10 Things You Need To Manage Before You Manage Others

Making a move into your first leadership or management post can be a daunting experience.

I remember how unprepared I felt and cringe at the memory of leading my first team meeting. When a member of my team got up part way through my carefully prepared speech and gave me a plastic trophy we kept on the windowsill, remarking ‘And the Oscar goes to…’, I realised that I’d broken one of the first rules of understanding what it means to lead.

It’s not about you.

Here are ten things I learned in my first leadership post. It might be more helpful for you to learn them before you begin to lead or manage anyone else. Or else I hope you’re a quick learner – it’s never too late.

10 Things You Need To Manage Before You Manage Anyone Else


1. Your ego.

If you see leadership as an excuse to swan around the place having received recognition for your talents and abilities, then think again. I learned this quickly. There is a  humility that comes with the best leaders I’ve experienced. It’s not about you. Leadership is a challenging ( and exciting) mix of inspiring and motivating others and at the same time serving them.

2. Your confidence levels.

One thing that unseated me in my early weeks was that I lacked confidence and this came across clearly to my team. It manifested itself in trying to control things too much and not recognising the expertise on my team. Find yourself a great mentor who can support you and make sure you regularly remind yourself of your abilities. Don’t expect yourself to be perfect and expect to make mistakes.

3. Your support network.

You’ll need a confidant, a coach, someone to challenge you, someone to guide and inspire you and someone who’ll help you see your strengths and successes –  and I’m sure you could probably add to the list. Some of these people you may find in one person, some of them will be colleagues, an official mentor or coach, or a good friend or family member. Choose wisely and use them. Create your network and resist the urge to tell everybody, everything about you.

4. Your communication.

The number one thing you need to learn to manage is your listening skills. I think it’s the most underrated communication skill there is and the one most needed for success. Listen and learn. Give the person in front of you your full attention. One of my favourite quotes of all time comes from Mary Kay: ‘Imagine everyone you meet has  sign around their neck saying make me feel important.’ Try it and see what happens to your relationships, professional or otherwise.

5. Your emotional state.

In our leaders we look for a mixture of strength and warmth – both men and women who lose their emotional cool can be viewed as showing a lack of strength. This doesn’t mean you can’t feel strong emotion, but that you need to find a way of dealing with it that doesn’t cause you to blow your top in the team meeting or in front of your own manager. Aim to be calm and in control.

6. Your priorities.

Set yourself some goals and ensure that all your decisions are geared towards achieving them. It’s easy to get side-tracked by someone else’s agenda and end up with a ‘to-do’ list that doesn’t reflect any of your own priorities. This HBR article, Who’s Got The Monkey is an excellent read to help you get to grips with this.

7. Your time.

Managing your time is crucial. Get this wrong and it’s like having your legs kicked out from underneath you. You’ll very quickly become overwhelmed. Get some processes and systems in place to help you manage your time, and begin the process of educating your team about how and when you’ll be available – which doesn’t have to be all the time.

8. Your focus.

As a leader, your focus will most likely be on different tasks and outcomes than your previous role. While it’s tempting to fall into the comfort blanket of doing things you’re great at (and probably helped you get your new role), the truth is, you’ll have new responsibilities. This means a shift in focus and this may push you out of your comfort zone for a while.

9. Your energy levels.

New leadership and management roles can be demanding and there may be a tendency to burn the midnight oil. No-one can  work flat-out for long periods. Take time during the day to leave your desk, grab five minutes of fresh air and schedule in thinking and planning time  – even 30 minutes in the week can take the pressure off and give you some space to embrace part of your new role, which will be about strategy and delivering results.

10. Your personal well-being.

Eat well, get regular exercise, recognise your stressors and have a support network around you. Understand how you react to stress and what you can do to minimise its effects. Another one of my favourite quotes – ‘You can’t serve from an empty vessel.’ (anonymous) Self care is vital.

Susan Ritchie

Susan Ritchie is a leadership coach who specialises in working with new and aspiring female leaders, helping them develop their leadership presence, so they can lead with confidence, create the right impact and excel in their role. She’s the author of Strategies for Being Brilliant: 21 Ways to be Happy, Confident and Successful.
She can be found at www.susanritchie.co.uk where you can download 5 Steps To Developing Your Leadership Presence – and why not come and say hello on twitter @susanjritchie.

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