Do a quick search on Amazon for “leadership books” and in seconds, you’ll be served up some 50,000 different titles. Some are classics in the genre, others the latest offering from industry celebs like Simon Sinek and Jim Collins. All of them purport to be game-changing treatises on how to inspire and motivate others.
If books like these help get you hyped to be a great manager, then by all means fill your shelves with them. But you should also know that leading others doesn’t require gimmicky acronyms or five-step approaches — just some common sense and compassion. Here are a couple of ways to put those core values into practice as you transition from an employee role to a supervisory position.
Be a Problem Solver
At their heart, every effective manager is essentially a problem solver. There are plenty of employees who will happily do what they are told, then punch out and go home without giving their work a second thought. But those employees don’t move up the corporate ladder. Who does? Problem solvers.
As a new manager, you’re going to be given plenty of problems to solve during the course of your day. But what will really set you apart from the masses is your ability to proactively seek out problems and proffer solutions.
Let’s say your team suffers from a high turnover rate, but upper management hasn’t been able to address that issue because sales are so low. If you can investigate the root of the turnover and make changes — maybe providing better training to new employees, so they are able to meet their goals sooner — you will have solved problems not just for your direct reports, but for the company’s upper echelons as well.
Broaden Your Horizons
All too often, companies flounder because they are compartmentalized and fractured. The right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing. Employees are quick to deny responsibility by saying “not my job.” Everyone points fingers at other departments and no one is willing to take one for the team.
As a new leader, you’ll make a good impression if you take a page out of President Truman’s book and insist that “the buck stops here.” Rather than trying to shift responsibility to other managers, ask yourself how you can help them. Don’t know how their departments really work? Shadow them for a week, or ask one of their employees to draw up a PowerPoint to educate the entire company about their day-to-day operations.
This will give you tremendous insight into why the workflow might be breaking down, or where redundancies are occurring. It will also foster collaboration and cooperation, and help send the message to everyone from the CEO to the maintenance crew that you’re in this together.
Know That It’s a Fine Line Between Boss and Buddy
One issue that many managers face, especially if they have been promoted from the ranks, is learning how to walk the line between being your employees’ buddy and their boss. Both approaches are effective in the short term, but landing on one side or the other permanently is going to end badly.
Managers who are too friendly with their team members might face issues with discipline and exercising their authority. Those who crack the whip too hard as bosses risk alienating their teams and becoming unapproachable.
It can be a real challenge to develop a managerial style that is at once firm but friendly. Separating work and pleasure is a first step; don’t give special privileges to your former work wife or BFF. Emphasize that when you’re wearing your boss hat, it’s not personal. And don’t be tempted to pit upper management against your reports, or to tell tales out of school to curry favor.
Don’t Be Afraid to Fail
One of the most common pitfalls facing newly promoted managers is fear of failure. Now that you have your own office, a new title, or a raise commensurate with your added responsibilities, you might be terrified of making a misstep. You have to be perfect, right? Otherwise no one will respect your leadership.
In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Failure is not only inevitable — it should be invited in and offered a seat in the boardroom. Failure is, hands down, the most effective teacher there is. That’s true in business and in life!
What’s important isn’t avoiding failure, it’s how you handle it. Accepting it, acknowledging it, and then analyzing it to squeeze the maximum learning out of it will not only improve your management skills, it will earn you respect from all sides.
Encourage an environment where failure is embraced, rather than shamed, and you are well on your way toward success.
Have you recently been promoted to fill a vacancy in your department? Or have you just earned an online degree in management systems? However you have landed in a managerial position, the future is bright and it’s your time to shine!