When their managerial career begins, young people encounter different types of challenges. It is not easy to be responsible for the performance and success of a team, even if it consists of only one person that we lead. Whether we want it or not, our team members have great expectations from us.
There are different types of training programs that support first-time-leaders, and there is no universal approach to the development of someone who takes this kind of responsibility for the first time. Nevertheless, we will try to look at the main aspects of this challenging task that, when successful, can be very rewarding.
Leadership is an opportunity to serve. It is not a trumpet call to self-importance.
– J. Donald Walters
Office Politics and Interpersonal Relations
People always follow those who know the way to success. To motivate others and encourage them to achieve their potentials, you must be aware of yourself and your role in the team in the first place. In recent years, a lot has been discussed about corporate politics, in the sense that each manager pushes their team in a particular direction only because it contributes to his/her salary, bonuses, status or power. Faced with these “game rules” in larger companies, managers generally become so-called chameleons that adapt to the environment, or stay consistent and try to sometimes go “head through the wall.” If you are a leader at the beginning of a career, the best advice would be to be somewhere between these two styles. In the first place, the leader must be adaptive to different circumstances, and on the other hand, they must be consistent with the decisions and objectives that they should achieve. So, have the right choice of your battles, and choose your companions carefully.
This word has become a standard when we talk about descriptions of successful leaders, but unfortunately, it seems to have lost its value in practice over time. They say that you should have “Walk the Talk” (Practice what you preach) approach in relations with employees, in the sense that what we are talking and propagate, we should really be doing ourselves. Because why would someone give their maximum in business by following a leader who comes out earlier every day from work? If your team is working hard and has challenging tasks, you will gain the trust of team members only if you support them in their efforts to achieve results. Part of the integrity is also whether you keep the word you gave to someone. Employees’ trust is difficult to acquire, and it is very easy to lose, so make sure that you do not provide easy promises that you are not sure you can fulfil, and that when you say something will happen, you stick to your words. For a leader to really manage to stick to this principle, they must carefully think before they communicate some information with team members.
In this context, if your superior has been delighted to announce you bonuses for good results, do not immediately run into your team and convey the news before you have checked with all relevant structures in the company that this will actually happen. Giving false hopes to people is the fastest way to create discontent and apathy on the team. Now, the fact that you have been given a false hope as well and that you may be personally disappointed when there is an unfulfillment of some announced good news is something else, and it can be said that every leader’s job description is to deal with these challenges.
Working with a team, not without it
If you have already been concerned while reading previous paragraphs whether the role of a leader is right for you, you may want to stay in your expert zone in which you already achieve good results because the story is just beginning to be exciting! Each team has its own goals to achieve, and you as a leader should help team members understand what is expected from them in the first place and how to get there. To do this, you must understand where your team is with knowledge, competences, and motivation. 1 on 1 meetings with team members will help you achieve a closer relationship with each of them, and in a safe environment, they will share with you all their ambitions, desires, but also concerns and fears. When you understand the development phase of each one of them, you can better make further steps whether it is an investment in improving their technical knowledge or soft skills, empowering and supporting, or simply supporting someone while they are in a transition period to a new position.
Of course, do not forget that we are all humans and that personal problems we carry from our family can affect our performance. For all this, arm yourself with patience, understanding, constructive attitude to find the right words for praise, and listen to your employees. Listen carefully what they tell you because a large percentage of problems affecting your team’s bad performance will be resolved only by paying attention to those problems. If you close yourself and believe that only you can achieve results without any help, believe that you are wrong. This attitude leads to an authoritarian leadership style, which increasingly becomes an obsolete way of managing.
The biggest challenge in front of inexperienced leaders is taking responsibility for the entire team’s performance. “How do I stand by errors made by an unmotivated team member?” or “Why should I delegate tasks that I can do more precisely and more quickly?” are only some of the questions that usually lead to a decision that a leader is working late at night completing a report for superiors. If you are in this situation, ask yourself first why there are team managers at all. If you can do it all better yourself, why do you need a team whose mistakes you are constantly correcting, and reminding them of deadlines?
To return to the end of the story, one day you will have the privilege of working with the most motivated people who are professionals in their business – they always respect deadlines, do not make mistakes in work, proactively propose solutions to problems, give initiatives to improve processes. To get there, it will take a lot of time and efforts. In the first place, you have to build yourself up as a person of integrity, create a personal stamp of your leadership style, so everyone in the company says, “Yes, he/she is a great manager! If everyone were like that, this world would be a better place!” Therefore, do not be afraid to take responsibility for the mistakes of your team – your role is to stand before those people, and do your best to empower them, support, motivate, and push forward as they develop. Development is the most painful process, because as long as a person develops, they spread their horizons, change habits, adjust behaviour, and that is not a very easy process. Not for you, not for your team members.
There are many other topics that can be covered in this area, but for the start, if you become aware of these few topics and direct yourself to further growth, you have the prerequisite to have people praising you one day, even when you leave the company. Of course, if you really aim to make this world a better place.