Many new leaders start their leadership journey with one, big question: “Where do I start?”
It’s a great question with an answer that is often clouded by uncertainty, overwhelm, and, doubt. To help you sort out the answer to that question, I propose you ask three other questions on your first day as a new leader. After you answer these three questions, you can focus on the most important things to establish yourself quickly in your new leadership role.
The three questions are …
1. How do I want to be remembered when I leave this role?
It might sound a bit odd to ask a future-based question on your first day as a leader, and it is still a critical question to consider as early as possible in your leadership journey. In the words of Stephen Covey, you want to “begin with the end in mind.”
Begin your quest for Remarkable Leadership by considering how you hope to be remembered after you leave the role so that you can start building towards that legacy from day one of your leadership responsibilities. It is better to have your end goal in mind and to take conscious action to build towards it than to make snap judgements without consideration of the long-term impact, only to later find that you have to slow down and possibly back-up to repair broken relationships, catch-up on missed opportunities, or otherwise “dig yourself out of a hole” as a leader.
Before you begin, consider where you want to end your leadership journey. Then, take action and make decisions with that end goal in mind.
2. What does my leader and organization expect of me?
After you have a clear picture of how you want to be remembered as a leader, take a moment to consider what your leader and your organization – beyond your team – expects of and needs from you. At this point, keep your considerations in the realm of big-picture issues rather than minutiae and details. For example, you might consider:
- What short-term results do you need to achieve?
- What long-term results do you need to achieve?
- What changes do you need to implement?
With a clear picture of where you want to go personally, and where your leader and organization needs you to take your team, you can then ask the third question…
3. What does my team need from me in order to succeed?
Your team needs things from you – training, time, budget money, direction, coaching, decisions, information, conversation, etc. After you understand where you need to lead your team, you can now consider what you need to provide to your team so that they can move in that direction with energy and clarity.
While there are generalized models of team dynamics and development, every team is different. Some teams are basically a collection of individuals with mostly individual responsibilities who must interact occasionally, and other teams are highly interdependent collections of people who must share information and resources closely on a daily basis. Some teams are highly developed and functioning, and other teams are pretty new and unsure of themselves. Each of these situations demands a different leadership approach. Each team needs something different from their leader.
One of your first responsibilities as a new leader is to figure out what your team needs from you in order to be successful.
While the first question probably lends itself to a more private, self-reflective answer, the next two questions do not. To successfully answer questions two and three, engage in conversation with others. Get their thoughts and feelings. Collect their perspectives. Weigh their opinions. The process of answering these questions in a collaborative way with other people will help you to develop clarity and focus on the starting question: Where do I start?
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