If you've recently been promoted, congratulations. It's an honor to receive a promotion that puts you in a leadership role. But be wary: You carry a great deal of responsibility that can easily be taken away should you not live up to expectations. Not to set off alarm bells, but of people who have been promoted, a full 40 percent of them will fail within their first 18 months on the job. Most of the failure stems from a few key leadership mistakes that The Forum Corp.'s President and CEO Andrew Graham outlines:
1. Alienating your team. Graham says that you likely got your promotion by standing out from others, but now that role has changed. Rather than focusing on continuing to shine alone, you need to help your subordinates stand out. "If your subordinates or peers perceive that you care more about your interests than theirs, you will lose them. And once you lose them, you will lose, period," he says.
2. Keeping the same mindset. You got where you are by being really good at a few key skills for the job. You can just about toss those out of the window if you want to be a good leader, because, as Graham says, your focus should now be on "high-value activities that deliver business results through the team." It's all too common for new managers to make the mistake of focusing on low-value activities (think: TPS reports) that don't benefit the team and that are others' responsibilities.
3. Not asking for help. You're the leader now. That means you're expected to know everything ... doesn't it? Not at all. Rather than being overconfident you can handle a situation you've never encountered before, the smart thing is to ask for input from others. "Asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it's the contrary," stresses Graham. Understand that your team will respect you for saying you don't know the answer to a question, but that you will make it a priority to find it.
4. Making all the decisions alone. Leaders should lead, not dictate. But many feel like the key to leading is taking on all the decisions on their own. Rather than being seen as a fine leader, you will be resented for leaving your employees out in the cold on a decision they felt entitled to weigh in on. Instead, involve other team members in your decision-making process so that you build a sense of community and democracy, not a dictatorship.
5. Ignoring transitions. You being promoted to manager or leader isn't the only transition you need to deal with. While you're settling into that corner office, your new team is adjusting to having a new person at the helm, and all the personal interplay that brings among co-workers. Not spending enough time making that transition smoother can set the course for how your team operates, and it might make things more difficult down the road.
6. Leaning too hard on book smarts. So you went to an Ivy League school. So what? All the fine education in the world can't prepare you for cultivating your people-leadership skills, which account for 85 percent of a leader's success, according to Graham. You can apply what you've learned in books, but the best leaders help their staff learn to solve problems themselves, and teaching that can't be learned anywhere but on the job.
The first few months of taking on a leadership role are the most precarious. Begin to think like a leader and focus your actions around what is best for the team. Ask for feedback from your staff and your own boss so that you can quickly correct anything that could stand to be improved.
Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs.com, a niche job board for public relations, communications, and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.
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