Leading teams: How to Lead When Leading Doesn’t Come Naturally
“My most recent promotion means I now have to lead a team of 10 rather than 2, and it’s a whole different ball game – one that I’m not comfortable with. I’m not a natural leader (I simply love my job), but this new responsibility comes with the career climbing. I wish I could just stay as a specialist in my field and be promoted without so much leadership being involved. How can I get comfortable with this?”
This scenario is a very real and very common fear for many people I meet who’ve chosen to accept a job in a busy, medium-large organisation but have no desire to be ‘in management’ or lead other people. It’s a tough one…well, it is if you choose to see it that way…
Before you bolt for the door and set up your own business instead or start scanning more self-contained roles for an SME that doesn’t have big teams of people who need leading, you COULD view this as an opportunity to learn about yourself. I can promise you this: it WILL help you make more informed life choices later on. It’s encouraging and reassuring (if workplace recognition is important to you) that your employer has confidence in you and believes you’ll rise to the challenge.
No matter how ‘un-you’ this new role feels, it will stretch you and you will grow – and growth is always good! It doesn’t have to be forever either and that’s important to hang onto. Don’t forget, that you can lead in a way that suits who you are and your personality, you can find your own way to grow and develop your people without meaning you have to be the magnanimous leader on the stage with the microphone.
See this as a new, healthy phase you’ll commit to, and set yourself a personal (private) review date where you ask yourself honestly whether the new ‘leadership’ dimension is something you can enjoy (and others can benefit from) or is it as you feared. Either way, it will have taught you a few new things about yourself and that’s never a bad thing.
With this kind of promotion, the focus has shifted away from you simply being asked to deliver a bigger and better version of what you were providing for your organisation before. Now you need to gain the trust and cooperation of others too, so that you can use the strengths of these 10 very different, and very differently motivated people.
The key thing to realise at this point is that it’s no longer about YOU doing the day-to-day work, but about getting your people to deliver on your behalf through your guidance. You’ve got to motivate and support others through their development paths and deliver for the business (no one said it was easy!)
And that’s the key: motivation. Why do these 10 particular people show up each day? Not something you ever thought about before, maybe, but now you need to care! There’s no point trying to guess this one….
From self-awareness to social awareness
I know that all this may not feel intuitive, but there’s only so much talking about ‘the work’ will get you. If you don’t understand the person, you’ll never be able to unlock the potential you seek.
Establishing people’s values, motivations and sense of purpose is another way of cultivating their self-awareness (while also helping you understand them better). As a leader, cultivating self-awareness and self-management in your team is key. I’ll assume that (since you’re not a leader) you’ve largely got that covered in yourself, but now your goal is to cultivate your social awareness (understanding of others plus the organisational politics) and relationship management (influence, communication skills etc.)
OF COURSE all of this this goes alongside the usual leadership challenges of delivering for the business, managing workload, spreading enthusiasm, giving regular feedback and listening hard! They’ll expect all these must-haves from you, and you’ll need to get comfortable with them over time. This will be as much a journey for you as it is for them, but remember, your role now is to lead, not to micro-manage, not to give them the answers, not to hurry them along in delivering their tasks. You need to view your goal as leaving everyone in a better place than you found them (not literally!). By the end of their time with you, they should each have grown and developed in their own ways.
From now on, it’s all about people. If you can’t get your head around that, then it’s worth questioning whether leading is for you, but the best way to know is to give it a go!
So what do you think? Leave me a comment below if you have any questions, doubts or remarks.