Whether you’re inheriting a team or building one from scratch, being a first-time leader is overwhelming.
Here are five tips to get you started on your road to success.
Tip One: First-Time Leaders Start with the Business Goals
Every first-time leader’s primary function within an organization is to take what the executive team has set out, translate that to their team, and make sure that their teams are successful in creating and executing whatever programs need to exist.
For you to be most successful, you need to know what the executives of your company are stating as the business goals. Those are the goals that you need to ladder up to no matter what you’re doing.
Once you get your company goals, you can take those bigger, overarching goals, and figure out how to translate them into a vision and goals for your team. And as you get into performance management, you can take a lot of the business outcomes and figure out how you turn those into performance outcomes for your team members.
Tip Two: Set Expectations for Performance
Whether you’re building a team from scratch or inheriting a team, setting your expectations with your team members upfront is extremely important. Setting expectations is going to be the fundamental benchmark of what you refer to during ongoing performance reviews during the year.
So how do you set performance expectations?
First, you need to take the business goals that you looked at earlier, figure out how to translate it into your team, and then break down how every member of your team is going to contribute to that goal.
For example, you have a revenue goal, let’s say $1 million. If your team oversees sales then you can say, okay, we’re going to have a pipeline of $5 million potential in revenue. And divide that number out by different sales associates, so everyone has a specific number that they can work towards.
In addition to laddering to those bigger business goals, you also need to decide how you’re going to evaluate your team. And there are a lot of different ways to do this, depending on how sophisticated your company is, or how sophisticated your team is.
One method of you can measure performance is through leading indicators, which essentially means actions you can “check off” as you go. So, you can say, “we’re going to go after 5 leads today, or we’re going to go after 50 leads this month.”
Another method of measuring performance is lagging indicators. If you know your outcome — for example, you want to hit a certain click-through rate on a campaign — you would need to figure out what your performance metrics would be per team member.
There are pros and cons to each method but knowing how you evaluate your team is extremely important.
At the end of the day, you want to explain to your team how they will succeed on your team.
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Tip Three: Create Processes and Manage Workflows
Now it’s time to get into the gritty and figure out how you’re going to manage your team, and what the workflows look like. How are your team members expected to work together?
I would start by looking at your company’s available management softwares, and what existing workflows or processes exist.
If you’re inheriting a team, a lot of times those workflows and processes are already in place. And you may need to evaluate whether those are successful or not.
If you have a new team, you must develop what the new processes are going to be, and sometimes it takes a little bit longer for those processes to sink in.
Some things to consider when it comes to product managing and workflow, is how are you going to be tracking projects? How are you going to be tracking each, individual person, without micromanaging? And, how are you tracking metrics?
Primary processes to think through on your team:
• Performance Management
• Time Management (for Service-Based organizations)
• Project Management
• Workflow Management
• Communication Platforms
Tip Four: Improve Your Soft Skills
Every organization is unique in their requirements of their first-time leaders. But, commonly, a lot of the skills that made you successful as an individual contributor are not the same skills that will make you successful as a first-time leader.
You will no longer be judged on your technical abilities. Instead, your ability to work within office politics and influence people to accomplish tasks will be your job.
In addition to influencing other departments, you will need to be actively solving problems with very minimal direction.
Each industry and company have various required soft skills, but as a middle first-time leader, you will no longer be judged on your ability to do technical work.
Be sure to invest time in learning what skills are required at your organization and refine those.
Tip Five: Constantly Be in Alignment
A lot of times your role isn’t to execute a specific program. Your role is to make sure that your team is moving in the right direction.
So you want to be in alignment with your first-time leader, and your supervisory team, your team, and your executives. If you can juggle all of those personalities, you’ll rise quickly as a leader in your organization.
Alignment also means that your team is being judged appropriately and that any expectations are being communicated both up and down the organization. That means a lot of conversations and a lot of trial and error.
With the right attitude, you can keep yourself and your team in alignment and moving forward.
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