Stepping up into a leadership role? Here’s what you can expect when moving from operations to strategy
A combination of advanced interpersonal skills, constant analysis and forward-thinking is crucial for success - but this shouldn’t be as daunting as it first sounds.
We’ve put together a list of five key things that we think you should know so that you can prepare and become an effective, well-rounded and confident leader.
Your working day structure will be different
The Muse tells us that: “Leaders don’t just wait to be told what to do — they think strategically about what needs to be done, and then they do it. So, next time you’re faced with a challenge, don’t just tell your boss about the problem and wait for a solution.”
This may sound obvious, but it’s an important change to prepare for. As a leader, your daily structure will be different, and you’ll no longer have tasks and problems handed to you or short-term objectives set for you. Instead, you’re required to take full charge of your own objectives as well your team’s, ensuring that the department output is successfully in line with company goals.
This also applies to internal department issues – so as well as discovering and analysing why sales might be down and how to rectify this, you’ll also be looking out for things like tackling low team morale or ensuring personnel development.
You need to be a proactive problem-solver who is not just looking forward to developing the company and department strategies, but also looking inward to ensure your team is happy, productive and performing.
Understand the new dynamics of your role and your team
“You now have a team of people who work for you. And guess what? When one of them makes a mistake, your boss will look to you for the blame,” says Forbes.
To senior management, you represent your team – and any mistakes made under your leadership are seen as yours. Make sure you are prepared for this and swiftly tackle any mishaps; let your boss know what happened, the corrective action, and work with the individual to get this actioned so that they can develop and learn from what happened.
Equally, when your department wins, your performance as a leader and the output of your team will be revered. Make sure you let individuals know when they have succeeded and acknowledge or celebrate in their accomplishments – this will encourage more autonomy, boost morale, get people excited and provide motivation to succeed.
The difference between management and leadership
Tech Republic sums this up quickly and simply: “Leadership is an act of inspiration, while management is an act of control.”
You’ll likely already have a good idea of what’s expected from you in terms of management. The general running of the department includes things like project management, staff development, hitting targets, reporting, and department activity. These are necessary to provide your team with the tools they need to succeed, but it’s leadership that will inspire your team and get them excited about what they are contributing.
You should engage with each employee individually to get to know their strengths and weaknesses, as well as what drives each of them and what gets them excited about their role. Identify any challenges that they are facing and devise plans to tackle them together. You should also regularly communicate the company’s growth plans and where it is headed so that each team member can get excited about their part in its future.
You want to get people excited. Your positive attitude, one-to-one management, demonstrable passion for the company and leading from the front will not only ensure that everyone feels valued and earn trust but will also encourage maximum productivity, engagement and – perhaps most importantly – retention.
Talk to everyone individually and frequently – and listen
“The worst thing you can initially do is instantly try to lead by herd mentality,” stresses Inc.com. “While you need to be sharp and lead by example, devote time to meet with each team member and have an honest conversation with them.”
Regular two-way communication is crucial. Your goal is to get everyone onside and assure them that you are listening, that they have a voice, and there are different things that you need to make sure you are doing frequently:
- Provide the opportunity for your team to give feedback or voice their concerns
- Ensure that you promptly follow up on any actions that are set during conversations
- Give clear reasoning for decisions - people will always react better to change if they understand the logic behind it
- Don’t shy away from difficult conversations and but be tactful and clear
- Be approachable and ensure that you establish an open and respectful dialogue
- Give people the opportunity to suggest new ideas and changes to current practices
Don’t forget to look after yourself; it’s ok to ask for help
People don’t expect you to know everything – but when stepping up into a new leadership role, you may begin to believe that you’ve been put there because your boss thinks that you do. You might start to become afraid of looking like you don’t know what you’re doing, or that you should always have the right answer prepared for everything.
Nip these thoughts in the bud immediately to save yourself problems further down the line.
This fundamental rule applies throughout your career, but it’s easy to forget that it still applies when you are stepping into a leadership role. Keep this front of mind; when you’re asked something by your boss but you don’t know the answer right away, it’s important to be honest. This is much better than giving a half-explanation that doesn’t answer anything, and people can usually tell if you’re bluffing.
Your superiors will want to support you and will help you to develop where you need to, but they won’t be able to if you aren’t being open and honest. There’s no shame in needing to ask for help or needing a moment to find out the answer to something you’re asked, or asking them to explain some information they present you with if you can’t quite get your head around it the first time. Be authentic and allow them to see your strengths as well as areas for professional development and support.
Hopefully, these points will help you to feel confident in taking a step into a strategic leadership role. If you’re looking to be a leader in the Quality sector, we can help – get in touch with us to discuss your career:
- London office: +44 20 3637 4393
- Boston office: +1 617 314 6837
- Munich office: +49 89 452 352 341
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org