What NOT to do as a New Leader
Achieving a new leadership position is both rewarding and challenging. It is recognition that you are someone who can make a difference, lead others and get things done. On the other hand, it is perhaps another step toward more responsibility and more visibility.
Whether you are a new executive, department manager, product manager, or team leader; when you are new to the role, people will watch closely to understand your style and how to work with you. Here are just a few of the things people will be evaluating:
- Are you decisive? How will you make decisions?
- What do you tolerate?
- Do you hold people accountable?
- Are you approachable?
- Will you listen? Can you be influenced?
- Do you take action?
- How do you react to bad news?
- Do you focus on big picture or detail?
- Can you be put off, pocket-vetoed?
- How will you deal with both good and poor performance?
- How do you think about customers; how do you treat them?
- How will you gather information?
- What are your values?
“Many people confuse lengthy discussions with being effective.” –Bruce Rhoades
In two previous posts for new leaders, I described several tips to quickly and effectively establish your style, culture and values:
However, as you begin to take action and set the desired cultural tone for the organization, it is easy to allow some behaviors to undermine your effectiveness as a leader. Here are a few things NOT to do as a new leader:
When involved in the various skip-level and other informal meetings, be careful not to usurp the authority of other leaders who may be responsible. If necessary, instead of acting at the time, simply make note of the situation, ask a few questions, then work through the appropriate leader to do what is necessary later.
Using the techniques I outlined in the previous post to get good information will sometimes surface bad news. Be cautious not to “kill the messenger” of the news, but listen and take the appropriate action in the proper forum. Strong, emotional reaction to a messenger of bad news kills open communication.
It is easy as a new leader to focus on solving problems. Be sure to balance problem solving with actions to capitalize on new opportunities and future strategies. Looking forward to possibilities allows the organization to solve current problems with a better context.
It is great to make decisions and take action, but be cautious to balance long-term, larger initiatives with the short-term actions. You will be more effective with organizational focus on a few long-term initiatives that are completed rather than on too many initiatives that drag on forever.
When people have ulterior motives that are for personal gain or to hide negative consequences for actions and proposals, it undermines clear communication and trust in the organization. Always prompt people to explain their motives if you suspect hidden agendas. Asking questions is a good way to get to the actual agenda.
“Upward delegation undermines accountability and empowerment.” –Bruce Rhoades
A pocket veto is when someone appears to agree but actually does nothing, hoping that the subject will be forgotten. A pocket veto in business is a sign of passive-aggressive behavior. It not only undermines the effectiveness of the organization, but it also undercuts your leadership. Always confront this behavior with follow-up and reprimands. Pocket veto behavior is not like baseball – you do not get three strikes. Taking direct action with someone with this behavior will quickly set the tone for everyone that pocket vetoes are not a good idea.