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Develop the Leader Within

A Practical Guide for New Managers

Kirsten Blakemore

Abstract: Every new manager faces challenges as they

­enter a new leadership role. Some entries are more
­turbulent than others. Whether the “hot air” is due to
poor leaders, d ­ isgruntled subordinates, or e
­ nvironmental
­uncertainties, one can take s­ pecific ­measures to ­ameliorate
the ­circumstances. This ­practical guide is i­ntended to
­facilitate a smoother e ­ xperience during the transition
and build a ­foundation for successful ­leadership abilities
Kirsten Blakemore, executive and skills.
facilitator at Partners in Leadership
and member of Forbes Coaches
Keywords: Bad employees, Boss, Business
Council, captivates audiences with her
authenticity, expertise, and charisma. development, Common mistakes, Development,
She engages audiences from small to Executive coach, First-time manager, Leadership,
leading organizations creating a fresh Management skills, Manager, Manager manual, Mentor,
environment for learning by moving Performance appraisal, Talent management, Team,
past outdated thinking.
Training, Wellness
Drawing from nearly two decades of
­experience in sales and marketing
leadership, Kirsten helps ­executive Many employees are promoted into a ­managerial role for
­leaders and their teams uncover the technical skill they have honed over time. ­However,
­accountability ­challenges and break many of them also lack the “soft skill” of m ­ anaging
through mental blocks that hold people. I frequently hear this concern ­
­ working with
people, teams, and organizations back
from ­reaching their highest potential. human resources (HR) ­
­ leaders. Some organizations
Kirsten coaches women in ­business ­allow their struggling managers to flail. Others put a
who are ready to take the next step in time limit for development before they move them back
their careers and own their futures. into their independent contributor role.
When she is not speaking and
Understand that as a people leader, you are always
coaching, she ­thoroughly enjoys ­being watched. How you speak, react, and behave is
writing edgy, topical pieces that ­under the scrutiny of those who work for you and around
she contributes to Forbes and Inc you. In many cases, the position you left is still v ­ acant;
online magazines. Kirsten holds an
therefore, you may have that ­workload as well. So, not
­undergraduate degree in business and
a ­master’s degree in psychology from only do you have the pressure of c­ ompleting the new
Pepperdine. She earned a ­coaching ­workload you have been handed but you are e ­ xpected to
certification from the Coaches know how to lead people, gain their ­loyalty, and take care
Training Institute. Her Health Coach of their needs as well. That in itself is a heavy b ­ urden to
Certification from Dr. Sears Wellness
­Institute adds value to her clients,
bear starting out in a new role. The t­ypical expectation
paving the way for work–life balance is that you can handle it. Just like b ­ eing a new parent,
and health. you are given no manual to becoming a great manager

© Business Expert Press 978-1-94858-008-3 (2018) Expert Insights

Develop the Leader Within

within your particular role and with your I thought about it. It might have t­ emporarily
specified dynamics. With the additional felt good after seeing her ­e-mail explaining
workload and extra pressure of being a new all the reasons why she couldn’t post grades.
manager, time management is an ongoing But I said to him, “What is the outcome we
challenge. It’s easy to feel as though you want to achieve here?” He mentioned that he
are just keeping your head above water. wanted to see his grades and he was ­hoping
The good news is that the steps and they would be good. I added that I was h ­ oping
tools detailed in this guide can be readily we could also make her an advocate for him.
applied as they are simple. Interestingly, So I asked, if that is the outcome we desire,
they should be common sense. And yet, will yelling at her get us there? He knew the
so many new managers do not make these obvious answer.
steps and tools a common practice. There were other options we could
Use this guide as an awareness tool to take that would be more likely to obtain
self-assess. Many employees at all levels the outcome we hoped to achieve and
of an organization spend very little time we ­ discussed them. Ultimately, we took
in self-reflection. And yet, that is key to ­another path, which moved us a bit closer
­becoming a strong people leader. to the desired outcome. That process had
As a consultant, I work with groups in us first check ourselves and reflect on our
the professional world across all industry. A emotional state. A very common response
prevailing theme that arises is the common is to allow that emotion to dictate one’s
complaint that “they” have the problem or ­actions. It’s ­reactive and many times we
are not doing “their” work. If those same are left having to clean up a mess we made
people would simply turn that statement in our fury.
inward and ask themselves a few q ­ uestions So, one of the most important aspects
to inspire self-reflection and thought, of this short guide is to use the guide at
more companies would develop successful the end of each section for reflection and
­leaders. The fact is that it’s e
­ asier to look at direction: Reflect on your reactions to a
others and see their faults. It’s much harder situation and consider what you want to
for one to see their own potential traps. achieve as a desired outcome. Direct your
The premise of the guide is to r­ ecognize thoughts and actions in a proactive way,
what outcomes you want to achieve. which will support you in achieving the
Whether in a common interchange or a desired outcome in that situation.
large project, will your actions assist you in Included are quotes from leaders who
achieving the desired outcome? At the end when asked “what has made you a ­successful
of each section there will be self-reflective manager?” added their insights so that you
questions. The questions are intended to can learn from others who have already
assist you in exploring your current mode walked this journey before.
of operating, your intentions, and your The intention of this short guide is to
­desire for outcomes. shed light on several common mistakes
An example of this process played out in a to avoid as a new manager as well as
recent event with my son, who is in middle actionable, simple steps to develop your
school. I was visibly upset by his teacher not leadership ability.
listing any of his grades on the school site
so we could see them. Her i­nability to post Playing It Fair
his grades left us in the dark not k ­ nowing In my first management role, I learned a
if he was doing well, if he u ­ nderstood the valuable lesson, one that has informed
material, if he was doing his work, or if the my actions in every subsequent position
­content was too easy. He said to me after I have held. It has had such a tremendous
seeing my dismay, “Mom, yell at her.” impact on the way I lead that this lesson

2 © Business Expert Press 978-1-94858-008-3 (2018) Expert Insights

Develop the Leader Within

has ­assumed the most prominent position If there is no interpretation of the

in this guide. incident for the team and the members
In the position of an assistant manager learn of it (and they almost always do),
in a sales organization, I learned from the then they will fill in the gap of missing
manager of a national brand. We had just ­information. When there is no explanation
under 40 people reporting to us. I gained and missing information, people typically
many insights from my mentor, but one fill that gap with their own narrative. That
lesson was unintended and unfortunate. narrative is usually negative.
I heard frequently from many sales reps For example, Joe was put in charge of
who felt the standards varied based on who a project. He was a bit behind schedule
her favorites were. It wasn’t fair and they but thought he would be able to meet the
were looking to me to rectify. As a person deadline anyway. However, Bob, Joe’s
in a new role, I wanted to be a sponge, to ­colleague, told him that their manager gave
just learn. the project to Bob to lead now. W ­ ithout a
But quickly I found out that my team prior discussion between the manager
wanted me to intervene when they felt and Joe, Joe is left wondering why that
wronged, and that happened all too of- happened. He starts to fill in the miss-
ten. I would spend quite a bit of time ing information with possibilities such as
­listening to the complaints. I noticed the “My boss didn’t think I could handle it.
impact it had on their engagement and The ­important projects always go to Bob.
morale. The more they felt the inequity, Bob is his favorite.” None of those could
the more d ­isengaged and/or grumbly be accurate or they all could be. The point
they would b ­ ecome. I would catch team is the manager did not discuss this move
­members ­chatting ­quietly about the sub- with Joe. Right now, Joe is simply filling
ject, and when I would walk into the in the missing information with his own
room, they would stop talking. It created ­narrative, and it is negative.
a competitive environment filled with Situations like this happen frequently.
resentment. It is normal to reactively assume the worst
When my mentor left the company, but a classic case of what not to do in a
I was promoted to her role. I knew the first ­management role.
order of business was to create the level One could easily point to Joe’s p ­ roblem
playing field where people knew everyone of assuming the worst, but this leads us
would have the same expectations. I have back to the manager’s responsibility in this
taken that standard and applied it w ­ herever ­dynamic. Think of how this could have been
I have worked some 20 years later. avoided. Step 1: The manager speaks with
Set clear expectations for your team Joe and after a discussion decides Joe will
members to ensure you have that same handle the project. Or Step 2: Joe c­ oncedes
standard for all. If you provide exceptions he is struggling and could use Bob’s help.
for one, you set an expectation that you Then, Step 3: the team is ­notified in a short
will waffle when it comes to holding people meeting that Joe and Bob will be leading
to that standard. If there is a valid reason to in a collaborative approach to complete the
waffle, you may need to interpret that for project on time.
the rest of your team so the message you This is an example of how the m ­ anager
send to them is that this is an ­exception that can prevent both favoritism as well as
is acceptable. The nonverbal message here avoiding a team member filling in gaps
is that if this same reason comes up for any of missing information with their own
team member, then that team member will ­negative narrative.
also have a pass because you have accepted A common complaint that spreads across
it in one case, and thus for all. industry is the scheduling challenge. It may

© Business Expert Press 978-1-94858-008-3 (2018) Expert Insights