When I was only 25 I found myself, for the 1st time, in the position of leader. I had applied for and got a Training Manager position in a large retail organisation. Although at the beginning it was a stand-alone position, we grew quickly and I soon found myself leading a team of 5 or 6 people. I really wish I had known then, what I know now and I am so grateful to all the leaders I reported to who helped me to grow and develop my own leadership skills throughout the years.
So if I could turn back time and give myself as a new leader advice what would I tell myself?
Key 1: Support and empower your team
- Clarify your expectations. Have clear goals, targets and standards. Ensure each person knows exactly what you expect from them.
- Provide help as needed in 'how' to do it. This is a tricky one, because of the 'as needed'. Find out what they already know, ask for their ideas and encourage them to implement them. Support, coach, inspire, stimulate, but don't control, interfere or simply tell them what to do. Get it right and you empower, get it wrong and you completely demotivate.
- Give feedback as often as possible. Give praise and acknowledge their good ideas, when they did well and when they succeeded and show you notice the effort they put in and the results they got. Share when they missed something, made a mistake or were off track, so they can get back on track quickly and back to doing great and getting more praise. And remember to celebrate the successes.
Key 2: Never stop learning
Read, ask questions, watch what others do, learn from those who have mastered skills you haven't learned yet, learn from others' successes as well as failures, attend workshops, webinars and discuss problems with friends, colleagues and mentors. The more you learn, the more you realise there is to learn. So, learn, learn and keep learning how to improve what you do and how you do it. Apply the learning, practice, take risks, make mistakes, apologize, move on and continuously improve yourself.
Key 3: Communicate, communicate, communicate!
Remember that you can never over communicate. Take time to talk, chat, share, ask questions, discuss ideas, find out concerns, fears and wishes. Use what you learn to motivate and develop more, find every possible way to help them succeed.
Key 4: Embrace team diversity
No one else is like you, no two people are the same and we all do things differently. Don't try to get people to do what you do, instead help them to find their own way, what they do best and how they can do what they do even better than you. Don't judge or worry they're not doing things the right way, there is no 'right' way. Accept and embrace the differences and find the key to tapping into that inner potential and bringing out the best in each of your team.
Key 5: Build the team
Creating talented high performers is a great achievement, but building a high performing team is even better, because together, they can achieve so much more and have more fun at the same time. Create a common vision and goals, utilize everyone's strengths, work together on shared tasks, create new ideas together, encourage feedback within the team, celebrate and have fun together.
So now you have my personal 5 keys to leadership that I learned by being a leader and by helping other leaders to develop their leadership skills. While these 5 keys are great place to start I'm sure you have your own keys to successful leadership.
I invite you to share your key leadership lessons and help accelerate the leadership skills of other new leaders.
My next 5 blogs will go deeper into each of these 5 topics, sharing more how to's, do's and dont's and stories showing how it all works in practice.