Shoutout to all the new, first-time bosses out there. This blog is dedicated to you. To the people that were hard-working, results-grabbing individual contributors yesterday, and today are responsible for managing a team… it’s pretty different.
I was promoted to Director of Demand Generation six months ago and have since struggled with moving into the “boss” role. I mean, sure I love Lean In’s Ban Bossy campaign, but living the reality of being a boss, uniting a team, teaching them new skills, and encouraging their passions, all while delivering fabulous results is a whole new ballgame.
I’ve always been pretty obsessed with leadership. I’m the oldest of eight kids, was the Student Council President, and have spent more time reading leadership books than I care to admit. Combining that with my strong desire to always be a top earner at work has helped me carve out a pretty successful career thus far.
Until I became a boss.
My own boss warned me about this the day he offered me the promotion. He said the time and energy it takes to make sure your team has what they need to get results (while maintaining your own workload) was going to be tough.
Fast forward to my spin class this week… I’m on a bike, peddling so hard I thought my legs were going to fall off, when the instructor told us to think about something that’s been bothering us, to focus on it, and use that frustration in the workout. Immediately, I thought, “I wish I was a better leader, a better teacher for my team.” And thus, this post was born.
I realized I was face-to-face with a great teacher, my spin instructor, and that there were some strong leadership habits I could borrow from her. After all, she leads 30+ people in an extremely difficult, yet well-coordinated setting that absolutely delivers results. And we clearly have fun because we all come back the next day for more.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
Establish goals right away
At the beginning of each class, they spend time going over exactly what we need to accomplish to have a successful class. There’s an introduction to the bike, clear instructions on what the expectations are (always stay on the beat of the music), and a time for questions if anything is unclear.
As leaders, we need to make sure our team knows the exact goals of their role, the goals of the team, and the goals of the business to ensure we have a successful year. If there is a solid definition of goals, it becomes easy for everyone to prioritize their time.
Check in frequently
Spin class is hard. We’re sprinting up hills, doing push-ups on the handlebar, all while dancing to the beat of some EDM remix that most people haven’t heard outside of a rave (and all that goes along with that). To help us through it, the instructor doesn’t let a minute go by without checking in with the class. “How we doing South Boston?” and “push yourself!” are two phrases heard often during these workouts.
As new leaders, we must take the time to check in with the people on our team. Now, I’m not talking about hovering, helicopter-style micro managing. I’m talking about ignoring that temptation to focus on your ever-growing To Do list and making the commitment to put your team members needs before your own. Do they need encouragement? Do they need to be pushed harder? You’ll only know if you are regularly checking in to see if they have everything they need to achieve sustainable high performance.
Give public shoutouts
Every now and then, it’s obvious someone is really pushing hard in class. Of course, we’re all there to work our collective butts off (literally) but once a week there will be someone who is just crushing it. Their legs are flying, they’re on the beat, and they’ve got a smile on their face. The instructor will call these superstars out by name, in front of the class, and you can tell in that moment that all the hard work is worth it.
We all know that telling our team they’re doing great work is obvious… but don’t forget to share that success with other groups in your company. My events manager almost doubled our booth traffic from 1H 2014 to 1H 2015 and my marketing automation coordinator is ensuring all our inbound leads are being called within the first 15 minutes that they come in. Those are not small feats, and that success should be shared. Make sure you’re pushing their success up the ladder. If it makes it to the CEO, you know you’ve done your job, and it will make them feel that going above and beyond is worth it.
So, those are my tips to help us become better leaders. Hopefully my team will see the benefits as I put these into practice. Major thanks go to Elise, Sarah, Candice, Rose, and all the lovely ladies at The Handle Bar South Boston for the inspiration… and the results.