As the old saying goes: “if no one if following you on your journey to the top, you are not leader, you are on a hike by yourself.”
It is easy to get caught up in the glitz and glamour side of starting a company, but are you really prepared to lead a team of people, day after day, and shoulder the responsibilities that go along with being the one leading the charge? Whether you are in charge of a department, a crew, or the whole darn thing, there are a few things you need to be aware of when you become the go-to person. Here are three of them:
1. Everything is your fault. Plain and simple, if you have people in your charge, you are responsible for their output, their results, and their actions. If you have been an employee all this time, and now are recently promoted to Manager status, you are now going to be responsible for the group of people that were your peers. This will take some getting used to, on both sides. Ideally you were promoted to that position BECAUSE you were the most qualified to be in it. Keep this in mind as you try to navigate the uncharted waters of your new role.
While you can’t actually control every action that everyone now in your charge is going to do, you are ultimately responsible for what they do in terms of production, output, and contribution to the team. If someone has issue with you in your new role, you’d better get that worked out quickly, otherwise they will have an effect on the whole team. Good leadership includes things like making the tough decisions of who needs to be shown the door. It is not easy cultivating a positive workplace atmosphere, but in some cases this is the most critical piece to getting the balance of a positive work culture and a high output from everyone.
2. Everyone has to be managed differently. I don’t mean that you play favorites, but I do mean that as a manager or business owner you have to develop a feel for who needs a pat on the back and who needs a kick in the butt. Everyone responds differently to feedback, incentives and instructions, and if you want to be an effective leader, you have to learn how to handle each employee. If you lead a small team, this is much easier than dealing with a large group of people. Either way, if you want to be running a well-oiled machine of a team, you’ll have to learn how to manage according to the personalities involved. Take me for example; I am not someone who responds well to negative feedback, confrontational challenges, or a public berating.
If you want my best foot forward, you need to pull me aside, have a conversation with me about what the goal is, and what my role in that vision would be, and enroll me in that process. I need to feel like I have a good grasp of the vision, the plan to get there, and what my role in that journey will be. If you single me out in front of a crowd, I will turn on you, privately, and I will be either plotting your demise (as my boss) or my exit. I am not saying this is the right way to look at this situation, but it is my reality. I KNOW I operate in this manner, and I am not going to do well under a manager who is going to handle me in any other manner. I’m complicated, I know. But I am capable of a lot, and if you want an above and beyond contribution from me, you have to know how to manage me accordingly.
3. You have to develop those around you. In some ways, you should always be striving to groom your replacement. Whether you are the owner of a company and want to offload the day-to-day operations to someone else, or you are a manager who will likely move up the food chain again in the not too distance future, you should work hard to develop the people around you to be just as capable as yourself. In a really wide view of things, it is dangerous to have all of the operation tied into one person; while this may seem like job security to some, it could cripple the company if you got sick, hit by a bus, or had a family issue to deal with that is going to take you out of the mix for a while.
Ultimately, no one is irreplaceable. If the owner of my company fell ill, we could run the business without him indefinitely. We have structured things to be that way on purpose; it is safer in the grand scheme of things, gives him the flexibility to take time away when he wants, and focus on the really high level portion of his role and leave the daily details to the rest of us. If you are concerned about someone taking you out of your current role, maybe you should figure out why you have that insecurity. Are you really in over your head, and you’re a placeholder until the company gets the right person into that role? Or are you the best person for that role and you just need some time to settle in and make it yours. Look in the mirror and think long and hard about that. If it is the latter of those two examples, give yourself time to develop into the leader you need to be.
There are a ton of facets to being a leader. In many cases, you did your previous job better than others, and so the assumption from the company is that you can lead others to do the same. In the sales roles in particular, this can be the kiss of death. There are intrinsic things about sales that cannot be taught to many, and the idea that you as a top sales person would make a top manager is crazy. A few people on the planet can throw a 90 mph fastball, and the rest of the world never will. That is not a knock against the rest of us, it is kudos to those who can. But throwing that top performing sales person into a Management role is not always going to yield the results that were intended. If you were a rockstar in the back of the house and now are up front and running the show, it is going to take some getting used to. But you can do; it has been done before and will be done again. You have to commit to this new role and path the same way you did to your previous role.
You will need to lead be example, grow empathetic, and listen more before you speak. You’ll need to pull the trigger on tough decisions, take action, and OWN the consequences, good or bad. If your company hits its numbers, you need to defer all of the credit to your team. If you miss the numbers, you need to be the one who falls on the sword and takes the heat for it. This is the first step in developing a successful culture that is going to fire on all cylinders. It is not all glitz and glamour, and many fall short. But those who really commit to being a good leader will need to grow and stretch themselves in order to fulfill that new role. Then you will be able to cultivate a team that will make that climb with them, regardless of how steep that mountain is.