By Guy Harris
Most new, front-line leaders have a history of being excellent individual performers. They are good at what they do, and, as a result, they get the opportunity to move into leadership. It makes sense in so many ways, and that common path to leadership can also create a challenge.
The challenge comes when front-line leaders continue to act like individuals on a team rather than leaders of a team. The challenge reveals itself in several ways, and all of the manifestations have a common root cause. Front-line leaders create problems when they confuse being responsible for a business result with being the person who gets a task done.
As a leader of a team, you are responsible for making sure things get done. You are not responsible for doing all of them or even knowing how to do all of them. To get past this challenge, you have to be okay with asking for help.
Two of the most common issues where you can ask for help are delegation and performance issues.
Let me explain:
When you delegate a task to someone, you are effectively asking for their help (and trusting that they will do what you ask). For a person who is used to doing things on their own, that can be a difficult issue to confront. I have heard (and used) many reasons (well, excuses) for NOT delegating tasks. To be successful as a leader, this is one challenge you must confront and overcome. You cannot do it all. You have to ask for help.
I hope that you have an amazing team and that you never have any serious performance issues to address. I also realize that you are likely to have at least one experience with a team member who is not getting the results you need. When this happens, be ready to ask for help.
I do believe that you are the first point of interaction when you face an employee performance issue. In fact, I strongly encourage you to do everything in your power to address the issue within your team. I also encourage you to ask for help from your supervisor and from your HR department and to do so early in the process.
When it comes to performance issues, there are personal issues, legal issues, company policies, and historical precedent that you to need navigate successfully. Unless you are an expert on labor law in your state and know everything about every employee issue ever addressed at your company, you are going to need help. The best place to get this help is from your supervisor and from your HR department.
I am not suggesting that you throw up your hands and ask them to handle the situation. I am suggesting that you engage with them early in the process to get both their perspective and guidance on how to best proceed so that everyone (you, the employee in question, the rest of your team, and the organization as a whole) is protected and treated fairly.
As you enter front-line leadership, remember that the personal drive and desire for accomplishment that gave you the opportunity to move into leadership has both good and bad associated with it. It is good because it makes you a high achiever. It can be bad if it stops you from asking for help when you need.
Remember, it is okay to ask for help.