Being promoted for the first time into a leadership role, whether you have a team of 2 or 20, is always a tricky change if you are unprepared. You may not be considering the responsibility you are accepting. You may be more excited about moving up the corporate ladder and getting more perks in your new role, especially if this happens to you at a younger age, which happened to me.
I was 25 years old and had two successful years in a sales role when I received my first promotion to leadership. I had performed well individually and was excited about the future and what I could accomplish in my new role. There I was, happy with a bigger office, an excellent title on my business card, and more money - ready to be a leader. I managed a sales team of three, two event coordinators, two banquet managers, and a group of servers. What could go wrong? I only needed to ensure we hit our revenue goals throughout the year, great margins, low costs, and ensure everyone would perform at their best. Easy right?
As I settled into my new role and enjoyed having fresh coffee in my office by 8 am, I realized the people I was attempting to lead were not getting along. The sales team members viewed each other as rivals and did not like each other and often blamed the coordinators for something going wrong. Oh and add to the fact that one of my team members was suspected of drinking on the job. Now, what?
I started to feel like this leadership thing was not a good idea after all. How was I supposed to help people get along, have coaching conversations with individuals twice my age, and deal with a potential drinking problem at work?
I wasn't formally trained in leadership - I was formally trained in sales.
So, what did I do?
I did what almost everyone in my situation does: lead with what you know based on what you have seen from other leaders! Sadly, similar behaviors existed in my second leadership role….All I remember is that it was challenging and exhausting.
I realized it was exhausting to "manage people" because I was trying to manage their personalities and convince them why they needed to help me meet the plan or goals. By this time, I had a bigger team, the task was more challenging, and I needed to get the desired results. I felt I needed to be doing better, and it was only a matter of time before I would lose the opportunity to keep the role I had. I was struggling to get through to my team.
Giving up was not an option for me; it never is.
I started looking for solutions and turned to the Internet. I found books, podcasts (relatively new then), and leadership and growth events. I thought, "Someone must have the same problem; there was no way I was alone." And I wasn't. I found mentors whom I prefer to call friends (bestselling authors). These friends educated me, encouraged me, guided me with practical lessons, and, most importantly, helped me understand my real role as a leader. As my friend, John C. Maxwell, says all the time,
“For the person trying to do everything alone, the game really is over. If you want to do something big, you must link up with others. One is too small a number to achieve greatness. That’s the Law of Significance.”
“You can’t take the team to the next level when you haven’t mastered the skills it takes to succeed on a personal level.”
I was responsible for being the best version of myself to guide my team. I could not give what I did not have in me.
I started to see my role differently, not as a fancy title but as a badge of honor. I was not only representing myself anymore; I was representing them, too. If they were not successful, then that was on me. It was my team. I had a responsibility to them and the board of the company. I decided to help my team to be the best version of themselves. Some had that desire already, so it was fun to grow together; some needed more time to realize what they wanted and needed. I could never force anyone to want to win, that was a personal decision, and I respected that. But, I do know everyone wants to grow and it was my job to help them. As I look back, I realize that leaders are not born. They are made. Leadership is an intentional process that requires awareness first and personal development - FOREVER.
If you recently received your first promotion into a leadership role, congratulations! I am thrilled for you! Now what? Don't wait ten years like I did to realize there is a better way. Don't try this alone either; getting help is your responsibility, not your boss's. Take ownership. If they teach you, be grateful. If they don't, be curious. Be proactive and choose your mentors. Invest in your leadership development because everyone deserves a leader they want to follow.
Butler Street’s Leadership Effectiveness program is a great place to invest in yourself or your team of leaders. You will learn the skills to have effective coaching conversations, eliminate the drama, and ensure everyone on your team is engaged and growing. Contact us to discuss custom options for your team - onsite, virtual instructor-led, or self-paced online programs. We help companies and their people grow.®