Your first leadership role

5 Tips on how to best prepare for your first leadership role

Are you getting ready for your first leadership role? Wondering what is in your hands to make the start a successful one? Here are my recommendations as a team developer and coach for a "first-time leader survival kit" to get you through the first month:

1. The foundation - a desire to work with people

You are facing your first leadership role and don’t know how to start? Don’t worry, many things in leadership can be learned, but the most important basic requirement in my opinion is that you have a desire to work with people and to support them in their development!

Of course, topics like wanting to take on more responsibility, creating a strategic impact, and making important decisions for the company are also important. But it is the willingness to do all this together with other people, who you support in their performance, that is, in my opinion, the decisive factor for becoming a really great leader.

2. Your first leadership manifesto

Congratulations! You have been selected for your first leadership position, soon it will start – make use of the preparation time for self-reflection! To have more clarity about what kind of leader you want to be and how you want to work with your new team, look at your past:

Who were great leaders who inspired you? Which ones were terrible and why? What values did they have and through which behaviours did they demonstrate them? What strengths do you bring to the team yourself? In which areas do you still want to develop? Build your own “leader manifesto” by writing down which values are important to you and how you want to show them through your behaviour when working with your team. Think about which elements of your leader manifesto you would like to share with the team on your first day in an introductory speech.

3. Day one - a good preparation is half the battle

There is never a second chance for a good first impression! That is why it is so important to prepare the first day well, e.g. clarify with your manager how he/she will introduce you to the team. Make sure that a team meeting is organised where all team members come together (possibly virtually) so that you can introduce yourself to everyone at the same time. Here you can share elements from your leader manifesto, as well as your past professional experiences and what you are looking forward to when working with the team.

Communicate first concrete steps, e.g. 1:1 meetings with all team members in the first weeks. Give an insight into your personal life, e.g. “I am learning to play the guitar, but my family is not yet convinced of my progress…” – this makes you approachable and human!

4. The first week - deep dive with the team

Time to get to know your team! Even though there will certainly be a lot of administrative work to do for you in your first leadership role and first operational issues will land on your desk, taking the time to get to know the team members is a worthwhile investment for the future! 60-minute 1:1 meetings give you the chance to get to know the individual team members better – but they also get to know you! In this way, you can build trust.

Topics for the exchange could be: What are the tasks and responsibilities of the team member? What does he/she particularly enjoy doing? How does he/she see his/her own role in the team? What personal things would he/she like to share with you? What development ideas do they have for their own career? What are the expectations of you as a leader? Where is your feedback desired? What would he/she like to know from you?

5. The first month – managing also up

The first month is a good time to get to know not only your team but also your leader. What expectations does he/she have of you on both operational and leadership issues? How is your leadership performance measured in the company? On what issues can you ask him/her for support? Analyse which other stakeholders will be important for you in your first leadership role and your team – e.g. colleagues, clients, partners, etc. and get to know them and their expectations of cooperation.

6. Review & reflect

At the end of the first month, take the opportunity for a short review meeting with the team to look back on the beginning phase of your collaboration. You can use the “Start, Stop, Continue methodology”: Brainstorm together which elements of your collaboration with the team should be continued (Continue), what is actually no longer needed (Stop) and what could be added (Start)? This way you show your team right from the start that you are open to feedback and genuinely interested in good teamwork!

Even though many things on the “journey” of the first leadership role cannot be planned – with these six steps under your sleeve you are well equipped for a successful start as a first-time leader!

Would you like to feel even stronger supported in your first leadership role? Check out our free video tutorial “Essentials for first-time leader” and a free checklist for the first 100 days.

Katrin also offers 1:1 coaching for first-time leaders and her Leadership Foundation Programme for a cohort of 6 first-time leaders.

photo by  Harbucks – iStock