By Mark Dembo
In Part I of this series, I wrote about the beginning of my journey moving from an individual contributor to a leader. Now, several months into my new role, the assessment is that the transition has been both much easier and harder than I expected! How is that possible, you ask – which is it? As a leader, surely you need to be more committal than that, you say!
Well, let me provide some context. I recently had the opportunity to speak with DDI VP Matt Paese and gain some of his insights into the trials and tribulations of leader transitions. He helped to identify four key areas that would be important for me to focus on to make a successful transition and set the stage to be an effective leader for my team.
1. Building the RIGHT networks; the networks to succeed as a leader can be very different than the networks I build in my role as an individual contributor. Even while many of the players may be the same, the nature of my interactions with them could very well take on a different tone. As Michael Watkins writes: “Because you think you know everyone and everyone thinks they know you, it's easy to miss the fact that all your existing work relationships were shaped, in part, by the role that you previously played.”
2. Coaching: perhaps the most important area for a leader is to successfully and PROACTIVELY coach the team for success. This means more than just being the cheerleader, it’s getting to know each team member on a deep level – their strengths, their development needs, their career goals and aspirations, what motivates them and what de-motivates them – and then being the catalyst to help them achieve and perform.
3. Recognizing that this transition is a two-way street. The team is going through as much of a transition as I am. They know me in my old role; but they may be unsure how will I be as a leader. What will they need to know about me, and how I operate? How is my style different than my predecessor? Just as I am trying to figure all of this out, so too are they.
4. Seek and act-on, real-time, in the moment feedback. For me to adjust and adapt my style – and to get to know the team – I need to seek out and ask for their direct feedback, and create the safe environment in which they can feel comfortable to provide that to me.
In my conversation with Matt Paese, we agreed that while all of these areas are important, addressing my skills and abiltiies in coaching, and establishing my role as coach with the team would accomplish several objectives. It reinforces the new nature of my relationship with the team, it helps the team get better at what they do, and it signals my intentions and expectations of them and of how I will be as a leader.
Mark Dembo is a Business Development Manager for DDI's Northeast District.