Are you stepping into leadership roles?

Some of my friends are stepping into leadership roles and some are expanding their roles to lead across geographies. Some helpful tips for a smooth transition!

When someone gets recommended / identified by a leader to take on a leadership role, that means – someone up there is seeing some hidden potential in the individual. Sometimes we do not know what our own hidden potential is, but for a leader operating at a higher level, it might be our simplicity, ability to navigate people and their expectations, being a quick learner, adaptability, enthusiasm, drive, versatility, vision, ideas etc etc. As long as we are ready and quick to learn, technical expertise around what we are expected to deliver, is not a necessity. Experts are plenty, being able to bring a group of talented people together and inspiring them work towards a common goal is not easy. And, that might be your hidden talent, if it is not, you would need to groom yourself for it.

So, what does it mean to lead an initiative across geographies.

The first four focus areas talk about you and your personal capability to lead the initiative. How should you approach preparing yourself for the role?

  1. Vision: What are you trying to accomplish? What is the purpose and goal? Put it together. If you are new and have not understood it yet, consolidate your understanding about what is the scope of what you are getting into at this juncture and write it down. Be open to expanding it and adapting as things start geting more clear as days go by. Setup small weekly goals for the first 3-4 weeks to put together a vision / scope.
  2. Reach out to experts: When you are taking on a new leadership role leading across geographies, you do not know what you do not know. Understand and accept the fact that you-do-not-know. Now, identify areas that you need-to-know more about to form a perspective to make a decision on how to proceed. Seek external consultants, experts or those who have been there and faced/overcame similar issues. You will get plenty of people in the industry who would love to share their expertise for free, at a cost and there are organizations who specialize in these consulting efforts. Recruit one of them to help you in the initial phase. For ex: legal, HR, technology, security, compliance as it relates to your domain might need external experts.
  3. Communicate your vision with your team: Whether you are working in an organization with a dedicated team, or matrixed team, or as a volunteer for non-profit work, everyone needs to know what they are expected to do, and operating workflow. Some would want to know the why (purpose behind it) as well. Having an ongoing communication channel with your team is critical. If your scope of work is expanding, ensuring you consolidate your individual meetings/discussions into group meetings / discussions helps. Setting up a management layer to manage daily/weekly deliverables helps, giving you the time and space to focus across projects.
  4. Managing work: When you are running a large, international initiative or team, expect that there would be smaller groups or people who need to be meeting amongst themselves to clarify their work and deliverables to move forward. Not being a bottleneck to any of them, while continuing to move forward is important. Setting up status reporting processes help significantly towards this. You will not need to be micro-managing, and others will have the freedom to form their mini-teams to accompish the goal. If you feel some team/deliverable is getting delayed, you can get to focus your efforts there!

The next four focus on how you choose to lead your teams, giving you space to grow with your role as your initiative progresses forward

  1. Trust: Trust you have good team supporting you. Trust that your team will deliver. See their work and deliverables for a few weeks and observe the leading indicators of timeliness and quality of work. Trust in your absence, the initiative will progress well, and set up your underlying processes and framework to accomplish this. You and your absence being missed is a good thing. However, your work being missed to move a daily deliverable forward is not a good thing. Set the expectations and say it out aloud to your team that you trust them. It means a lot.
  2. Pride: Your team members will be skilled at very different things. Some may be experts, some may be good at communication, some at managing, some at technology, some people leaders, some operations. Keeping all of them motivated would be challenging, however critical. Instill the pride in working towards the purpose/goal of the initiative and share the feedback from stakeholders, partners, customers back with your team. Let them see that they are not fixing nuts-and-bolts, but building a car. Show them how their day to day work is helping from a bigger picture standpoint. That instills pride and satisfaction.
  3. Community: Everyone wants to have a sense of belonging. See how the teams can be grouped to instill the sense of community. Community might mean different things in different contexts. Adapt it to your context by understanding your teams, their skills and abilities and how you can group them to continue to encourage the sense of belonging! When the team member feels they belong there and their skills are wanted/valued, their commitment to engage and participate increases. Everyone has something to bring to the table, ensure you/someone in your mini-groups taps into these.
  4. Recognition: Recognize people for the good work they do, right when they do it. Encourage this as a habit in your teams. Anyone doing any good thing, make it a point that you start appreciating it, those who work with you will follow suit. The work environment gets better and clear.

While every one of us brings our own operating and leadership styles, the above helps the individual and their teams have the space and connect to grow into their roles.

Most important of all, DO NOT lose your health in the process. Ensure you are well rested as you are embarking on a long journey ahead! Your health is no longer critical for you, but for your team as well!

People respond well to those that are sure of what they want

Anna Wintour, Vogue

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