Navigating the transition from individual contributor to leader can be a difficult endeavor if you are not properly prepared. This transition represents a paradigm shift on many different levels. As you progress in your career, you will undoubtedly encounter this transition. You must be mentally and emotionally prepared to change behaviors and thought patterns that you may have developed over your career to that point.
We will discuss some tips that I have gleaned form my own experience in transitioning from software engineer, to software engineering manager, to director of software engineering.
Session for those who are new to management, or have a desire to move up into management How to successfully navigate the transition from individual contributor to leader You must be mentally and emotionally prepared to change behaviors and thought patterns that may have developed over your enter career up to that point.
AppointmentPlus is a global company and leader in online appointment scheduling software, focused on dominating our market by providing elegant, beautifully designed solutions for scheduling. Currently at 100 people here in the US and India. Named one of the best companies to work for in AZ in 2017.
My current role: Strategic leader of our software development efforts Started in software development as a freelancer in Chicago Resume shows steady growth and progression over the last 10+ years
This is not a regurgitation of other books or speakers, I am speaking from my own experience and results This can be used as a framework for your own path This will likely grow/change as I do
In no particular order, but emphasis on giving it time and developing relationships because leadership is all about people
KEY: being patient will keep you from becoming frustrated while you allow yourself to develop
Most of us will not master the new skills necessary to be successful overnight. It takes repetition and persistence.
You may fail sometimes. You may revert back to familiar patterns. You may struggle with the transition, but you have to persist through the struggle knowing that you will eventually master the necessary skills. It will feel awkward sometimes, but it will eventually become second nature.
You don’t have to do it alone. Surround yourself with a healthy support group.
KEY: doing this will give you the right perspective of your purpose as a leader, and make many of the other items easier to do
If you do not invest in your team, you will be on a fast track to failure. If you enter your new role under the mindset that you are going to continue being the top producer, you are due for major disappointment.
Delegation is going to be an invaluable skill. You can’t do it all on your own. You will need to trust your team to get it done. Your focus needs to shift to higher level activities.
If your team knows you trust them to tackle the difficult tasks, they will be more motivated to perform for you.
KEY: managing expectations of these people will result in less friction and clear direction/objectives/goals for yourself
With new levels of leadership and responsibility come new expectations and metrics. Failure to identify these new expectations will lead to unnecessary amounts of stress and conflict, and may ultimately lead to failure in your new position.
Your Direct Manager You are most likely used to meeting the expectations of your direct manager. Chances are you have done a great job at exceeding those expectations, which is why you are now finding yourself in a position of leadership. However, how have your boss’ expectations changed now that you are a leader? Your Direct Reports Now that you are in a position of leadership, you will also have to identify and manage the expectations of your new team. If you were promoted to lead a team of what used to be your peers this may be especially difficult at first. Your tendency may be to jump right in and start implementing what you think is best for the team. If you are not first soliciting your team for feedback to identify their needs, you are setting yourself up for failure. You will be judged by your team’s success. It’s in your best interest to know what they need to be successful.
Your new peers You will need the help of other leaders to be successful
Followup: Have a clear plan of action, with the backing your direct manager
KEY: doing this will give your leaders and peers insight into your progress and influence their perspective of you and your team
As you become less a part of the ”daily grind”, most of your wins will come from your team’s activity
It is your responsibility to make sure your leaders are aware of your team’s progress and growth
Be able to communicate how you and your team are helping the company improve
Practice what you preach. You have to be the same leader with your team and with your superiors
KEY: these are the things that make you indispensable and transferrable; these are the things that people remember
Your value as an employee at any level is directly related to the problems you solve for your employees and your employer. Be analytical, strategic, and engage in effective troubleshooting. Problems are different at this level: personnel, strategic alignment, etc.
EQ is just as important as IQ. Leading people usually requires more EQ than IQ.
Leadership style/voice: what is your intent and focus as a leader? See examples from the leadership section of my website.
Transferable skills: As you scale up and out, it’s important to be able to reproduce your successes elsewhere. Develop skills that transfer to your next title/company.
Be an expert and assert an opinion; you have been promoted for a reason. Your title validates your right to an informed opinion. Balance it with self awareness.
Positivity is contagious; you are the face of the company/leadership to your employees, and you are the face of your employees to your company/keadership.
KEY: having a broad scope of knowledge makes you versatile and invaluable; sharing knowledge builds trust/relationships
You will also be responsible for executing higher level tasks such as managing a budget, planning professional development, engaging in active personnel management, participating in project management, developing strategy and more.
When you think of a sponge, it has two basic functions. The first is to absorb moisture. The second function is to release any moisture it has absorbed when pressure is applied to it. Similarly, you have to be a dispenser of knowledge and information.
KEY: there is so much to be learned from others, both their successes and failures; they may not yield any benefit now, but they can be good connections for later; life is all about people and relationships
Recruiters, sales people, etc are annoying sometimes, but some can prove to be valuable connections later.
Leadership is not a solo act, you need others to be successful.
Don’t burn any bridges!
If you want to succeed in this transition and beyond, connecting with people is essential
KEY: this is the selfless mindset of an effective leader
Forward: Your value is almost never fully realized in the present; You must be able to “zoom out” and see the larger, more complete picture.
Outward: You have to consider the downstream and lateral impacts of your decisions and actions.
Downward: You must allow your team to have a voice in innovation and strategy. Bring their ideas forward. Highlight their successes. Give them autonomy, but keep them in alignment; pull your team up
Succeeding as a New Leader in Technology
SUCCEEDING AS A
NEW LEADER IN
Desert Code Camp 2017.1
• Director of Software Engineering at AppointmentPlus
• Team of 25+ in US and India
• SaaS using LAMP, Laravel, Angular, React, Vue
• Mobile apps in iOS and Android
• MS Office apps in C# .Net
• Previous roles
• Software Development Manager at AppointmentPlus
• Lead Software Developer at AppointmentPlus
• Senior Application Systems Analyst at University of Arizona College of Medicine
• Workstation Specialist at Saint Xavier University
• Freelance/Self-Employed Multimedia Designer
IT WORKED FOR ME
• “Reverse engineered” the successes in my own journey
• There are other ways!
• I’m still new and learning
• Give It Time
• Realize It’s No Longer About You
• Manage Expectations
• Engage in Healthy Team and Self-promotion
• Develop the Intangibles
• Be a Sponge
• Start Networking
• Think Forward, Outward, and Downward
GIVE IT TIME
• Moving from an individual contributor to a leader is not an overnight transition, it’s
a transformation process
• You are breaking old habits, behaviors, and patterns that you have operated in
throughout your entire career to this point
• Put in effort to make the necessary changes and do not be passive during the
• Seek the help of your manager and peers if you encounter challenges during the
REALIZE IT’S NO LONGER
• Your success is now measured by your team’s performance and growth
• Trust and delegation are going to be invaluable
• Develop your replacement
• Your direct manager
• Review your job description
• Identify your success metrics
• Plan a follow-up meeting
• Your direct reports
• Solicit feedback
• Know what they need to be successful
• What are their roadblocks?
• Your new peers
• Your ability to collaborate with other
leaders will be a vital factor
contributing to your success
• Discuss needs and expectations for
your new role
• consolidate the feedback and identify
• develop goals and an action plan with
ENGAGE IN HEALTHY
TEAM AND SELF-PROMOTION
• Your team’s wins are also your wins
• Publicly praise your team and highlight extra effort and achievements
• Communicate your team’s individual successes upwards
• Understand your company’s metrics and objectives
• Build and maintain a consistent professional image upwards and downwards
Leadership is solving problems. The day [people] stop
bringing you their problems is the day you have
stopped leading them. They have either lost
confidence that you can help or concluded you do
not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.
-- Colin Powell
DEVELOP THE INTANGIBLES
• Keep solving problems
• Develop your emotional intelligence
• Identify your leadership story and develop your leadership voice
• Continuously improve your leadership skills and build up transferrable skills
• Make meaningful contributions to discussions and become a thought leader
• Appreciate every achievement, but always seek to improve
• Maintain a positive, solutions-oriented attitude
Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The
arrogance of success is to think that what you did
yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.
-- William Pollard
BE A SPONGE
• Have at least a basic understanding of
the primary functions of other business
• Gather knowledge regarding best
practices for management and general
• Focused on putting people, processes,
procedures and systems in place
• Don’t just absorb, dispense!
• Withholding information, whether
malicious or unintentional, is counter-
Leadership and learning are indispensable to each
-- John F. Kennedy
• Leaders understand the value of relationships
• Effective leadership is just as much about collaboration as it is about contribution
• There is little you can accomplish without the buy in and participation of other
• Strive to provide value in every relationship, rather than only withdrawing value
Networking is all about connecting with people. But
then again, isn't that what life is about? The more
time you can find to get out of the office and build
true friendships, the farther [you] will go.
-- Jay Samit, Independent Vice Chairman of Deloitte Digital
THINK FORWARD, OUTWARD,
• Your value is no longer tied exclusively to how well you execute tasks
• Think forward: think strategically beyond the immediate need and analyze the
• Think outward: build meaningful connections and develop empathy
• Think downward: consider your team’s needs and innovations and bring them
• Give It Time – be patient, you don’t have to change overnight
• Realize It’s No Longer About You – your team’s success is your success
• Manage Expectations – of your leaders, your team, and your peers
• Engage in Healthy Team and Self-promotion – highlight your wins
• Develop the Intangibles – solve problems, connect, be positive
• Be a Sponge – absorb and dispense knowledge
• Start Networking – leadership is all about relationships
• Think Forward, Outward, and Downward – look beyond yourself