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First-Time Leader – Exercise | Deliberate Practice

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From the Post: First-time leader – excited or reluctant?

An organization that understands the power of professional development usually has an onboarding plan of some form. Many plans are generic because each leader’s role comes with different and more complex requirements. So take the plan and customize it to work for you or the needs of your new leader. You might be thinking, well that’s going to take some time to do that. Yes, it will. Where do you want to spend your time, preparing someone for success or spending twice as much time later developing an improvement plan for them? 

If you don’t have a pre-established plan, ask for help from your peer leaders who have gone through this and have a good sense of what to do. In his book, The First 90 Days, Michael D. Watkins provides many strategies for the challenges and expectations of transitioning into different roles and careers. 

We’ve all been challenged to some extent as we step into a leadership role. Having an open conversation with your new leader about what to expect is not cruel and unusual punishment, it’s showing respect and your commitment to supporting them and their professional growth. 

Encourage them to start a journal if they don’t have one. This is a great way to track and record the challenges and the different ways that worked and didn’t work when facing challenges. This direct learning experience will help them to be good coach leaders to someone else in the future.

When talking with new or reluctant leaders there are a few things I like to talk with them about. They are not in any order, they are important and help the new leader to know that they are not in this alone. 

If you are reading this because there is no one to help you or you feel you are going this alone, these seven statements are a good place to start. If you look around you may find someone who can support you if you ask.

  1. Mistakes are normal and are a part of growth.
  2. You don’t have to have all the answers.
  3. Know that leadership doesn’t get easier, just different.
  4. Give them the tools to get started and keep leading.
  5. Ask what they are learning about themselves and as a leader.
  6. Encourage and support your leaders and staff.
  7. Their reluctancy to lead is actually a strength

If you are going to lead people or are already leading, be a partner, roll up your sleeves, get in the boat, and row with them. Don’t leave them adrift. Some people are very good at being self-directed, everyone needs a place to start from and a target to reach for, self-directed or not. 

When you schedule one-on-ones with your staff don’t ask them, “How’s it going?” “Have any questions for me?” “Do you need help with anything?” Ask them this, “What have you learned since the last time we talked?” Find out what they’re thinking, what they’re learning, and what they’re struggling with. If they are not learning anything, it’s time to find out why. 

Leadership is not a solo skill, it’s a partnership agreement. 

Don’t wait for tomorrow, tomorrow never comes. What you have is today and this is the best time to begin anything.   

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