How to lead a team - especially if you’ve never done it before.

Today’s topic is a little bit different. I’ve been thinking a lot in the past couple of weeks what I really enjoyed about my COO job, and it always comes down to this: I’ve loved building a team, helping people develop and grow. 

Now, the truth is that I’d never done anything like that before I joined Erento. I was a management consultant - and I did have juniors working with me, but I’d never had any long-term responsibility for a team before. Basically, I had no idea what I was doing. 

It was a lot of trial and error and self-doubt and success and laughing and crying and asking for help and feedback and input and forgiveness for the people who worked in my teams.  

It’s scary - to go into a manager or leadership position for the first time. And especially as more and more companies understand that it’s beneficial to promote from within and hire people who have a lot of potential and drive (and not necessarily 10+ years work experience), I see more and more junior managers in a first time leadership position. And they struggle. And that’s normal. 

So here’s a handful of tips for you if you’re in your first leadership position:

Breathe. It’s going to be okay. You were hired to do this job because someone believed in you. So you CAN do it, even if you wake up with this gut-wrenching feeling of “FUCK, I have no idea what I’m doing”. Take a deep breath. Smile. It will be okay. 

Coffee helps too.

Coffee helps too.

Be honest and say what you don’t know. You were NOT hired or promoted to do this job because you know everything. You know why? Because no one knows everything. Just ask a lot of questions, be open and try to understand as much as you can. Most importantly: Strive to understand who these people are in your teams. What are their dreams, their passions, the books they read, the partners they have, the vacations they took? Be interested. Don’t be scared to appear stupid - stupid is when you don’t ask anything. 

Ask for feedback - from your teams. Tell them you’re also just figuring out this “leading" thing. Be vulnerable. Ask them how you’re doing and what they need from you. Trust me, they know! Use ever opportunity to have to get feedback and make sure to actually listen to it. Your team will hold you accountable to it! 

Try. Reflect. Adjust. Read a lot - books, blog posts, everything you can find. Talk to people how they lead their teams. Try different ideas and then reflect how they worked and adjust if necessary. Try different formats of 1on1s, try different feedback approaches, try different team events, try different formats of team meetings. Think about what worked well and what didn’t - and ask your team about it. Then adjust accordingly, and try something new. Your leadership style will continue to change and shift shapes over time, and that’s okay. You’re changing, your business is most likely changing, the people in your teams are changing - so why should you keep holding on to the same old tricks? 

Practical advice: These four tips are the basis -  if you’re looking for specific advice like “Should I do 1on1s?” or “How can I lead a team meeting?” read this article (and this one too) that I wrote a while back for our old company blog. 

Remember: It will be okay. Everyone is just figuring this out. Breathe. Be open and honest. Trust your gut. If all else fails, send me an email (hello@hannalisahaferkamp.com) - I recently started to offer coachings for junior managers and would love to work with you!