You did it: You’ve made it to management! So, how can you take that one step further into a leadership role?
First, let’s consider the difference between managing and leading. Managing involves overseeing daily, tactical office functions and activities, whereas leading involves building on the overall capabilities of your team. Management is about navigating or attempting to resolve everyday issues, while leadership is about changing the mindsets of your team and how they view those challenges.
Sure, it feels good to be needed and step in to save the day, but solving every problem is not the way to do it. When you involve yourself too frequently, you rob your employees of their sense of engagement and personal accountability—which is actually a key source of motivation (and happiness). Part of being a leader is providing an environment in which your team can think independently and solve problems for themselves.
So how do you make that jump from managing people to leading them to greatness? Here are a couple of ideas.
Empower Your Employees
There is an epidemic that exists in the workplace called learned helplessness. It involves the belief that we have a lack of control over our circumstances. For this reason, many people run to managers for instant solutions the moment they face a roadblock. And some supervisors will respond by telling the person exactly how to proceed.
However, a true leader will engage this employee in a troubleshooting discussion—demonstrating his or her confidence in the person’s critical thinking. In this situation, ask how she thinks she can best move forward and add value. Once she realizes that you trust her to find a solution, she’ll begin to problem-solve on her own.
What if this person has trouble focusing on solutions because he’s hyper-focused on what he sees as outside factors causing his problems?
Well, a manager would work within this construct, but you would now help him redirect his energy. By shifting from defense to offense—or by helping to make the shift from focusing on what went wrong to how he can fix it—you’re leading him to a space where he can spend his time more productively.
Boost Their Confidence
Often times, employees come to management with issues or questions not because of a lack of competence, but because they are uncertain about their approach. So, before you jump to suggest action steps, ask if she has any ideas. She may just need a sounding board and some encouragement.
Once you take on a supervisory position, it’s time to trust your team to handle logistics while you focus on the vision and direction of your organization. This shows everyone that you believe in them, boosting their confidence and inspiring them to take more control of their work—which is essential to their own development as well as your progress.
A good boss also recognizes the importance of regular feedback. Acknowledge team members when they have successfully navigated an issue, and talk about what they did right. As you might expect, employees will enjoy the recognition and feel even more confident handling similar situations in the future.
Critical feedback—when administered right—can be powerful,too. When issues arise, talk about risks or details people might not have anticipated. Walking through these unforeseen challenges together can affirm your team’s thinking, which will build their confidence and, over time, make them less reliant on you.
To transition from a manager to a leader, you must let go of the reins and allow your team to take full control of their roles and responsibilities. Believe in their abilities wholeheartedly, even if the position they are taking on is more demanding. Not only will this give you the opportunity to put more of an emphasis on long-term goals, capabilities, and the company’s vision, it also helps everyone grow and develop. So be sure to give them (and you!) the opportunities they deserve.