first time leader

First-Time Leader: Top 3 Do’s And Don’ts For A Successful Start

What should you plan ahead and keep in mind when starting out in your first leadership role, and what should you rather not do? Here are my essential do’s and don’ts for the first few months as a first-time leader: 

Do's

Self-reflection

Once again, this post starts with self-reflection: What kind of leader do I want to be? From which leadership role models in my past can I copy certain behaviours? Which behaviours did I find terrible that I definitely do not want to use in my interaction with my team? Which values are important to me in working with my team and through which actions can my team see that I really live these values? The answers to these questions will give you a better self-image of yourself as a future leader. Elements of this reflection are also good to share with the team during your introduction!

Planning for the first month 

Plan the following dates in the first month to get to know your team:

  • Your introduction on the first day
  • 1:1 get-to-know-you conversations with your team members,
  • and conversations with your manager as well as colleagues.

The fact that you explicitly take time for each individual will certainly be well received and is an important basis for trust and good long-term cooperation. You can find more tips for preparing and conducting the talks in this post

Listen, understand, act

The first month is about listening to team members and getting to know them. Questions like “Which changes would you like to see in the way the team works together and what should definitely stay the way it is?” are also a way for you to get more information about the team. 

The second month is about understanding connections better: how is it that certain processes and ways of working are set up the way they are? Maybe you have already thought about changing one or two things in the team. However, it makes sense to first understand the background better. As a way of showing appreciation for what the team has achieved so far, it is important not to change everything from one day to the next without understanding which legacy is behind it. 

The motto of the third month is then “Action”. By now you have certainly gained a good insight into the team’s way of working together and also the performance of the individual team members. Now it’s time to share and discuss your vision of future team successes with the team to get everyone on board and work together to make changes to the status quo.  

Dont's

Focus only on business topics

It is likely that business topics will pick up speed quickly after your start. Here it is important not to think “It is important in terms of business growth to familiarize myself with all business topics. I’ll just get to know the team later”. The investment of taking the time to build up a good interpersonal relationship with the team right at the beginning will certainly pay off in the long run – it’s a worthwhile investment! 

Being afraid to communicate too much

It is rare to hear the sentence: “I wish my new boss communicated less”. You can assume that your team members want to get to know you and want to know more about what is important to you, your opinion, etc. Therefore, especially in the beginning, don’t be afraid to communicate and exchange more than you otherwise would! 

Assume that everyone is like you

It is not a good idea to automatically assume that others are like you. For example, when it comes to motivation: perhaps you yourself are motivated by managers who have given you a lot of freedom and then want to enable your own team to do the same. However, this may backfire, e.g. if there are people in your team who do not yet have much experience in a task and are more motivated by regularly exchanging ideas with you and also getting clear instructions from you. This is where it is important to ask and talk openly about what kind of support your team members need from you! 

I hope that these six tips have rounded up the picture of how much you actually have in your hands as a first-time leader for a successful start in your first leadership role. With a mix of reflecting, planning, and trying things out, you will certainly do well and I wish you much success and joy in doing so! 

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 Lucie Greiner