5 High Impact Habits for First Time Leaders

high impact habits first time leaders

There are a wide range of explanations when we try to define a leader or manager. Ultimately, those who lead a team should be equipped with the skills to develop their employees. However, in a 2019 study by Gartner, results showed that a staggering 45% of managers lack the confidence to help their employees develop the skills they need. The good news is, leaders are made not born

Becoming a first time leader can be daunting. Not only are you trying to find your feet in your new role, but you are now responsible for other team members’ development and progress. Here are some tips for first time leaders about building high performance habits.

1. Acknowledge and accept things are now different

If you were promoted from within the company, the relationships you have already formed with your team prior to becoming their leader will no longer be the same. You are no longer their peer, you are their boss.

Finding a good balance between friend and manager can be difficult, but it is important. Show empathy and respect, and be honest and transparent to help build trust. Allow time for regular meetings to talk openly with them, ask questions and listen to their needs. Some questions you can ask to help them share their ideas and frustrations are:

  • What’s on your mind?
  • What are your highlights?
  • What are your challenges?
  • What do you need from me to help you progress with your performance?

Don’t forget to give positive feedback. Remember to be clear and specific, timely and frequent and give actionable advice.

2. Empower, don’t micro-manage

There can be a fine line between paying attention to your team members, and micro-managing. Micro-managing is often done unintentionally, but when there is pressure on your shoulders and upcoming deadlines, the urge to take the reins is common.

To avoid micro-managing, start with allowing your team the autonomy to make decisions. You won’t always agree. But support them by challenging their assumptions and forcing them to think through various outcomes. Giving them space to make decisions, and sometimes fail, will not only build their trust for you, but it will empower them to reach their full potential.

However, be mindful not to give them too much space that it feels like you are abandoning them. Check in and ask them what they need from you to help. Offer support and encouragement and find out what their roadblocks are to brainstorm solutions. And then get out of the way.

3. Learn how to manage conflict

The fact is, you are going to have to confront conflict. The worst thing you can do is avoid it. Instead, start practicing ways to help you navigate and respond to sudden confrontations. One of the best ways to do this is to buy yourself time, to avoid a negative reaction and calm yourself down.

Here are some go-to questions you can use to buy yourself time and be prepared for sudden conflict.

  • I can see this is important to you. Help me understand your situation a bit better.
  • I can imagine the challenges you are having. How can I help you navigate them?

Practise empathy and active listening when you ask these questions, and detach from any biases to help them solve the issues.

4. Practise and encourage critical thinking and curiosity

Making a habit to challenge the status quo and develop better ways of doing things requires practice. It is easy to just keep doing things the way they are done. But to achieve greater results individually and as an organisation, learning how to think critically is vital.

Curiosity is one of the keys to critical thinking. Using open ended questions as often as possible is the easiest way to start practicing. Framing your questions to begin with “what if we….” can help challenge assumptions and think through problems.

“Holding a curious mindset is a great starting point when you’re leading your team or organization. If you’re in a truly new space, you won’t always know the answers. Your team won’t either. You’re going to venture into the unknown together. Curiosity is a great way to lead that charge.” –Tim Brown

5. Invest in your self-development

Make time to continuously learn and sharpen your saw. It will make you better equipped to support your team to sharpen theirs. Try spending 30 minutes a day investing in your self-development. If that seems like too much, try 30 minutes a week. Build the habit and find what works for you.

For some, reading an article or a chapter of a book might be the most useful tool. For others, watching a Ted Talk or Youtube video might be best. For those who are time poor, putting on a podcast on their morning commute works. 

If you want to take your development a step further, you can also seek out a mentor or coach, or attend seminars and workshops. The key is to make your own development a priority, to become a great leader and help develop the skills of your team.

Again, leaders are made not born and practice makes perfect. Ease into your new leadership role by building your habits to become a leader people want to follow. 

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