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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Truth 4. The Gaps in Your Work Habits Show Up When You Move Up

Moving into leadership is like moving up in school. No matter how smart and motivated you are, if you don't know how to organize yourself, the complexity of your new environment will overwhelm you.

You probably advanced because you were the best at what you did. But what got you to where you are may not work anymore. In the past, you may have been able to "wing it" by relying on your wits, but the higher you go on the organizational chart, the more complicated things get.

George unexpectedly moved up from managing 12 salesmen to leading all his company's sales and marketing employees. A smart and enthusiastic leader, he found that he could no longer do what he used to do, which was drift around his department as he cajoled, praised, and pumped up his 12 people. Now he had 29 direct reports and a total of 400 people reporting to him. The little things he used to do, like going out with some of his team members for happy hour, didn't go down well with his new team.

Your new leadership position will require you to hone your personal work habits:

  • Keep up with scheduling. Ensure that you or someone who works for you puts every appointment and meeting on your calendar and that you show up on time.
  • Delegate using quality standards and due dates. Give your staff enough guidance and time to get their work done, and then hold them to their deadlines.
  • Follow up on delegation and commitments. Have your assistant keep a follow-up file so that you are on top of all delegated assignments.
  • Make decision-making clear. Let others know if your decisions include them and whether they have input into your decisions. Also let them know when a decision is theirs to make.
  • Follow the money. Have someone keep track of budget figures and expenditures on a monthly basis and balance the inflow and outflow.
  • Ensure fairness in all you say and do. Use checklists to keep track of which staff members you compliment or coach so that you don't inadvertently ignore some of them.
  • Let go of being one of the guys. Find leader-like and appropriate ways to interact in your new role. Spend time with your team and colleagues at meetings and meals. You need to forge a new way of working with others that is based on your leadership status, and sometimes that means maintaining some distance from your group.

Unless you invest enough time and thought into setting up effective working systems and relationships early on, you will get into bad habits and will never be able to advance very far. You'll get overwhelmed, like George, by the complexity, the meetings, and your inability to control the details you used to attend to. And the better you were at doing your job before, the more frustrated you will be about not being able to do what you used to do. Moving up as a leader involves a lot of letting go while still guiding others with interest and support. The sooner you stop doing parts of your old job and embrace the complexity of your new job, the more effective you will become.

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