Leading a team can be both thrilling in terms of professional development and terrifying in terms of the day-to-day. The UA has some fantastic leadership programs, but things are a little different once you get started in the workplace, especially once you have assumed your first leadership role.
Start by identifying what success looks like for you. Is it about hitting corporate goals or creating new processes? Is it about getting the maximum output or getting all the input you need? Once you know what you need from your role, you can focus on being the right kind of leader.
1. Be a coach
If your team needs development, think of yourself as a coach. That means working with each member to cultivate strengths, work on weaknesses and develop strategies that bring it all together. It also means that you need to be the voice of the team to management if your employees need more support or resources. If you are a recent grad still developing your leadership style, take mental notes on what tactics motivate you.
“The best time to develop your leadership skills is early in your career,” says Melinda Burke, president of the UA Alumni Association. “Start by identifying the strengths of those around you — co-workers and friends. This practice will become engrained in your work habits as you move into management and leadership roles.”
2. Be a cheerleader
In today’s fast-paced environment, employees can benefit from a strong voice of encouragement to keep them on track with goals and deadlines. (Co-workers can be cheerleaders too — even if you aren’t the leader of a team, you can still be supportive.) This is where you come in as positive reinforcement while still allowing team members to work autonomously. Show your team you trust them to get their work done without having to babysit. Reward members for jobs well done, whether that’s a surprise ice cream outing to relieve stress or a comp vacation day.
3. Be a support system
Being a manager can often make you feel like you’re the complaints department. While you don’t want to encourage office drama, be the point person team members can come to with issues. The key is to help team members work through how to handle certain issues on their own. Don’t step into every inter-office interpersonal issue. Rather than solve every problem, managers can give their teams the tools they need to move forward so that eventually more time is freed for work.
4. Be a realist
Don’t be afraid to set boundaries. You are there to answer questions that only you know the answers to. You aren’t a replacement for Google. You want team members to succeed, but on their own. You can gauge how much your team needs close assistance, and then reduce the time you spend walking members through tasks as they become more proficient. This will help them grow, and help you focus on your own tasks.
5. Be an example
Young employees who want to lead can stay positive and always be open to helping with tasks where needed, setting the right example. Professionals in management roles should be the leaders they’d want to have. Are there traits you admired in previous bosses or role models? Copy them! Have you been inspired by an autobiography? Make a list of what you admired about the subject’s leadership style. Think about what motivates you and apply that to your team. If you don’t like to be yelled at, don’t yell. If you like to be praised for small victories, others may too. As your team matures and takes on more leadership over time, you may even see them borrowing your style.