How to succeed as a new leader
Here's your blueprint for success in your first 100 days
Welcome back to Lead with Intention! The next issue will be an “Ask Me Anything” where you get to ask me any question you’d like, agony aunt style, about leadership, communication and modern business. I’ll send out a prompt via email later this week and then look out for the answers in the next issue, so get your thinking caps on…
Today I’m diving into one of the areas I am asked to help with a lot as a coach.
Your first 100 days as a new leader.
Yep, that nervous laughter is all too real as you contemplate starting again as the new kid. But this time, you’re one of the teachers. That’s right. Not only are you new, you’re expected to lead others! And quickly!
Starting a new role is hard. And too often, organisations don’t invest enough support in newly promoted managers.
They assume that the talented specialist who had the answers to everything, will automatically become an effective leader of people, able to manage teams beyond their own technical expertise. And then they wonder why so many struggle to make it work.
Add in the weight of expectation (particularly for women leaders) and the imposter syndrome that so often comes out to play, and the first few months as a new leader can feel like a lonely and intimidating place.
Here’s how to smash those first 100 days and set yourself up for long-term success.
Start before you begin
The best way to prepare for success in any new role and especially as a first time leader, is to do as much due diligence as you can before your first day. Even if it's an internal promotion and you already feel you know the company. Do you know what they expect of leaders?
Meet your team. Meet your peers. Meet your leadership team. Ask the questions that will help you understand how your function and your role works within the organisation, where the gaps are and how it is valued.
Take a look at the good and the bad in the public sphere (Glassdoor, local news, industry news, Facebook, LinkedIn).
Digging in before you start will put you on the front foot from day one.
What questions can you ask to help you before you start in a new role?
Embrace a leadership mindset
This isn’t one of those woo-woo things, I promise. But when you are moving from being a manager or a specialist, to a leader of people, you have to recognise and embrace the shift that it calls for.
Your new identity is going to be shaped as a leader. What does this mean to you? It’s time to find out.
Think about the leaders you admire. The ones you don’t. And ask yourself why. What does this tell you about the way you want to lead in the future?
What are your values? Authentic leaders are ones who stay aligned with their values no matter what, so they can lead with purpose and meaning.
One of my values is integrity. To me, this means always calling out poor behaviour. Apologising when I get things wrong. Making hard decisions if it’s the right thing to do.
Take some quiet time to reflect on how it feels to be on the receiving end of you as a leader at work. Ask trusted peers and colleagues too. Then listen to what they (and your inner voice) is telling you. Be brave enough to sit with the insight and think about any changes you may want to make as a result.
What are your values? How will they shape your leadership identity?
Lead with curiousity
In your first 100 days as a new leader, curiousity is your superpower.
It's your window of opportunity to ask searching questions and use your new status in the organisation to peek under the hood and start figuring out how everything works.
This is a really powerful period in your new role, so don't waste it! Use every interaction with someone at work to glean new information and ask another question.
"How does that work? Can you show me?"
"Why do we do it like that? Can you explain?"
"Is there a reason we don't do x?"
"How long you have worked here? What keeps you here?"
“What's the best thing about working here?" (And the worst...)
“How do you find out about things that are happening here?"
These six questions will get you started, but there are hundreds more. And the best thing? No-one will question your questions, because you're new. Don't waste the opportunity.
How can you build curiousity into your leadership practice?
Build trust and understanding
One of the biggest challenges I hear about when coaching new leaders is how to manage teams effectively when you’re no longer there day-to-day.
It can seem overwhelming to go from being there every day and knowing every single thing about your team and how they work (as well as having all the answers for them), to leading multiple teams. Sometimes outside of your own technical expertise.
Trust is the answer.
How are you building trust with your teams? Do they understand they are trusted to do their best work without being micro-managed? Do they know what they are aiming for, what good looks like? Are they clear on expectations and process? These are all things you can put in place without being there every second of the day. Think of it as a team charter. A shared idea of what a good team looks like.
What conditions are you putting in place so that your team can thrive? What’s the shared vision of success? Are there common goals everyone is working towards?
Communicate with confidence and clarity
Every effective leader knows how to communicate well. But they may not have born with these skills. They’ve practiced and learned what works for them.
When you are a new leader, you are expected to have a voice. And you need to use it well.
Women in particular, are often subject to limiting self-beliefs about the way we communicate and are / are not taken seriously. Add in societal stereotypes (the old, “women are bossy, men are great leaders” trope) and it can be hard to break through and communicate with impact.
Here are some things to consider in your 1st 100 days:
Do you hedge, apologise or caveat your words when speaking? How would it feel if you removed these obstacles and spoke clearly and calmly about what you believe?
Do you tend to rely on jargon instead of simply speaking as a human being?
Does your body language mirror your leadership position?
Record yourself speaking on video.
Watch it for clues on how to improve.
2024 is around the corner…
In this last quarter of the year, some of you might be thinking about promotions or new roles as you consider what 2024 has in store for you and your career.
So I hope these tips have helped shape your thinking about how you can embark on a leadership with confidence, integrity and curiousity.
My final piece of advice? Believe in yourself and back yourself as a leader.
You’ll be tempted to second guess yourself often, be challenged by unhelpful peers or partners, doubt your own ability to grow a team and grow the business.
But remember this - you got the role for a reason. You earned it.
Now’s the time to go out there and show the world.
Until next time! (An “Ask Me Anything” email will be winging its way to your inbox later this week and I’d love to know what’s on your mind and what I can help with!)
If you’re curious about how coaching can support your leadership journey in a more structured way, please book a free strategy call with me to find out more. I take on one-to-one clients at the moment, and will be launching a group programme early next year. I’d love to help you if you’re feeling stuck.