You’ve gotten the call that you’ve been promoted to leadership. Suddenly, everything changes.  There are obvious changes like a new title or maybe more money. However, the biggest change of all is increased responsibility. What should your first move be? Read on for 3 actions to help you kickstart your leadership in the right direction.

I’d probably be guessing correctly if I said that you were really successful in what you were doing before you got the promotion. How do I know that? Because that’s how it happens most of the time…because people are really good technically, they get promoted into a leadership position. The hope from decision-makers is that you can lead other people to achieve that same high level of success you’ve had.

The challenge most newly promoted leaders face is that while they excel technically, they lack leadership skills. Don’t worry, everyone has the power to learn to be a great leader. The fact that you’re here reading this article shows me that you’re already headed in the right direction. Let’s dig into the three next steps to help you in your new leadership role.

Own It

Leadership is a responsibility. As a leader, your responsibility is to serve your people. Big picture — your people include both the people you work for and the people who work for you. This article’s focus is on the people who work for you. From that perspective, your goal should be to serve your people by equipping and inspiring them to achieve better performance that drives bottom-line business results.

From day one, you have to own this new responsibility. 

As you work through planning, organizing, directing, and controlling all aspects of your team, you will experience challenging days. That doesn’t mean that you’re the wrong person for the job. Instead, it means you have an opportunity to learn, grow, and do something to make it better. 

When performance is declining, own the responsibility of figuring out why and how to fix it. If your culture is sucking the life out of your high-potentials, own the responsibility of figuring out how to make it better. Whatever the issue is, you’re the leader. Issues most often come from the top down. You now have the power to enact positive change. Own it!

Elevate Your Leadership Vibe

A new title at work won’t automatically grant you respect, admiration, or buy-in from your people. However, being promoted to leadership will change the way people see you. It’s your choice whether you take action to help them see in you in a good light or a bad one.

Take time to think about leaders you’ve loved throughout the years: 

  • What did they do that made them great?
  • What words would you use to describe them? 

Now ask yourself, how do I want people to see me as a leader?

Maybe you thought of characteristics like smart, inspirational, selfless, professional, innovative, dependable, trustworthy, etc. Whatever you want your people to think of you, you have to take action to bring those qualities to life. From the moment you pull into the parking lot on day one, you elevate your vibe…you’re the leader now! Choose to walk, talk, dress, think, and act like the leader you want them to see you as.

Listen to Stories

As a new leader, you must get the right people in the right positions in order to create an environment that breeds success. In order to do that well, you have to have a deep understanding of your people: who they are, where they come from, strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, etc.

You’ll likely have access to all kinds of reports and records that will give you some insight into the people you are now responsible for leading. It is a good idea to also take the initiative to study different genders, generations, and other demographics that will help you better understand your diverse workforce. However, the power to deeply understand your people lies in their stories, not the statistics. 

Here’s what I mean:

3 Benefits of Listening to Employee Stories

  • Showing that you care enough to listen to someone’s story is where you’ll start building a relationship with them. That relationship is critical to a good work environment going forward. That means that listening to your people’s stories is a quick win for you right off the bat!
  • Stories also have the power to unlock otherwise undiscovered truths and motivation for past, present, and future performance. Someone may initially think a person is motivated by money, but after listening to stories about their kids, you might learn that they are actually more motivated by a flexible schedule to allow for more family time. 
  • Listen carefully as people share their stories with you because they will give you clues into whether or not someone is your ally or your adversary. As a leader, it is always helpful to know who is rooting for or against you so you can adjust your actions as necessary. 

The knowledge you gain from listening to stories from your people will help you evaluate the competency of your team and drive how you position and lead them going forward. You may find that there are people who are not a good fit for the team, others whose responsibilities and expectations need to be rearranged, and some who are exactly right where they need to be. Your cognitive ability to peel back the layers on your people and effectively lead them to achieve better results will be a defining factor in your success now that you’ve been promoted to leader.

Lay Down the Law

As a new leader, your people are busting at the seams to hear your vision for the future. Each of them is dying to know if you’re going to stop any bleeding and/or help them ramp up for huge success. Ultimately, they want to know how your leadership is going to affect them on a day-to-day basis.

Don’t rush, but you have to lay down the law soon. Laying down the law is the process I use for visioning in my leadership training sessions. Briefly, there are three questions you must answer:

  • Where are you now?
  • Where do you want to go?
  • How are you going to get there?

It is critical that you frame your answers to each of these questions to line up with not only the expectations of your company but also the needs and wants of your people. Doing this will cause your people to be more likely to quickly get on board and start steering performance in the direction you want it to go. A clearly communicated vision is a weapon for mass success.

You’ve Got This

Remember, you were not promoted to leadership by accident — it happened because someone believes in you. So once you’ve been promoted to leadership, don’t look back. Own it! Own it because you’ve been given the opportunity to positively influence and impact lives. Choose to focus your time and effort on what you can do to move results in the right direction. Leadership is not always easy, but it’s always worth it.