of the team can be leveraged to accomplish wonderful things. Unfortunately, though, whether it is the weight of the new role, the desire to impress their manager, other senior leaders, or coming off as arrogant and dictatorial, too often leaders in a new role alienate the direct reporting team that is now pivotal to their success.

Developing trust as a new leader with a team is more critical and more challenging than ever before.  Team members trust (or don’t) based on personal style, previous team and leader experiences, as well as the business environment overall. Sadly, all too often, experience can be brutal.

In Scott Allen and Mitchell Kusy’s book, The Little Book of Leadership Development, they point out that research indicates leaders who set clearly defined expectations and agreed on levels of performance are more likely to get positive results than leaders who do not.  Your team will know what is important to you based on where you focus your attention.

Assimilating the Team

Lee Ann was recently promoted into a new and important role as Director of Organizational Development and Learning.  It was a new role, but not a new organization.  She is a high achiever, and a reflective planner who has a track record of building great relationships with her teams.

promotedWith an external partner, Lee Ann planned and held a team assimilation meeting to help calibrate effectively with her new team. A few weeks before the team assimilation session, she proactively met with each team member to build rapport and discuss current role, responsibilities, questions, requests and aspirations. Lee Ann knew that developing the basis of a one-on-one relationship with each member would serve her well over the next several months as well as in the long term. Going forward, Lee Ann will be assessing the needs of the business, the structure for her organization and how to assure the fit of her current team in roles that best serve the needs of the organization.

Build Relationships, Build Trust

If you put to work the Team Member Discussion Guide and the Team Assimilation Meeting Guide in The Ascending Leader, they will give you a starting point for building rapport and understanding between you and your team members.  Together the two tools will give your team the opportunity to get to know you better as a leader, ask questions and provide valuable input for the future.   You will quickly build strong relationships and be able to leverage your understanding of the talents and contributions of team members to perform.

LeeAnn gained key feedback from the Team Member Discussion Guide and the Team Assimilation Meeting Guide.  She was able to establish expectations, communicate clearly, build rapport, and engage the team in dialogue about the organization’s vision.

Enemy # 7: Sub-optimizing Your Vision and Plan

A sport that only registers on the radar for most of us once every four years (during the Summer Olympics) is rowing or sculling.  The sport, like many, has all the nuance of fine art and science combined.  The crew spends countless hours refining their stroke, paying close attention to the timing, steps, and coordination. Even something as common as the breathing of the team must be thoughtful as they work toward the most powerful and efficient propulsion of the scull.

In many of these races, we see the member who sits stern on the boat.  This is the coxswain.  While the crew faces backward, the coxswain faces the bow and manages the team’s efforts.  The primary concern is for the safety of the crew, but a close second is steering and guiding the boat toward the goal.  The crew’s coach, who is responsible for the overall team vision and approach, cannot be on the boat.  The coxswain, therefore, becomes the de-facto coach and must have a plan of his own that aligns with the vision.  Since the coxswain is in the boat, this person has the best feel for the performance of the team and can offer immediate feedback and adjustments that aligns with the race strategy decided beforehand.  The coxswain and the coach must have a respectful and understanding relationship and the same must be true with the coxswain and the crew.  Aside from strategy and tactical adjustments, the coxswain also serves as a positive motivator during the race.

Previously, we explored Alienating Your Team and how, whether it is the weight of the new role, the desire to impress their manager, other senior leaders, or coming off as arrogant and dictatorial, too often leaders in a new role alienate the direct reporting team that is now pivotal to their success. Today, we draw this series to a close as we detail Enemy 7 of the “Seven Enemies of Success for Newly Promoted Leaders.”

Be Sure to Communicate

In the same way the coxswain must have an individual plan to manage the boat, new leaders must plan for the same.  The pressure is on for new leaders to produce immediately. So, why take the time to set a vision and plan? Because if an effective vision and plan are lacking, a leader has missed the opportunity to: a) build credibility in order to effectively lead and achieve results, and b) energize and engage the team in the pursuit of a desired future. On the water the coxswain is constantly communicating.  In the workplace, failure to articulate your Vision and Business Plan with purpose and passion may cause:

* You to be seen as on operational instead of a strategic leader;
* Your team to lack direction, engagement and inspiration;
* Your Manager to question your ability to contribute and to provide leadership, and
* You to have low credibility with peers and key stakeholders.

Setting an Aligned Vision

In late 2011, Tom was named President of his organization’s Carolinas region and was excited about the opportunities the promotion presented. A 22-year veteran of the company and a proven leader, he wondered how the new “Leader Assimilation Program” (that his Human Resources Business Partner, Regina, encouraged him to pursue) could benefit him. Despite that bit of doubt, and after a sluggish start to the process, one Saturday morning he was determined to give it his earnest attention and sat down at the desk in his home office to do just that.

A Foundation for the Future

To Tom’s surprise and ultimate delight, the tools he reviewed and worked with seemed to shed a new and different light on the business he was now leading. While the tools were helpful on the whole, Tom found that the one that was “absolutely most important” for him was the “Aligned Vision Worksheet in “The Ascending Leader.”  With the related Business Plan, Tom and his team identified the goals, desired outcomes – including financial, community involvement, diversity, and career growth within his region – and the focused actions needed to begin to realize the vision.

Learn more about these strategies in The Ascending Leader – Conquer the Seven Enemies of Success – A Strategic Guide for the Newly Promoted. If you need help with your onboarding efforts, Leadership Excelleration can provide the solution.  They offer a variety of programs to meet your needs.

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