I was inspired to write my first book, The New Leader, because I noticed that so many leaders at all levels find themselves in leadership roles without necessarily having the support and development to grow the key leadership skills and knowledge they need to be successful.
There are some concerning, though not surprising, statistics that support my observations:
- 60% of new leaders fail in the first year 1
- 87 % of first-time leaders feel frustrated, anxious, and uncertain about their new role 2
- 60% of leaders say they never received training when transitioning into their first leadership role 3
- 50% of managers in organisations are ineffective 4
1. Ashkenas, 2015. 2. Tacy M. Byham and Richard S. Wellins 3&4. Center for Creative Leadership
How do these statistics line up with your observations and experience?
I believe leaders need to be proactive and deliberate in setting time aside to develop more leaders. It is a fundamental responsibility.
While awareness is growing about how important it is to develop your leadership pipeline, and to proactively develop your leaders at all levels, I am still often asked about how to do it. How do I develop my people to become leaders? Or more senior leaders? What do they need to know?
Let’s start with laying a good foundation.
5 KEY LESSONS IN LEADERSHIP
Here are a few primary lessons that leaders must pass on to the leaders they are growing – what every leader should be passing on.
This is the stuff that all new leaders should be taught – practical and necessary. It will simply make their leadership life ever so much easier. (What I find though, is that often the senior leaders were not taught this either.)
LESSON 1 : GET ORGANISED
Choosing what to focus your time and effort on is critical as a leader…you need to choose between tasks, people, meetings, email and much more.
Consider the Time Management Matrix as one way to decide what to focus on. Focus your efforts on Quadrant 2 and Quadrant 1 activity, where you make the most impact.
Once you have mapped your current work into the Time Management Matrix, make decisions about what to stop, what to continue, and what to start.
You might also implement some efficiencies around how you process email, delegate activity, and declutter your workspace.
The objective is to create the time and space to lead.
LESSON 2 : PRIORITISE YOURSELF
This is about self-leadership, so you can be your best, and includes things like:
- Health and wellbeing
- Thinking and creative time
- Learning and development
If you don’t have anything in your tank, what have you got to offer others? Why would they choose you to lead them?
- Making meetings with yourself for doing your work, and for strategic thinking time
- Planning ahead each week – I do it on Friday afternoons
- Setting specific time for you to replenish, to have holidays, and do things you like with the people who are important to you
- Creating clear boundaries
- Checking your 6 month horizon to ensure you are focused on the top 3 to 5 strategic priorities of your role
What do you need to do here to make a difference for yourself?
The objective is to put on your oxygen mask on first.
LESSON 3: SPEND TIME WITH YOUR PEOPLE
As a leader, you’re only as good as the people around you. If you don’t like spending time with your people, then maybe you should think about a different job. A good rule of thumb is to consider spending about 30% of your time with your people.
One of the worst things you can do as a leader is cancel your one-on-one meetings with your direct reports. It sends the message that they are not important enough. One-on-one meetings are one of your greatest opportunities to mentor, model, and coach leadership.
Not sure how?
Consider this simple approach to make your one-on-one meetings with your leaders more effective. (I have adapted this from Taki Moore’s work.)
In your one-on-one meeting there are 4 areas of focus, a little looking back at the last week, and most of the time looking forward, where you create the future.
What was your win?
If it’s not a win it’s a lesson.
What did you learn?
What is your focus for the next eg week or month?
Always look forwards, rather than backwards. This is about creating the future.
What do you need right now so you can deliver on your focus?
This question provides the opportunity for you to support and coach your people.
When is your first opportunity to try out this approach?
The objective here is to focus on your people, specifically and deliberately spending time with them. Creating opportunities to build their capability and accountability.
LESSON 4 : HAVE THE ESSENTIAL CONVERSATIONS
It is so important to face into these important conversations. To offer your people the opportunity to understand, to improve, to learn and to gain clarity from you.
What are the essential conversations?
Here are some of the key conversations leaders need to be having regularly with their people:
- Expectation setting
It never ceases to amaze me that these conversations do not happen, and then leaders get disappointed when their people don’t understand the agenda, don’t deliver, or don’t change. If you have not had the important conversations with your people, you are not creating the opportunity for them to understand, deliver and choose to change.
Consider which conversations you still need to have with your people. If you’re not sure how to go about having these conversations in an effective way, then learn. Most importantly, go into each conversation having a positive intention….you want something good to come from this.
Which conversations with your people do you need to focus on here?
The objective here is to ensure that you have the important conversations…the ones that create the opportunity for progress and creating the right kind of future.
If you do not have the conversation, then you should not expect things to be different in future.
LESSON 5 : POSITIONING – FOR THE FUTURE
I discovered the hard way that no matter how good a job I was doing, nobody was looking out for me. The only person who puts you first, really puts you first, is you.
This means you need to take responsibility for your own career. You need to own it and direct it.
Yet I see so many leaders get tied up leading the people around them, they lose sight of their own needs and aspirations. Or miss opportunities that show up because their attention is not on themselves.
My number one tip here is to get yourself a mentor.
Having a mentor provides you with support and guidance from somebody who has trodden the path before you. Their agenda is you.
Consider who might be a candidate to be your mentor?
What is your first step towards getting your own mentor for right now?
So, what about your leaders? Which of these primary lessons do you need to share with them?
I’d love to know your thoughts.
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