You worked hard, sharpened your skills and landed a big promotion. Now what? Leadership roles don't come with a handbook to help you juggle more responsibilities and solve every problem. Fortunately, every novice leader faces the same learning curve. Staying calm and focused can help you avoid major missteps as you ease into a leadership role.
Get Advice From Mentors
Try not to assume everyone sees you as unqualified or undeserving of your job if you have questions. Being the boss doesn't mean you need to have all the answers right away. Calm your nerves by talking to other leaders you admire. All experienced managers were once in your shoes and likely have good advice on managing your workload and relationships. More importantly, listening to mentors helps you realize that dealing with fear is an ongoing challenge for anyone in a leadership role, regardless of experience.
Jumping in with big ideas may seem ambitious, but it's a recipe for disaster. Avoid stressing over your leadership role or making sweeping changes in the team workflow. Instead of taking on too much right away, focus on one task at a time to allow yourself to adapt. You create more obstacles when you try to rush ahead and see the big picture before you have a handle on day-to-day obligations. Leaving your comfort zone is scary, but you can keep insecurities in check by starting the day with a project that harnesses your strengths.
Acknowledge Your Mistakes
Whether communicating with your boss or subordinates, learn to be honest about your mistakes. Ignoring your flaws destroys trust on your team and allows minor problems to keep growing. Accept the reality that not all decisions turn out well, and you can't improve a bad situation by passing blame or denying accountability. Everyone makes mistakes, so most people are understanding if you take ownership and act quickly to correct the problem.
Ask for Feedback
Many people choose to be aggressive right away to assert authority and earn respect from their former peers. In reality, this approach often sets a negative tone that makes employees believe they can't open up to a new boss. Rather than alienating people, show your maturity and willingness to learn by asking co-workers for no-nonsense feedback. You never know what great ideas might surface, and employees may even point out workflow problems the previous manager never resolved. Asking for feedback gives you the opportunity to find out what's important to your team and identify ways to boost productivity.
Seek Out Leadership Training
If you're overwhelmed with anxiety about your leadership role, seeking out sources of continuing education may restore your confidence. Look for formal leadership training courses, put together a reading list or find out if your employer offers professional enrichment. You can also research mentoring and career development groups in your area through sites such as Meetup. Getting guidance from people outside your workplace might make it easier to let your guard down and relieve stress.
Leadership skills don't develop overnight. Give yourself time and room to grow into a leadership role day by day, and maintain a positive attitude to show others your commitment to being a good manager. Embracing your experiences on the job is the best way to improve at making decisions and handling challenges.
Photo courtesy of Berliner.Gazette at Flickr.com