By John Rampton, founder of Palo Alto, California-based Calendar, a company helping your calendar be much more productive.
You did it. You’ve put in the work, accomplished some massive goals and exceeded expectations, and now you’re a leader in your organization. While your role brings with it prestige and the opportunity to make an impact, it’s not without its headaches.
Leading a team involves a daily grind that can come with some challenges. Check out these common leadership hurdles and learn how you can overcome them as you continue to hone your skills.
1. Flawed Communication Practices
Faulty communication is often to blame for many of life’s troubles. Specific to the workplace, setting communication expectations is essential. Analyze your current communication structure and consider whether a shakeup is in order.
Oftentimes, lines can get crossed and frustration can result when team members don’t review email threads or meeting minutes. Instead, they shop for answers, wasting their colleagues’ valuable time when the answer to their question was only a few emails back.
Yet this scenario points to a potential target of your communications shakeup: If essential project information is contained in lengthy email threads, it will be hard to find. It’s no wonder team members are tempted to cut to the chase by asking a colleague for info.
One way to alleviate this problem is by storing vital data in more accessible ways: a corporate or project wiki, shared folders in Google Drive or Microsoft Office, your project management system, etc. Then make sure everyone knows where to find which kinds of information. When team members know how to get their own answers to basic questions, they can reserve their communications with peers for higher-value collaborative opportunities.
By addressing a common issue like communication expectations, you can set the stage for clarity and boost your team’s productivity. Team members will be better informed and likely more satisfied when they can communicate more effectively.
2. Inauthentic Relationships
Being authentic in the workplace may seem like a bigger task than it is. To engage authentically while still establishing credibility, simply be yourself. Be transparent about your wins and your losses — while being sure to convey what you learned from the latter. You’ll become more relatable and trustworthy as you share successes and failures alongside your team.
If a team member comes to you with a challenge, what’s your typical approach? You may feel tempted to provide advice, even if you haven’t dealt with that situation firsthand. Instead, listen first. Once your team member has explained their problem to you, ask probing questions to help them arrive at potential solutions. Add color to the conversation through your experiences if it makes sense, but acknowledge what you do and don’t know.
Resist the urge to solve their problem for them. Instead, guide them toward a solution that they can buy into and own. When they develop the problem-solving strategy, they’re more likely to carry it through, and they’ll view you as an authentic and compassionate leader.
3. Rigid Time Management
It’s never fun to say no. It’s also never fun to feel like your schedule is overbooked to the point of exhaustion. If you can, build flex-time into your daily schedule to allow for interruptions and real life.
Sometimes, a team member will pop into your office for a quick check-in or a serious conversation. Don’t leave them hanging or let an issue fester simply because you have no time. Instead, plan for these schedule disruptions so you can offer flexibility when the work demands it. When your “open door policy” truly means you’ll make time for people when they need you, your team will notice and appreciate it.
While giving team members work-focused attention when it’s needed, be careful not to appear endlessly available. You don’t want to create the impression that your own time is not valuable. Instead, create healthy boundaries around your work schedule but be open to relaxing them occasionally to account for organizational and team needs.
Flex Your Leadership Muscles
Just as in the gym, your leadership muscles need to be worked out regularly to get stronger. Be mindful of your actions and take time to reflect on how you make refinements.
Create space in your schedule to read about leadership strategy and practice. Reserve some time each week to think, reflect on and implement what you’ve learned. When you prioritize your professional development, you can make better decisions as a leader. In doing so, you’ll support your team in a way that they and the organization deserve.
With your focused effort, your team will count you among the top leaders they’ve ever worked for. Overcome these leadership challenges, and you’ll be leading a high-powered team in no time.