When you can't fill in for your team. (Thinking I should was one of my biggest leadership blunders.)

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When you can’t fill in for your team

“You don’t trust me, and it’s frustrating to work like that.”

That’s what I heard from one of my team leads. I was still inexperienced enough in leadership that I became defensive instead of listening. I said I needed to understand what was going on in enough detail that I could answer for them in meetings.

And I was wrong.

When I had been a lead engineer for a team of software developers, that might have been what people expected of me. But now I was a director, responsible for three teams doing three different things. The people who led those teams needed opportunities to be their representatives.

But I still thought that was my responsibility.

I didn’t like saying “I don’t know” when my peers or superiors asked how something worked or what the status was of a particular implementation detail.

I hadn’t yet learned that “I’ll find out and let you know” was often the right answer for leaders at my new level.

Instead, I did everything I could to make my team leaders irrelevant and invisible to the rest of the organization.

I didn’t realize that’s what I was doing.

But they felt it.

I wish I could say I learned my lesson quickly, but I didn’t.

I didn’t have a professional coach to help me through that leadership transition. It took several more mis-steps before I realized how leadership changed as one’s responsibility broadens.

If you’re struggling to find your footing in a new leadership position, let’s talk.

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