Leadership Advice for New Managers

I get this question a lot, “What leadership advice would you give to new managers?”

Honestly, being a new manager is exciting. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran in a new role or a brand new leader, everyone will be watching you.

One of the most important things I have learned in more than 30 years of leadership is that the first 100 days are critically important. This is when the new leader sets the tone for how the organization will be run under their leadership.

There is only a small window of time when you have the full attention of the workforce so your actions need to be carefully considered.

The first 100 days are critically important for new leaders. Click To Tweet

You are under a microscope and everyone is closely observing your every action. Everything you do is seen. Everything you say is dissected and discussed.

This is good news!

It means you have an opportunity to make a massive impact if you take advantage of all the attention on you in these early days.

Here are 10 activities to consider in your first 100 days in a new leadership role:

 Let your team know who you are. Every time a new leader is assigned to a team there will be anticipation. People will have concerns and expectations. It’s important to have a meeting with all team members to fully introduce yourself. Use stories and examples to let them see your character.

Get out of your office and be visible. Spend time where your people are. Actively listen to their questions, concerns, and ideas. Be open and engage them on the subjects they care about. Get to know them by asking open-ended questions. Let them get to know you as well.

Meet with key employees. Don’t assume you understand the problems and challenges facing your team. I like to have one-on-one meetings with as many people as I can. I want to know the biggest challenges and most important issues facing the organization. I also want to understand what needs to be addressed first.

Set expectations early. People want to know what you stand for. Communicate your expectations as soon as you can. Let them know what is important to you as a leader. I typically send a list of my top 10 expectations to my team in the first few weeks so they know what I expect and they don’t have to guess.

Set an example. Your minimum behaviors will be your team’s maximum performance. If you expect people to be on time, you need to be on time. If you expect managers to get out of their offices, you need to be out of your office. If you expect people to wear their safety equipment, you need to wear your safety equipment. It’s simple. Just as children follow a parent’s lead, your team will take cues from you.

Your minimum behaviors will be your team’s maximum performance. Click To Tweet

Signal your priorities. What’s important to you will be seen by your team. If you spend the first two hours of each day on your computer and not with your team, they will see that. They will assume they are not as important as your e-mail. If you concern yourself with only the inventory numbers and not the on-time delivery results, they will think you don’t care about customers.

Create a buzz. Take advantage of the early attention you have and do something to get everyone talking. Make it extreme so the message is clear. This is something I like to do. In one manufacturing plant, I had the maintenance team paint over all the signs for the reserved parking spaces for managers, including mine. The message was simple, there is no special treatment for managers. We are in this together.

Communicate with employees regularly. During a leadership transition, employees will want to know what’s going on. Will there be any organizational changes? What are your initial observations? How are things going? It’s good to send a weekly e-mail to your team to let them know what you are seeing and what they can expect. In the absence of good communications, there will be worry, speculation, and rumors.

Create the mood. We all know attitude is contagious. Regardless of how you feel, you need to be upbeat and optimistic around your team. You still need to be empathetic when you have serious issues to deal with, but if you are consistently upbeat and in good spirits, the team will demonstrate the same behaviors. In the same respect, if you are quiet, unresponsive, angry, abrasive, or sarcastic, life will quickly get sucked out of your team. Think about what mood you are conveying every time you are with employees.

Cast a vision. At the end of the first 100 days, your team’s strengths and weaknesses will be clear. You will also understand the opportunities and threats. The goal now is to communicate a clear vision for the future. Consider where you want to go and how to get there. Communicate this vision to your team in a way that is clear and concise.

Leadership in the first 100 days is an exciting time. You are under a microscope which means you have an opportunity to make a huge impact if you take advantage of all the attention on you.

 

If you are interested in learning more about how to make a lasting impact in the first 100 days, subscribe to my weekly newsletter and get a free eBook, The New Leaders Guide: 10 Steps to Making a Lasting Impact in the First 100 Days.

Click HERE to subscribe.

 

 

 

[Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash]

What Happens When Leaders throw People Under the Bus?

The American public witnessed two colossal leadership failures in the past month – a botched withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan and an uncontrolled migration of more than 12,000 immigrants into Del Rio, Texas.

Regardless of your political beliefs, these events were a failure of the government to provide the essential function of protecting its citizens.

In both situations, however, the senior leaders who failed to do their jobs were not punished. The only people who faced any consequences were low-level people.

In the case of Afghanistan, Marine Corps Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller was relieved of command shortly after he posted a video criticizing senior U.S. officials for the failures in Afghanistan. He was punished because he asked for accountability of senior leaders due to the “clear, obvious mistakes that were made.”

For the crime of asking for accountability, he lost his job

The senior military leaders who botched the withdrawal, which led to the deaths of 13 service members and the stranding of hundreds of Americans, have not faced any punishment.

In Del Rio, Texas, several Border Patrol agents were placed on administrative duties after videos emerged showing them “aggressively” trying to stop illegal immigrants while on horseback.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, the man responsible for securing the border, said the images of the agents “horrified” him. He is pushing for “swift and strong” punishment for the agents. Even President Biden said, “I promise you those people will pay. There will be consequences.”

For the crime of trying to do their job to enforce the law, these agents will likely be fired, publicly shamed, and even prosecuted.

The senior leaders whose decisions caused this wave of migrants to come and cross our border have not faced any punishment.

In both cases, senior leaders sidestepped accountability while their junior people were thrown under the bus.

Sadly, this practice is far too common in business leadership today. When problems occur, corporate bosses almost always look for the closest scapegoat to blame.

The bosses remain unharmed while the junior employees suffer the wrath.

What’s often missed, however, is the overall effect on the organization. When people know they can’t trust their bosses, they begin to operate differently. Employees don’t want to be the next victim, so they change their actions to protect their careers.

When people know they can’t trust their bosses, they begin to operate differently. Click To Tweet

Military officers stop questioning the poor planning of superior officers.

Border agents stop enforcing the law.

When employees are controlled by fear, the entire organization becomes less effective in carrying out its mission.

When employees are controlled by fear, the entire organization becomes less effective in carrying out its mission. Click To Tweet

Leaders who throw people under the bus to duck their responsibility ultimately destroy the overall culture of an organization and replace it with fear.

Contrast this with President Harry S. Truman, who famously kept a sign on his desk in the Oval Office that said, “the buck stops here.” Truman understood that senior leaders are ultimately responsible for the decisions they make. He knew that he could never delegate responsibility.

So, how do these stories relate to your leadership journey?

It’s simple. It’s important to remember the difference between authority and responsibility.

Authority can and should be delegated. We need to push decision-making down to the lowest levels of our organizations and empowered our teams to be decisive.

But, we also need to embrace the fact that the leader is ultimately responsible for the outcome of the business – good or bad.

Leaders can never delegate responsibility – They must always own it.

Leaders can never delegate responsibility – They must always own it. Click To Tweet

Delegating authority but never responsibility is the cornerstone of creating and maintaining a high-performing organization.

In my first book, I talk about a boss who had my back when I made a major mistake as a young design engineer. Instead of throwing me under the bus, he stood up for me and coached me through a difficult time in my career. My trust and loyalty to him grew because I knew I had a great boss.

This is what leadership looks like.

 

If you liked this post, you’ll love my new book, All in the Same Boat: Lead Your Organization Like a Nuclear Submariner.

You can find it HERE or on Amazon.

 

[Photo Daily Press/James Quigg]

What Norm Taught us about Pursuing Perfection

Legendary comedian Norm MacDonald passed away at the age of 61-years-old this week. The former Saturday Night Live star was known for his deadpan delivery and fearless commitment to pushing the boundaries of humor.

Located among all the stories of Norm and his impact on comedy was an article that caught my attention. Norm and I had something in common.

I learned that he was searching for the Holy Grail.

I’m not talking about the cup that Jesus drank from at the Last Supper.

Norm was a perpetual student of comedy. He was searching for what he called the “perfect joke.” One where “the punchline and the setup were almost identical.”

In his lifetime, he wrote only one joke that he felt even came close. Here it is:

“Julia Roberts told reporters this week that her marriage to Lyle Lovett has been over for some time. The key moment, she said, came when she realized that she was Julia Roberts and that she was married to Lyle Lovett.”

When asked if that joke was the Holy Grail, MacDonald said, “It was pretty close. I was happy with that one.”

Despite all his success and fame, Norm Macdonald was simply a humble man in search of the perfect joke. He spent a lifetime pursuing perfection.

Despite all his success and fame, Norm Macdonald was simply a humble man in search of the perfect joke. He spent a lifetime pursuing perfection. Click To Tweet

This story resonated so much with me because I’ve also been on a quest for my own Holy Grail.

As a business leader in the electrical industry, I spent 12 years working to develop a particular rating on a piece of electrical equipment. The vision was to create a product that would effectively eliminate the need for six other products.

I worked on it initially at a large company and continued to pursue it when I co-founded my own company in 2016.

Over the years, my engineering teams got close but we were never able to get all the features I wanted.

But last year they finally did it.

My company was able to launch a product that is changing the industry. It was so special, we called it the Holy Grail.

Even now when I present it to customers and trade groups, I refer to it as the Holy Grail.

We chased perfection for over a decade and, in the end, we were able to create a near-perfect product and the demand has been through the roof.

So how does all this relate to you and your leadership journey?

The story of Norm MacDonald chasing the perfect joke should be our story as well. As leaders, we need to be perpetual students of leadership. We should be endlessly curious and continually searching for ways to improve our leadership skills.

As leaders, we need to be perpetual students of leadership. Click To Tweet

We should be chasing the Holy Grail of becoming leaders worth following.

To do this, we must be dissatisfied with the status quo and, like Norm, be quietly and humbly pursuing perfection.

Resources like education, training, coaches, books, and podcasts should all be used to help us find better ways of inspiring people to do difficult things.

We will ever achieve perfection? Probably not.

But, like Norm, maybe one day we can get pretty close.