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Important lessons for new leaders

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Succesful-Businesswoman-3.jpgThere are a few common truths that new managers need to be made aware of as early on in their management development as possible in order to create a positive, productive and high performance environment,” says consultant with the Human Performance Practice of The IQ Business Group, Sue Bennie.

Leadership refers to a process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task. “The issue of good leadership and management at both junior and senior levels is key to the success of all organisations and entities, including governments. However, enlisting the aid and support of others in order to meet strategic objectives and achieve deliverables is not an easy task at any level,” says Bennie.

The most challenging time for leaders is often in the early days of leading and managing others. Drotter, Charan and Noel noted in the book The Leadership Pipeline that the biggest shift was from being a manager of self to a manager of others.

“The shift from only having to manage yourself to having to manage other people around you can be challenging, especially for young, inexperienced leaders,” says Bennie. Once the initial leadership skills have been learnt, the progression to manager of managers and leader of leaders becomes much easier.

There are a few recurring fundamentals that challenge new managers in the early days of managing and leading. Firstly, it takes some time for new leaders to learn that part of their work is now done through other team members’ efforts. No longer is the leader only responsible to get their own work done, but the new manager’s role is to help the team achieve their individual and group goals in order for the whole team to be successful.

Secondly, new managers and leaders often fall into the trap of avoiding tough conversations with their direct reports, allowing leeway when delivery doesn’t happen or performance is not at the required standard. This means that the direct report does not experience good, clear performance management at the point of performance and therefore learn and improve, and only finds out that he has not performed adequately sometime later, when the opportunity to improve and grow has passed.

Thirdly, new managers are not always knowledgeable about their company’s policies, the implications of labour legislation and the practical application of the policies. This can result in them making some basic errors, such as agreeing to various types and amounts of leave they aren’t at liberty to agree to. These errors can go against the organisations president or have legal implications for the organisation.

“New leaders need to educate themselves about company policies and labour law as soon as possible so they are able to adequately discern which HR decisions they are able to make and which ones need to be passed onto other departments,” says Bennie.

“A comprehensive new manager’s training programme or orientation could generally help eliminate some of these issues. Also, support in the form of mentoring and coaching from their managers or seniors during the initial months of managing others can be effective in equipping new leaders for the challenges they will face.

Time needs to be allocated to the learning phase where training and observation of those already in management and leadership positions takes place. Simulations where the new managers can practice their developing skills in a safe environment would also be ideal to help learn the complexities in becoming great managers and leaders,” explains Bennie.

“Overall, new leaders should not be thrown in the deep end when taking on a leadership position. Adequate training and preparation will equip new leaders and help them avoid the common pitfalls of early leadership development,” Bennie concludes.

Sue Bennie has worked in the HR field for over 15 years, as an HR Manager at various companies including Deloitte, as a Global Project Manager for the development and design of leadership and management programmes at Dimension Data and currently as a Consultant with the Human Performance Practice of the IQ Business Group.

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