I remember how difficult it was for me as a first-time leader. I was grateful for the opportunity to lead our new department, but I had no training and needed to figure out many things on my own. I had numerous responsibilities and didn’t know how to manage them. I had a new team, but I didn’t know how to build a productive workforce. I had a strong will to do the job, but sometimes my knowledge deficiencies came at the expense of my team, customers, and company.
As I stroll through memory lane, I recall three situations that highlighted my level of unpreparedness as a new leader. First, there was associate A. She was the savviest person on our team. She was creative, action-oriented, and a visionary. She had the makings of a great leader, and I’m confident she would have become my peer in time if she hadn’t left the company for personal reasons. While she was with the company, I wish I had known how to utilize her strengths to make our team stronger.
Next, there was Associate B. She was the resident spy in our group. She told me everything being said behind my back, and all the issues the team was having with each other. I thought having the inside scoop was a good thing. While it was important to have knowledge about the temperature of my team, I wish I had understood how to drive peer to peer accountability, and how to guide this associate to use the trust and relationships she built with her peers to foster a positive culture on our team.
Lastly, there was associate C. She was the nicest person on my team, but she couldn’t perform the job. I trained her, followed up, provided feedback, inspected, and followed up again, and again, and again. I remember the day my leaders told me that I needed to dismiss her due to performance inefficiencies. I respectfully refused because I felt a responsibility to make this associate successful. I spent three additional weeks and countless hours trying to save the associate. At the end of three weeks, I had to dismiss her. I wish I had understood the pain I was causing the associate by having her come to work day after day and fail at her job. I wish I would have understood the negative impacts to my team when they had to deal with irate customer call backs due to inaccurate information provided by their peer. I wish I could have understood how to make timely business decisions, mitigate negative customer experiences, and reduce revenue losses because my agent was not the right fit for the role.
Some of the experiences in my story may sound familiar as you reminiscence your own journeys as new leaders. Kudos to those of you who got it right the first time, but many leaders like me made mistakes because we didn’t possess the “know how” to do our jobs. I did the best I could, and I believe many of your new leaders are doing their best. In many cases, they simply lack the training and support needed to perform effectively in their roles.
My ask of senior leaders in 2017 is to serve your first-time leaders by ensuring they receive the T&D necessary to perform in their roles. Sure, they will make mistakes, but some of the errors could be lessened by providing training, tools and time needed to build skill, reduce critical performance impacts, and drive proficiencies over a shorter period of time. If you’re seeking a partner to develop your first-time leaders, Progeny1.Org can help you with that. Visit the Contact page and let us know how we can support you. I’ll leave you with this:
Always serve the people, who serve the people, who serve the customer.