Four Challenges for New Leaders

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“Don’t be a super claims rep.” Back when I was on the leadership development team at Farmers Insurance, we gave this advice to new supervisors.

As I’ve moved on in my career, I’m amazed at how this rings true in other professions.

I now tell my associates, “Don’t be a super salesperson.” Or “Don’t be a super account manager.” However you fill in the blanks, the point’s the same. When you step into a leadership position, your job changes. And so should your perspective.

And when it doesn’t? Well, let’s say you were the best salesperson in the region. Now you’re a sales manager. Of course you don’t want your team to fail, so you step in to close deals and save accounts. Pretty soon you’re the “go to” person for the customer, same as before, only now with more customers. And suppose your team doesn’t document their meetings very well – at least not up to your standards. Guess who tidies up their entries in the evening?

Before long you’re working around the clock – just not the job that you’re paid to do.

Here’s a better way. I call it LEAD.

LEAD as in Let Go, Embrace, Accept and Dare to be different.

Dare to Be Different

  1. For starters, let go of the old.
  • Let go of the old job and the things you enjoyed about it. Let your reports get the glory for handling the tough customer calls, closing the deal, providing excellent service to your clients.
  • Let go of the need to be star. Shine the spotlight on the people who report to you. Believe me, as they excel, you’ll excel.
  • Let go of the need to be right every time. Maybe your team has better ideas for customer service. Give them a chance to be right.

2. And embrace the new.

  • Embrace the opportunity to be a coach. As a leader, you get things done through the members of your team. Develop their skills. Ask questions, gently push them to find solutions, then guide them in coming up with a plan. Then help them stay accountable.
  • Embrace the chance to serve. Mediocre leaders think it’s all about them. Great leaders know it’s all about the people they serve.
  • Embrace your team by building a foundation of trust. You can’t coach people who don’t trust you. Take some time up front to get to know your team.

3. Accept that there are some things you can’t change.

  • Accept that the people on your team are different from you. They have different definitions of success. They may not have your level of self-confidence. They may not accept feedback (or praise) the same way you do.
  • Accept that your team will make mistakes. Then coach them through them.
  • Accept that you will make mistakes too. Ask for forgiveness.

4. And, finally, dare to be different.

  • Dare to be a different type of leader. The last thing the world needs are more self-centered leaders. Be different. Be other-centered. Make it all about them.
  • Dare to trust your team. They may have some ideas that you’ve never thought of. As long as the suggestions don’t jeopardize health and safety standards, company policy, or your values, give them a try.
  • Dare to be wildly optimistic in an age of cynics. Play a different game.

According to John Maxwell, British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli once said: “The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.”

Now that’s being a leader.

So don’t be a super version of what you were before your promotion.

Instead, leave that role, embrace the new one, accept imperfection, and dare to be different.

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