Being a newbie in leadership can be scary. No longer are you in the trenches, but now you’re calling the shots. With a “I want to fix it” mentality, you jump right in but with the wrong questions.
Each year hundreds of individuals are promoted to their first leadership position. It can be a bumpy transition especially if you’re focusing on the tasks that need to be done and not aware of the questions you are asking.
The key to navigating a team through transition and holding onto your leadership role is simple: ask the right questions. I can tell you it took me years to learn this after leaving corporate leadership because I was centered on the job at hand and wanting to do my best work but struggled to be excited about it.
I’m here to help bridge the gap that reveals less than one-third (31.5%) of U.S. workers were engaged in their jobs in 2014. This statistic tells me leadership needs a facelift.
A good start to initiate positive change within organizations is with first time managers. What would it look like if they could slay the rumors of not being prepared and lacking the development to help make a successful transition? How could they impact an organization if frontline, entry and first-level managers or supervisors would ask questions in the right way?
I’ve come up with five key strategies you can use for looking forward to a successful transition and productive leadership experience. It begins with the right questions and right perspective to strategic-planning and team-building.
Define it. What would be the ideal topic of discussion for the positive changes you want to see. Affirm and focus on that topic you want to make happen in your new role. You may want to talk about the best possible process, both from your point of view and the organization’s point of view. Defining your positive topic can emerge by asking thought-provoking questions like these:
• What is it I want to grow?
• What do I want to see and do more of?
• What would it look like to head a successful workforce and what additional support will I need?
Discover it. Now that you have a focused topic, your aim is to increase confidence and momentum with your team in a discovery discussion on what has worked best for them in the past. You want to learn about their strengths, best practices and high-performances.
Have them share and savor their best and most proud moments of achievements based on your topic of discussion. Be sure all questions are favorable. In other words, don’t ask, “Why was this department the last to grow?” Ask, “What is keeping our department alive?”
Dream it. Yes, dreaming is a powerful tool even in management because it sees and nourishes your future desires and is how images are created for spurring you into action. Studies support that dreaming increases optimism, clarifies goals and improves confidence.
Your goal is to navigate your team to vividly imagine what success at work would look like from what was discussed in the discovery phase. Dreams for the future are revealed by asking questions like this, “Based on what you’ve just shared about your strengths, past performances or observations, if everything went well over the next few months, what do you see (imagine) as your proudest accomplishment?” Answers to these types of questions then becomes your working blueprint.
Design it. You’ve defined your topic of discussion, discovered what has worked best in the past and dreamed of how to make it better in the future, now it’s time to design the action plan. The wonderful thing about designing is people can prioritize potential approaches and options to shape their dream into a specific reality.
Your goal as the leader is to move them into action. The right question to ask would be, “If we were to achieve 5% of your dream you outlined, what would your 5 steps be for stimulating engagement and creating trust among our team?” Or, “What support might be needed to achieve this goal?”
Deliver it. You want a willing team to implement the design and have sustainable success. Your intention is improving their level of comfort and allowing them to take responsibility for utilizing their signature strengths in the areas where they have the most confidence.
As you transition into design execution, you want to maintain an atmosphere of collaboration and trust. So you will begin installing the plan by asking, “Is there one action you would like to begin with?” Or, “Where is the best place to start?”
Hiring and promoting in management is most important to build a successful organization, but if these people are not supported and aren’t asking the right questions, not only will they potentially pay a high consequence, but so will their teams, the HR leadership and the organization, which will ultimately affect the company’s bottom line.