What are the main things new leaders (juniors) need to succeed at their jobs?

Monday, February 2nd, 2009 - career coaching, project management


Monica asks: What are the main things new leaders (juniors) need to succeed at their jobs? With layoffs of more Senior managers, many companies are left with very enthusiastic but inexperienced leaders. What do they need to learn fast to be successful? Especially since there are no mentors left within the company?

In answer:

One skill older people poses far more over younger people are simply summarised as people skills, and most specially: listening. I have met many older people who don’t have as many ideas as younger people, but they get far more done because they can garner support for implementing the ideas they do have.

Young people have many new and wonderful ideas, but they lack the skills to implement 9 our of 10 of them. This is not a failure of thought, planning or enthusiasm; but simply a tactical issue of timing and communication.

I had two experiences which influenced my later career, both given by older people. The first was from a college mentor who got me to read a book called “Don’t do, delegate” which defines the art of delegation, and most importantly the art of task setting for a manager within a team. Summarised, the book says that you must allow the doer of the task to “own it” through defining the how its done – if you don’t let them do it and own it, it won’t get done.

The second lesson was as a result of a failure, when I moved a team from one location 20miles down the road to a second location – something none of them wanted to do, because it moved them away from their homes. They quickly moved out of that location, and moved further down the road by another 5miles to a location they found themselves. Later, one of the team who is now a good friend, said and summarised it as: “You accomplished the headline task, but failed the team.”

I would make five rules in your role as a manager:

  1. Never ask anyone to do a task you would never do yourself
  2. Meet with all of your people at least once a period, at minimum once a year
  3. When ever you meet someone, always take notes. You may not need them, but it will show to them you are listening
  4. Back your people to the hilt, but always be clear about what you expect of them. Standards, like water, flow down hill to the rest of your team – set an example
  5. Never tell anyone off in front of anyone else. Rolickings are a private matter, and should always be accompanied by a “and what did you learn never to do again?”

I personally make it a point of asking people for their date of birth, and then call or send them a note on their birthday: birthdays are personal, and it shows you care.

The MBA can wait for later, but if you can’t engage, lead and manage – but most importantly communicate – them all the degree’s from every Ivy League school in the world won’t ever make you a manager.

Good Luck!

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