“Congratulations you are now a manager”
..said my boss. Words that I’d worked long and hard to hear as a billing consultant.
Like many before me I instantly emerged from my chrysalis as a fully fledged leader, ready to inspire and lead my team to victory……apparently.
It did not take long before reality set in – my success was now defined by the actions of others. I was expected to enforce things that I did not always believe in and frustratingly, my team would not do what I told them!
No one is born as a complete leader. Leadership is often more art than science and it takes you on an emotional rollercoaster that never really ends.
When I compare many leadership books or biographies of successful business leaders to reality, I want to return the book to the shop and suggest they place it in the “fiction” section.
So what are the things I wish I had been told would be hard, frustrating or just unenjoyable about leadership?
1. You Need to Lose Control
To be a manager you normally have to be great at what you do as a technician first whether you are a recruiter, lawyer, accountant or sales person. Typically a large part of this success is is down to your ability to personally control the variables in your role, market and organisation to achieve your desired level of personal performance.
Trying to maintain the same level of personal control through your team will lead to extremely high levels of frustration on your part. It will also make good people want to leave as they feel like they have no capability to act on their own, instead you need to focus on influencing behaviour.
Lesson: You can’t control everything – you can only influence.
2. You Are a Tool of the Executive Team
We often think that becoming a manager means you have the ability to do things your way. The reality is that as a manager, you are the messenger of the executive team and are there to execute their plan. This means that you will spend time and energy doing things that you do not think are right, or things that you know will be unpopular with the team.
The transition from thinking from a biller’s perspective to a director’s perspective is one of the hardest mental leaps to make, but critical if you are to be authentic in how you promote change and performance in your team (and yes, this may mean your former peers will call you out on your change of direction).
Lesson: Learn why the Executive Team do things, instead of tring to fight them
3. Emotional Conflict, Tension and Frustration
You quickly realise as a leader that your role is not to be everyone’s friend, it’s to say what needs to be said. I think that Karen Brady said it best when she says being a leader is about
“Saying what needs to be said, when it needs to be said , whether you like it or not”
For some this comes naturally, personally I struggled with having the courage to say what needed to be said, fearing people may not like me, or their jobs. They key is to avoid procrastination – say it as clearly and quickly as possible.
Lesson: Learn how to say what needs to be said, when it needs to be said
4. The Challenges & Frustrations Never End
We kid ourselves that leadership is a destination we can reach. In truth it’s a never ending journey. Even the most experienced and successful leaders still struggle with the emotional challenges leadership. There will always be a stretch target to reach, a top performer with too much attitude, people to hire and things to be rolled out that you disagree with. As Steve Jobs said:
“The journey is the reward”
Your goal is to fall in love with the process of overcoming challenges and solving them, more than hitting your targets.
Lesson: Learn to love the journey as there is no destination
Getting your head around being a leader and the challenges that come with being in a leadership role are key to any managers success.
Do you manage managers? Do you know what challenges they are having with their roles? How often do you have coaching rather than performance conversations to help them overcome these challenges?”
What are your leadership frustrations?