The transition to leadership from an individual contributor is a whirlwind, and you’re going to feel everything from fear to excitement. Rest assured, that’s completely normal! If you’re here, it likely means you’re keen to succeed in this new role, and you want to get off on a good foot. In which case, let’s help you make that happen.
First, it’s best to be aware of what’s coming your way. According to a study by the Center for Creative Leadership, the top challenges among first-time managers include:
- Adjusting to people management/displaying authority (59%)
- Developing managerial and personal effectiveness (46%)
- Leading team achievement (43%)
- Managing internal stakeholders and politics (34%)
- Motivating others (27%)
- Performance management and accountability issues (24%)
- Coaching, developing, and mentoring others (21%)
- Communication (18%)
- Delegation and micromanagement (18%)
- Conflict management (15%)
- Working with a range of employees (14%)
- Doing more with less (5%)
While the leadership challenges that come with the transition to management might seem daunting, there are things you can do to prepare yourself and build your confidence. Use the following to-do list as a starting point, and as you read more and get advice from others, you can add to it to make it your own.
How To Transition Into A Leadership Role
- Create a 30-60-90 day plan
- Enroll in a leadership fundamentals program
- Learn about your leadership style and experiment
- Schedule one-on-one meetings
- Seek out a mentor
- Manage your former peer's expectations
✅ Create a 30-60-90 Day Plan
A 30-60-90 day plan outlines your intentions, focus, goals, action items, and how you'll measure your achievements in 30-day periods for the first 90 days in a new leadership role. It’s a crucial step in the transition to leadership as it gives you direction, helps you get aligned with and manage the expectations of others, and reduces the chances of getting distracted by other people’s agendas and priorities.
✅ Enroll in a Leadership Fundamentals Program
Given the magnitude of the transition to leadership, it should be a priority to get enrolled in a training program that teaches you leadership fundamentals. While many organizations may offer such a program internally, if they do not offer it or don’t have a session running anytime soon, you can enroll in such a program through a provider like the Niagara Institute. You want a program, like Leadership Fundamentals, which provides plenty of interaction with a skilled facilitator, and sets you up with knowledge, skills, and tools that can be immediately applied on the job with your direct reports.
✅ Learn About Leadership Styles and Experiment
Your leadership style is not something you’re going to perfect overnight. Instead, it’s something that takes leaders years of experience to craft. To start, you should learn about the different types of leadership styles commonly seen in the workplace early on in your transition to leadership and then begin to experiment with each. In doing so, you’ll find some styles come more naturally, while others are better reserved for specific situations.
✅ Schedule One-on-One Meetings
Regardless of what you choose to call them, one-on-one meetings, catch-up meetings, or weekly touch-base meetings are invaluable opportunities to build relationships with your employees, get updates, offer support, and provide coaching. In other words, these meetings are something you and your employees can count on every week, which will be important amidst the chaos of the transition to leadership. The key to ensuring your one-on-one meetings don’t become a waste of time is to tell your employees what you expect from them and how they should prepare for your time together.
✅ Seek Out a Mentor
It can be hugely beneficial for first-time managers to have an informal relationship with a mentor who has “been there.” Your mentor can be older or younger, an employee of your organization or not, in a similar role or not, or even in a completely different industry. Regardless of these factors, what you want is to find someone who you trust and respect, who has the benefit of experience and perspective, and who is willing to act as your sounding board, challenge your ways of thinking, ask the tough questions, and provide sound advice.
✅ Manage Your Former Peer's Expectations
A challenging part of the transition to leadership is leading people that were once your peers. To lessen the stress this can cause, be intentional about having conversations where you manage their expectations regarding the nature of your relationship going forward and set boundaries. While this conversation may not feel natural or comfortable, your new direct reports and yourself will appreciate the clarity it provides in the long run.
The transition to leadership is an exciting, albeit turbulent time. Fortunately, there are things first-time managers like yourself can do, such as creating a 30-60-90 day plan, enrolling in a leadership fundamentals program, and seeking out a mentor to ease the transition and get your bearings in your new role faster.