When you become a leader for the first time, it is not only your title that changes. How you are perceived by your colleagues and employees and how people interact with you changes too.
In my experience, some of these changes come as a surprise to new leaders. Here are 3 common problems that new leaders often find surprising and some suggestions for how to deal with it.
1. “I am no longer seen as part of the team in the same way I used to be”
That is because you are no longer a team member, but the leader of the team. You might find that conversations stop when you join the team for lunch, you might not always be invited for social events after work, and you don’t get the company gossip the same way as you used to. This is a natural development and something you have to accept – thinking back to when you were a team member, you will probably realise you acted the same way towards your leader as your team is now doing towards you now. While you still can have fun with the team, you need to look to new groups where you are an equal part of the group, e.g., your leadership team.
2. “When I was promoted to leader some team members started sharing some of the challenges they have in their private lives – I had only been a leader for two weeks when one in my team had shared with me, she was getting a divorce and was very unhappy and another shared his wife was terminally ill. This was not what I signed up for.”
Some team members might have challenges in their private life that affect their work life. As a new leader you need to be prepared for members of your team to share personal information with you, because it can have an impact on how they act at work. But before you get too scared about it, you should instead be grateful that your team members trust you enough to share their vulnerabilities. It is in situations like these, that you need to show your empathetic skills and give them support at work to help them in the best way possible. For some, it is enough that they know their leader is informed about what is going on. For others it could be more flexibility in working hours, less demanding tasks, or something completely different. You need to ask your employee how you can best help them and find out what is the best option in the given situation.
3. “I was promoted because I was really good at my job. As a new leader I thought I could expect everyone in the team to solve their tasks the same way as I would have done it. However, my team gets really annoyed with me for interfering.”
Delegating is probably one of the most important skills to learn as a new leader. You need to reach a point where you are comfortable delegating to your team. And delegating means that you give the responsibility of a task to someone else and empower them to do it in their own way. You need to find the right balance between helping your team solve a task or challenge and empowering them to find their own way.
There will always be challenges that surprise you in your first job as a leader. So, you need to mentally prepare yourself for the new position and not only for what you deliver on a day-to-day basis, but also for all the unexpected situations that might come your way.