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Congratulations – you’ve been promoted. After years of excellence as a contributor, you are now a manager and a leader of others. No problem, you think. You’ve been doing this job for a while and know all the ins and outs of the work and can manage with your eyes closed. You’ve earned this role. And you can do it!

Wait. Barely into the new role and … something is changing. A feeling of being unsettled, unsure and maybe overwhelmed. This leadership thing is not what you expected. Managing people is hard. Confusing even. Am I cut out for this (you wonder)? Maybe I just don’t have it in me to be a leader (you second guess yourself)?

I’ve met (and coached) countless new leaders over the years who have expressed all kinds of angst and worry about their abilities when stepping into a new leadership role – either their first, or a higher level of leadership.

Wait, I tell them, pause the panic button. You are right where you are meant to be. Your feelings are normal. You deserve the role. It’s just that there are a few (gazillion) things one needs to learn to be a better leader.

In other words: what got you here won’t get you there. Success as a leader is a whole new paradigm that calls for new skills, mindset and a whole bunch of learning.

Let’s start with mindset, the foundation for everything. Your confidence will grow as your competence grows. And no need to wait. You’ve got plenty to feel assured and confident about right now. You earned the role, you have skills, and most importantly, the ability to learn and grow. Step away from the self-judging pit and see yourself and your new role with a different mindset.

Here are eight ways to recalibrate your mindset for more confidence and success:

  1. Expect this: You will be dealing with overload, lots of change, uncertainty and doubt. You will have good days, tough days and fabulous days. Along the way, you will grow, learn and accomplish great things. But you may also stumble. It’s all part of the deal.
  2. Shift your focus: Your focus and attention will need to shift. From developing yourself technically, you’ll also need to develop yourself personally and interpersonally. From focusing on your career growth, you will also need to attend to your people’s growth, needs and aspirations. Sure, stuff must get done. But not without some solid human leadership. This is where the people part comes in. Oh the people ….
  3. Focus on your people: Most leaders struggle not because of their technical abilities, but rather some gaps on the people leadership front. Prioritize having conversations that cultivate trust, collaboration, team engagement – and yes, performance too. While there’s lots to learn here, a commitment to developing your people-development efficacy (versus only directing the work) will make it so much better and easier – for everyone.
  4. Embrace not having to know all answers: No one holds exclusive rights to the wisdom in the room, especially the leader. Instead, your job is to access, cultivate and leverage the wider wisdom in the room (your team, reports, peers). Everyone will be stronger when you tap into collective experience and wisdom.
  5. Forget certainty. Get good at working within ambiguity and change: Remember the days when life and work was certain? Me neither. Work has been fraught with change and complexity for years now. Get comfortable being a little uncomfortable. Leading teams even with some ‘fog ahead’ is the new normal. Take responsible and calculated risks, share transparently as best you can to not add more uncertainty and create a climate of trust and safety. Everyone needs to learn and grow with change so support your people in adapting and growing with you.
  6. Be yourself: To connect meaningfully with your people, you have to be real. No need to fake your way through things or wear a false persona. Authenticity means being transparent, honest and even a little vulnerable at times. Share a little more about yourself personally, not just your working role. Fess up when you don’t yet know an answer. People will trust you more if they know what and who they see is real.
  7. Be courageous: You’ll need to have a lot of uncomfortable conversations, but you’ll get better at them. Stand up and advocate for your people and your ideas, learn to say no when you need to and learn to share feedback.
  8. Be a masterful learner: Accept that there will be lots you don’t yet know how to do. The word ‘yet’ is key. If you can learn then you will be able to lead. The better you get at learning, the better you will get at leading. Leadership is a long game. With time, effort and intention, you will learn more than you realized you didn’t know.

Start with some personal reflection. What are your strengths and values – leverage those. And what are some gaps to level up on? Create some learning goals. Then rinse and recycle repeatedly with new learning and goals.

Be diligent and patient with yourself as you dive into your new role. Hopefully, with less angst and more hope as you embrace the learning and leading road ahead.

Eileen Chadnick, PCC, of Big Cheese Coaching, is an ICF credentialed, two-time ICF (International Coaching Federation) Prism award winner, who works with leaders (emerging to experienced), and organizations, on navigating, leading and flourishing in times of flux, opportunity and challenge. She is the author of Ease: Manage Overwhelm in Times of Crazy Busy.

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