Picture a manager, recently promoted into a position of leadership. It’s their first time having such authority and they’re filled with anxiety. What if their team doesn’t follow them? What if people think they aren’t qualified? What if they actually aren’t qualified?
Imposter syndrome is common for leaders in new positions, whether it’s their first time or if they’re simply taking on a new department. It feels intimidating, scary, and stressful. The problem is, the first few weeks of new leadership are absolutely critical.
Fortunately, there’s a way for every leader to minimize the potential of imposter syndrome. The solution is a combination of preparation and communication which create a toolkit every new leader should equip themselves with.
Why New Leaders Are in Critical Positions
When someone steps into a new leadership position, the clock starts ticking. In most cases, it takes approximately 6-12 weeks for teams to establish an opinion of a new leader. In only three months, a reputation is formed. Of course, it is possible to change people’s opinions but beyond that initial period, change happens at a glacial pace. In other words, it is of the utmost importance that new leaders make a good impression.
New leaders must act fast, but those initial actions must be directed toward the right outcomes. It’s easy to think that the right focus would be rooted in success for the organization, like cementing a new major deal or launching a flashy new campaign. But the core focus in those early weeks must be on relationships and trust, not the bottom line of the business.
Remember, it’s not just you that feels anxious in a new leadership position. Your teams are just as nervous. How will your role affect theirs? What’s going to change? What might get worse?
Focusing on relationships and trust alleviates the anxieties of your teams. In turn, you’ll feel more at ease and confident as well.
Four Core Strategies for New Leaders
The best strategies for new leaders mirror those we often discuss when we talk about creating a great workplace culture. In order of importance, creating a successful launch as a new leader is about establishing positive relationships, building systems that serve, and then focusing on tasks last.
Here are ways to ensure those all-important positive relationships are established early on.
- Establish trust — As a leader, your ideal work-life balance is secondary to the establishment of trust. (Don’t worry, this is only during your initial weeks.) Forget about the paperwork until after quitting time for the first six weeks so you can hone in on relationships.
- Communicate incredibly well — Everyone communicates differently, and your teams will be eager to make sure they can talk to you effectively. Spend extra time ensuring that you’re responding to all emails, texts, and calls in a timely manner during your formative weeks. And don’t just focus on work subjects. Remember people’s names, their hobbies, or details about their families.
- Frame the question — People want to impress their new leader. Help them do that by teeing up projects you know they’ll excel at.
- Be kind — Prevent feelings of anxiety by proving that you’re a leader who cares, who listens, and who is friendly. Remember, at the end of the day, we all crave a leader who we want to work with.
Despite the ticking clock, remember not to rush things. There’s such an urgency to go fast when you start. The truth of the matter is, if you’re a leader you want to go far. The long-term success of your team and organization depends on the people around you. Invest in them and you’ll never be an imposter.
Want more strategies to create the ultimate workplace culture as a new leader? Download our free resource: The Innovative Leader’s Guide to Transforming Company Culture… Starting with Yourself.
Author, Speaker, and Change Agent.
Chris leads a dynamic team of passionate change agents who are dedicated to partnering with organizational executives to create cultures that inspire, engage and ignite the best in people. Our work is dedicated to harnessing the power of culture to equip leaders, build amazing teams and align operation practices to delighting the customer and drive breakthrough results.