Becoming an expert, or developing a body of expertise, is a rewarding and energising part of anyone’s career. You feel confident, focused, and knowledgeable. People turn to you for the answers, and you’ve usually got them.
Because you’re so competent, you get promoted. Now you’re in charge of a team. Maybe a team with knowledge outside of your body of expertise.
And that’s when all hell breaks loose.
Being an expert is totally different to being a leader.
Here are 3 big mistakes to void when you are stepping up from expert to leader.
1. Thinking everyone thinks like you.
This often comes as a shock to many experts. After all, it makes sense to think like you – you’re highly successful, your process yields results. Therefore, if everyone on your team thought and worked as you do, then you would have a high functioning team.
Why this is a big no-no destined for trouble:
- People are hard-wired differently. Any number of psychometric assessment tools (like Myers-Briggs) will show you the archetype of personalities and behaviour profiles. People think and perceive differently, depending on their inner wiring.
- People have different upbringings and cultural influences. This seems obvious, but we often overlook it until it comes whopping us in the face. As a result of someone’s upbringing, they will see, perceive, and translate situations and events with a different meaning to you.
- People have different work styles. This was a real surprise to me when I started leading teams. As someone who is creative, outspoken, and enjoys a fast pace, I found it endlessly frustrating and irksome to work with people who were methodical, detailed, plodding in their pace. And then I worked out that for those people, detail is the most important thing to get right – that being accurate is professional, that doing quality work was an expression of the quality of the person. So imagine my horror when they perceived my ‘near enough is good enough’ attitude as totally slack and lazy. Whoa. Perception adjustment time.
By realising that people think and see things differently to you, you will learn to be more sensitive, diplomatic,and flexible in your style. This is more likely to build rapport with your team.
2. Just tell people what to do and how to do it, and it will all turn out ok.
This is called micro-managing. It has a bad reputation for a good reason. Most people like the following in their workplaces:
- Direction and purpose
- Defined role
- Support and encouragement
- Opportunity to excel and be challenged.
Most people start making voodoo pin dolls when they get micro-managed [Tweet this] because they loathe:
- Being patronised and condescended by being told the intimate detail of how to do their job
- Feeling not trusted by an overbearing, scrutinising boss
- Feeling stifled by not being allowed any latitude for improving process, or finding their own way to a solution.
Instead of being a ‘director’, try outlining the outcomes of what you want, rather than the process. Leave the process up to them. You can still offer to help with process if they get stuck or need some guidance.
3. Hoarding tasks.
Yes you’re the expert. Yes, you do it brilliantly.
But maybe, just maybe, someone might do it just as well as you? Maybe even possibly better than you? Hard to consider, given your enormous amount of experience and knowledge…
Becoming a good manager involves:
- Letting go – of things other people will do brilliantly, so you can spend more time in leadership thinking and strategy
- Delegating – you will reap huge brownie points from your team when you delegate a project that means they need to step up and grow, take responsibility, and learn new skills
- Trusting – that your team members will do their best to do a good job
- Taking ownership and responsibility – for when your team members don’t do a good job – you probably did not explain the parameters properly, or give them enough guidance at the beginning.
Thee are some of the fundamentals of shifting from an expertise role to a leadership role. They are fundamentals to the management aspect of that leadership role. When you have those skills mastered, it creates the time and space for you to do the leadership work:
- Strategic thinking
- Being future-ready and responsive
- Reviewing and refining the Big Picture
- Creativity and innovation.
It all starts with self-awareness, and the willingness to grow again in a different areas of expertise – one of ‘manager’ and ‘leader’.