Claire found herself at a pivotal moment in her career. A brilliant coder known for her late-night marathons and innovative problem-solving has ascended the ranks. She had become a team lead. 

Her transition brought about a profound “culture shock”. Once thrived on the clarity of code, she now navigated the murky waters of team dynamics and interpersonal relationships.  

The emotional rollercoaster that ensued was unlike any debugging session she’d ever encountered.  

Excitement gave way to anxiety, confidence to self-doubt. Each day presented a new test of her patience and understanding, leaving her to wonder if she was truly cut out for the new role. 

For many new managers like Claire, her journey is a common rite of passage.  

The thrill of leadership often comes hand-in-hand with the fear of failure. It’s a complex transformation that demands not only a new set of skills but also a profound shift in mindset.  

The Dangers of Robotic Management 

When new managers find themselves thrust into leadership roles without adequate preparation in people management skills, the temptation to resort to a directive, task-focused approach can be all too alluring. Human is a creature of habit after all. 

In my experience, it often stems from a desire for clarity and control in unfamiliar territory. 

Team members under such leadership experience frustration and disengagement. New leaders unknowingly overlook unique contributions in favor of rigid processes and micromanagement.  

So, morale within the team plummets. It decreases motivation, creativity and, ultimately, productivity.  

The once vibrant atmosphere of collaboration and innovation gives way to a stifling environment where autonomy is stifled, and initiative is quashed. 

Moreover, the insidious nature of robotic management extends beyond internal team dynamics to affect the entire organization. 

Robotic management negatively affects the entire organization, not just team dynamics.

Missed opportunities for growth, innovation, and cross-functional collaboration become the norm as creativity is stifled; and risks are avoided in favor of maintaining the status quo.  

The very essence of leadership—to inspire, empower, and guide individuals towards a shared vision—becomes lost in a sea of directives and control. 

The Shift from Individual Contributor to Leadership 

For Claire, the transition to management was simply a matter of scaling her productivity through delegation. She viewed her team as an extension of her coding capabilities, a collective machine where each part needed to be optimized for efficiency.  

Her perspective, while logical to a seasoned individual contributor, overlooked a fundamental element of leadership: the community factor

As an individual contributor, we are accustomed to equating success with personal achievement and task completion. But adding relational dynamics as part of our responsibility is both unsettling and enlightening. 

Her shift in focus from tasks to people wasn’t just a change in responsibilities—it was a transformation in identity.  

Claire was no longer just a coder; she’s a leader tasked with the delicate balance of achieving results while cultivating a healthy, motivating work environment.  

She had to learn that the strength of her team lay not in their collective ability to execute tasks but in their shared vision, mutual respect, and the diversity of their perspectives.  

She had to navigate the intricate company ecosystem. She must advocate for her team’s achievements, effectively communicate their value, and shield them from any undue pressures or conflicts that could disrupt their harmony and productivity. 

Claire’s understanding was the first step in overcoming the culture shock of human interaction and embracing the complexities—and rewards—of managing people. 

The Crucial Step: Self-Awareness 

Self-awareness stands as the key to successful leadership. I’ve witnessed it over 15 years, across different cultures in various continents. The faster you recognize it, the easier for you to build a high-performing team. 

The journey of self-discovery begins with introspection. It’s a reflective process that unveils your true leadership character. And, you can start from here: 

  • Take time to assess what qualities make you an effective leader and where you have opportunities for growth. Ask yourself: 
    • What unique strengths do I bring to my leadership role? 
    • In what areas do I need further development or improvement? 
  • Consider how your emotions influence your decision-making, communication, and team morale. Ask yourself: 
    • How do my emotions affect my interactions with team members? 
    • When faced with conflict, how do I manage my emotional responses? 
  • Recognize specific situations or challenges that trigger stress, frustration, or uncertainty in your leadership role. Ask yourself: 
    • What circumstances tend to provoke a strong emotional reaction in me? 
    • How do I typically respond when under pressure or facing uncertainty? 
  • Evaluate your comfort level in assigning tasks, empowering team members, and fostering a culture of trust. Ask yourself: 
    • Am I confident in delegating responsibilities and empowering my team? 
    • How do I build trust and collaboration within my team through delegation? 

Understanding Your Support Needs 

Practicing self-awareness doesn’t mean you have to do it alone, or by yourself.  

New managers need to figure out what training, mentorship, or resources can improve their leadership skills and assist them in dealing with management challenges. 

It can be as simple as seeking from experienced mentors within the organization or industry. LinkedIn, for example, is a great place to network and to connect with people that have gone through her phase. 

Even better when you can engage a seasoned leadership coach

A mentor offers guidance based on their own experiences, providing insights, advice, and a sounding board for challenges encountered along the way. On the other hand, a leadership coach offers tailored support, helping new managers develop crucial skills, navigate organizational dynamics, and cultivate their leadership style effectively.  
A coach promises psychological safety. She/he provides a supportive environment for new leaders to voice their thoughts and ideas without reservation, fostering their ability to communicate effectively and be fully expressive. 

Both avenues offer unique benefits that can accelerate personal growth, and ultimately lead to success in the ever-evolving landscape of leadership. 

Managers can boost team motivation and performance by knowing what motivates and supports their team members.

Managing with Empathy: Building on Self-Awareness 

Rome wasn’t built in a day, but its architects first understood their tools. Similarly, by understanding their triggers and needs, managers can better connect with their team, improving morale, engagement, and productivity. 

For leaders, empathy transcends mere understanding. It cultivates a culture of trust, respect, and psychological safety within the team.  

How do you manage with empathy? 

1. Schedule Regular One-on-One Meetings: Allocate dedicated time for individual conversations with team members to foster open communication, address concerns, and provide personalized support. 

2. Actively Listen to Team Concerns and Aspirations: Practice active listening by attentively hearing and understanding the perspectives, challenges, and aspirations of your team members. Empathetic listening builds trust and strengthens relationships. 

3. Provide Constructive Feedback with Empathy and Encouragement: Acknowledge efforts, highlight strengths, and provide guidance for improvement in a supportive and encouraging manner. Her approach fosters a growth mindset and motivates team members to excel.  

4. Celebrate Achievements and Milestones: Acknowledge hard work, dedication, innovation, and perseverance through public recognition, rewards or simple gestures of appreciation. Her boosts morale, reinforces positive behavior, and encourages continued excellence. 

5. Understand and Leverage Team Dynamics: Gain insight into the unique strengths, weaknesses, and interpersonal relationships of each team member. Her understanding enables you to strategically align tasks and projects in a way that leverages individual talents while fostering collaboration and synergy within the team. 

Conclusion: Navigating the Human Element 

Taking on a leadership role is like navigating through the complex world of human interactions. New leaders like Claire face challenges that require them to be adaptable, empathetic, and self-aware as they transition from being an individual contributor to guiding a team. 

It’s a transformative process that requires a change in perspective, not just responsibility.  

Find a mentor to guide you or a leadership coach to gain insights beyond your current perspective and illuminate blind spots in your leadership journey. 

New leaders, remember this: the realization that effective leadership is not about asserting control, but about fostering an environment where creativity, collaboration, and mutual respect flourish is the launchpad of true leadership. 

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