April 3, 2018
Imagine waking up one morning and finding yourself in a different country. Your house is the same, but everything else has changed. People are speaking a different language (one that you learned in school but have never spoken in practice). The road signs are unfamiliar, and you aren’t sure who you could even go to for directions.
If you have been promoted into a leadership role without support, this scenario probably feels familiar. You might still sit in the same office and work for the same company, but everything else has shifted under your feet.
Unfortunately, this is an all too common occurrence. People who are great as individual contributors are promoted because they are so good at what they do. But succeeding as a manager requires different skills and habits and a very different mindset. While some organizations provide training in the form of workshops or online courses, being a new leader involves trying to apply all of those new ideas at once, which is beyond overwhelming.
What new managers need most is a guide. Ideally this would be a professional coach, but not all organizations provide that level of support to new leaders.
If you’re on track to be promoted or have recently taken on a leadership role, and you feel like you’re on a journey without a map, what should you do? Here are some ways to find the support you need:
Create a peer group. Even if your company doesn’t offer a structured program, you can create your own support system by organizing a peer coaching group. Find two or three colleagues, either in your organization or outside of it, and meet in person or online to discuss challenges and come up with ideas for solutions. Share articles or videos you’ve seen with useful tips. Just having a group of peers to share the learning process will help you find your way faster.
Engage with your industry association. Most industries have professional associations that offer learning and support to their members. Look for mentorship programs and networking groups, as well as formal training courses and online programs.
Find a mentor. While you might not have access to a professional coach to help you navigate the transition to management, you may be able to find a mentor. This person may be someone you worked for in the past that you believe was a great manager. Or it might be someone in your current organization that you feel is great at what he or she does.
Many new managers feel like the toughest part of the transition to leadership is the process of learning new skills and habits on the fly, without enough support. You’ll benefit greatly by having peers and mentors to help you avoid the pitfalls of becoming a team leader.