May 2013

Effective Leadership - Back to Basics

I had a wonderful opportunity to work recently with a first-time manager on the basics of shifting from an individual contributor to a manager of others.  It was a change of pace from the higher level leaders I typically work with.  It reminded me of the importance of the patterns we build when first becoming supervisors or managers of others, and the traps we can fall into if we develop less than effective habits.  


Brad was a young, new manager in a large organization that had created a separate shared services center to centralize the transactional functions.  Because the processes in the newly created center were new for everyone, Brad felt uncomfortable with his lack of process knowledge, and being able to direct his team of 13 employees to find all the right answers. 

Instead of admitting his own lack of knowledge and stepping in to help the team, he avoided their questions and directed them to find their own answers.  He had lots of preconceived ideas about what a good supervisor should be and do.  He thought that since he was the supervisor, he should have the answers, but he didn’t.  And instead of asking for personal help, he skirted the issues, and at times made up an answer when cornered.  A big mistake.  When we try to cover up a lack of knowledge or confidence in a new role, it always jumps up to bite us.

Shift from "I" to "We"

Brad’s feedback from the team included numerous comments that they understood his lack of knowledge, and clearly knew they were all missing answers in the new organization.  They just wanted him to recognize the importance of helping them find answers and to be more visible with the team.  Something he mistakenly assumed would be perceived as micro-managing them.  

I had brad try some simple exercises that included daily reflection around what he was learning, and how he was helping his team.  He started asking questions designed to help create partnerships with his team as they continued to learn.  Instead of telling or avoiding the team, he began asking them questions using phrases like, “what if we did… or what if we tried…”  He began to let go of his past supervisor role perspective and became more comfortable asking his peers and others for help. He was responding versus reacting to the various situations, which helped him to build his confidence.

Basic reminders…

If you a seasoned leader or a new manager or managing a new supervisor, these basics are always good reminders:

  • Realize that you won’t have all the answers no matter how experienced you may be. Develop your team by engaging them in collaborative activities and problem solving with you.  It’s a great way to build trust.
  • Communicate as much as you can, and more than you think you need to.  Common feedback from employees is that they are not kept in the loop with important information.
  • Become aware of your impact on others by asking for feedback to help you recognize what’s most important to your team, and how you are being perceived.  
  • Listen well which can be harder than it seems.  The more you actively listen, the better you will understand the important issues and concerns.  And sometimes, just listening is all that’s required.
  • Be available which means lots of things including physical presence and being fully and mentally present with others, and no multitasking. When you are under pressure to meet personal deadlines, let your team know so they will understand any periodic unavailability.  
  • Recognize good work – get to know what inspires and motivates your team, and recognize them accordingly.
  • Remember that becoming an effective manager takes time!  Reflect on your progress each week and you’ll be surprised at your growth and learning.


 "Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile". – Vince Lombardi

 Struggling with leadership effectiveness or business change?
If you’re looking to enhance your leadership effectiveness and would like some help to get the results you’re looking to achieve, I’d love to talk with you. I help leaders to successfully navigate the challenges of making change to achieve the results they want. Visit my website for details, free resources and to schedule a complimentary consultation to move you forward!



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