It can take time to become effective in a new senior role.
Here we outline some of the pitfalls to avoid to allow you to become more effective more quickly.
Feelings of guilt when not acting or doing
If you have previously been in a role where you have been measured and rewarded for the output of you and your team, in whatever form, it can at first be very strange to stop focussing on the delivery of output. Or in other words to stop doing and start thinking.
You are now more likely to be responsible for creating the vision, strategy, culture and conditions, for the team who are responsible for delivering the output.
This involves a lot more time thinking and speaking to people, getting good feedback and finding out what works and what doesn’t work within the business or your area of the business.
You will also need to spend more time thinking and interacting out with the business, with customers, suppliers and competitors gaining more insight into the market at a strategic level and not an operational level.
It is only if you spend this time effectively doing these things that you will be able to set out the roadmap for future, for the teams that will deliver this vision and strategy as without it they will be lost.
You are now rewarded for your mind and your insight, innovation and vision and to enable you to utilise these effectively you need quality thinking time.
You need to feel guilty if you don’t make this time as this is your productivity now and you won’t support or help your team if you don’t.
Retreating to the comfort zone
This can take a number of forms. If you have previously worked in leading a technical or specialist team which you have enjoyed and know thoroughly when the going gets tough in your new role it can be extremely easy to retreat to your old role and find a myriad of reasons for justifying this.
Equally, you could now have responsibility for an area of the business in which you are not an expert as well as an area of the business in which you are an expert and it can be extremely easy to focus your activities and effort on the area you know best and where you are sure you can achieve results.
Both of these will detract you from your key role now and make it more difficult for you to become effective in your new role.
As a member of the Senior Management Team, you are now responsible along with your colleagues for the effective running of the whole business.
You need to gain an understanding of all areas of the business and the challenges and successes of your top team members and the reasons that they make the recommendations and decisions that they do.
The Senior Management Team are now your number one team and you need to be able to effectively support and challenge your team colleagues. You can only do this if you spend time getting to understand their challenges and issues and how these impact on the business overall. From a position of understanding your input will be much more valuable and your understanding and ability to impact the wider business will grow.
Each time you retreat to your comfort zone you are losing a valuable opportunity to understand the wider business and take a broader view of the issues and the business.
Lack of training and development in leadership
Very often people are promoted because they excel at their role and/or are an expert in a key area of the business. Traditionally businesses have not been very good in offering quality management and leadership training programmes that are effective in supporting people to develop within their role within their business. These skills and this development are essential in creating effective leaders. This is not solved by sending a few people on the odd training course we would suggest.
Instead, we would suggest that this needs to be part of the culture and ethos of the business and people need to be supported, challenged and given the opportunity to put what they learn into practice on a day to day basis.
This needs internal support from their leader who understands what they are learning and has ideally agreed on the key objectives and desired outcomes before the training has commenced. It also needs support potentially in the form of an internal mentor and to be truly effective from an external coach.
Lack of clear thinking and planning time
It is easy for people at all levels within an organisation to get caught up with the day-to-day needs of the business and setting aside good quality time for planning and to allow you to think and reflect and review results can seem like an unnecessary luxury.
Without this time, however, your decisions could be flawed and could indeed cost a lot in terms of time, resources and cash if you need to backtrack or alter the course later on.
Dedicating time each week to allow, yourself to think, reflect and review is critical to planning and good decision making, plan it into your diary each week perhaps initially only an hour or two until you become comfortable with this time and the benefit it brings.
Unclear of expectations
In order to be at your most effective you need to clearly understand what is expected of you.
You may initially feel that this is clear until you really get into the driving seat when the picture can become a little less clear.
If you think about what is your definite major purpose in your role and the key outcomes that you need to deliver and where this should make your priorities lie and make a clear note of these.
If you then note where you currently spend most of your time currently and see how this compares to your definite major purpose, your outcomes and your priorities and where the differences lie this can help you to plan to make changes to make sure that most of your time is spent where it should be.
With these key factors and an outline plan in place to make the necessary changes, this is a great starting point to have a conversation with your Director or CEO to ensure that you both agree on your definite major purpose, key outcomes and priorities.
This will help you to be very clear of what is expected of you and will also ensure that your Director or CEO is comfortable that you are on the right track and will be able to support you more effectively where you need it most.
Focussing on the here and now and not the future
This point links very closely to the previous point re clarity around expectations and also to the point with regards to planning and thinking time.
As a Senior Manager within the business and part of the Senior Management Team, you need to ensure that you have a team in place to support you to deliver what is required within the business on a day-to-day basis.
You also need to have a very clear focus on the future, the market, your customers and suppliers so that you can plan ahead effectively and are not caught out by developments and changes.
If you only focus only on the short term you could find yourself being overtaken by competitors, losing good customers who want to move forwards or missing market opportunities.
If you have put good communication, systems and reporting in place which allow you to keep your finger on the pulse of the performance of your team, without having to be involved, this should free you up to focus more time on the future.
Fear of Failure
This is particularly prevalent if you have been working your way up through an organisation and are promoted to lead and manage your previous peers. Or if you have felt ready for this opportunity for a while and have been waiting for it to arise.
Fear of failure can be debilitating and can leave you caught like a rabbit in the headlights if you let it take hold.
If you spend time avoiding the pitfalls we have mentioned above you will be in a good position to deliver well in your new role.
Additionally, it can be good to set up your own “advisory team” of people who you can use as a sounding board for different areas of advice as you move into your new role and during the first six months to a year in your new role. These people could be from business, family, friends, and sport who you respect for their knowledge, expertise or general wisdom and who you can trust to be honest and objective when using them as a sounding board.
It is important to focus on the future and what you want to achieve and to have a good support structure in place, it can be lonelier the further up the ladder you climb and these people can be invaluable. Additionally, an external coach can be invaluable in these situations where they are completely impartial and dedicated to supporting you to develop and change to succeed in your new role. They can generally be more supportively challenging than those to who you are closest.
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