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A Guide to Successful Leadership Transitions from Team Member to Manager

Transitioning from a team member to a manager is a significant leap that requires a profound shift in mindset and approach.

In a recent conversation with Ramona Shaw, a Certified Professional Leadership Coach and best-selling author, we delved into the mental shifts essential for success in leadership roles.

Ramona, drawing from her extensive experience coaching leaders at top-tier companies like Twitch, Google, and Dropbox, highlighted four crucial shifts that new managers must embrace in order to be effective leaders.

Whether you've been managing people for years or just started your first team leadership position yesterday, these mental shifts are ones that we could all use a refresher on.

It's No Longer About You

The most apparent and fundamental shift for new managers is the realization that the focus is no longer on your individual achievements but on the success of the team.

Ramona emphasizes the daily commitment required to prioritize the team's needs ahead of personal objectives. This shift challenges managers to balance their time effectively. Too often, managers are overwhelmed, finding themselves attending meetings and assisting team members throughout the day, leaving their own to-do lists unattended.

However, as Ramona highlights, the true measure of a manager's productivity lies in the collective accomplishments of the team, not the number of individual tasks completed. Shifting the mindset from "I" to "we" involves understanding that success is not solely about personal achievements but about facilitating the team to excel together.

This shift in perspective has a profound impact on how managers prioritize their day-to-day activities. Instead of being driven by a lengthy personal to-do list, the focus pivots towards fostering clarity, communication, alignment, and team development.

By aligning personal success with team success, managers create a collaborative environment where everyone's contributions are valued.

“It's incredibly powerful when you see your job as a manager being measured on the results your team is getting. It totally shifts how you think about your own priorities.” Mamie Kanfer Stewart

"Leadership is not about being in charge. It's about taking care of those in your charge." – Simon Sinek

Moving Away from Being the Go-To Person

Individual contributors often become managers based on their high performance and expertise. However, as a manager, the role transforms from being the go-to person who solves problems to empowering team members to take ownership.

This shift requires resisting the temptation to personally address every challenge or take on every task and instead redirect queries to the team. Managers must navigate the internal tension of no longer being the sole problem solver while fostering an environment where team members feel empowered to contribute independently. Failure to make this shift can result in time management issues as a constant influx of meetings and requests hinders your overall productivity.

Transition from Advising to Coaching

Ramona underscores the importance of refraining from giving advice and handing over all the answers. New managers, often promoted due to their expertise, may find it challenging to hold back and let their team members figure things out on their own.

However, the key to successful leadership lies in adopting a coaching approach. Managers must focus on supporting and developing their team's skills, fostering autonomy, and creating a culture of continuous learning.

To do this, Ramona recommends managers focus on asking questions that can help their team members discover the answers for themselves.

Embrace Strategic Thinking

This mental shift involves transitioning from a detailed, task-oriented perspective to a strategic one. While individual contributors focus on goals and strategies set by superiors, managers must develop a strategic mindset because you’re now the one setting those goals!

This includes initiating new ideas, seeing the bigger picture, setting targets, and advocating for their team at both higher and lateral organizational levels. Successful leaders take charge of the team's direction by clarifying expectations, influencing organizational objectives, and driving innovation.

"Leadership is not a one-size-fits-all scenario; it's a dynamic and evolving process. Embrace the challenges, learn from the shifts, and enjoy the journey.” Ramona Shaw

Leadership is a Continuous Learning Process

Transitioning from a team member to a manager is a multifaceted journey that demands a deliberate shift in mindset. By recognizing that leadership is a continuous learning process and regularly investing in training, even the most unassured individuals can navigate this transition effectively.

The key lies in consistently putting the team's needs first, empowering team members, adopting a coaching approach, and developing strategic thinking.

In doing so, new managers can not only navigate but thrive in their leadership roles, fostering a work environment where both the team and the manager flourish.

Listen to my entire conversation with Ramona Shaw HERE for the key to a successful transition to a leadership role.

Connect with Ramona Shaw:

The Manager Track podcast

Follow her on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook

Giveaway: PDF: Your First 30 Days as a New Manager

Your first 30 days offer a great opportunity to make a positive impression and begin building credibility with your new team members. This resource includes 4 practical tools to have a successful start with your team and your stakeholders alike.

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