Andy Fell
Andy Fell,
Founder Gift 631, Former National GM St George Retail Bank

Stepping up: How to become a great first time leader

Almost everyone wants to be a leader. As a manager, it’s difficult to know if an expert ‘doer’ will make a good ‘leader’.


By Rebekah Campbell

Almost everyone wants to be a leader.  As a manager, it’s difficult to know if an expert ‘doer’ will make a good ‘leader’.  We often promote rising stars to leadership positions without proper training and wonder why they struggle to translate their personal success to the success of a broader team. 

Andy Fell is former National GM of St George Bank and is now one of Australia’s most sought after leadership coaches for CEOs and Senior Executives.  His personal passion is to support young leaders make what he describes as the toughest career transition of all; the step from team member to team leader for the first time.

I asked Andy to reflect his personal leadership journey and share tips for early-career leaders and the managers looking to develop them.


What are some of the biggest mistakes early career leaders make when managing people for the first time?

New leaders will often hold on to parts of their previous role where they excelled, and which led to their promotion.  Their new role is that of building skills in others, and while it’s good to lead from the front, they must attend to their new objective.  They may also try to control too much, becoming the sole decision-maker and problem-solver.  They need to learn to use their skills on their team, empowering others to learn and grow.  They’ll struggle to balance multiple priorities and end up working long hours. It’s important to decide what matters, what doesn’t and to make time to think as well as do.


Other than to increase productivity, why is it important for businesses to develop strong leaders?

A customer will never think more of a business that its own people.  When I became a leader for the first time I worked out that I had to create a team with high morale that came to work feeling positive and self-confident. Only highly motivated people will create great service and great service comes before sales and revenue or profit growth. People who love the service you provide recommend and repurchase from you. Word of mouth advocacy is the strongest form of marketing we have.


As an early career leader myself, I’ve found it difficult keep people motivated and focused on goals at the same time. What advice do you have for working with team members to set goals?

My coaching process centres on ‘the power of 10’ framework (1+3+6), which helps people clarify their one true purpose or ‘why’, set three clear goals, the achievement of which are aligned to the purpose and then six actions to create movement and momentum. This is a fluid process; every time they take an action and achieve a goal they replace it.  If there are too many actions the person can become overwhelmed.  Too few actions and they won’t create enough energy and progression towards the goals. Great goal setters create big goals, support it with clear visualization and then break it down into manageable steps. 


Why do you say clarity and consistency are so important?

New leaders often ‘blow with the wind.’ One week they’ll say one thing is important and the next week something else.  If everything is important, ultimately nothing is important. Clarity motivates whilst ambiguity or a lack of clarity has the opposite impact. People start to second guess what will be ‘important’ next and lose motivation to deliver as they expect the focus will be ever changing. 


Early career leaders often put off having difficult conversations.  What are some tips for handling these conversations?

Brian Tracy wrote the book ‘Eat that Frog’ -  saying that if you need to eat a raw frog you should do it first thing in the morning or it will play on your mind and it will become an ever-increasing distraction. It is the same with difficult conversations. Schedule it, rehearse it, visualise the outcome you want and do it!  Be clear and then stick to the fact and don’t get drawn into emotion.  Become comfortable with periods of silence. Take notes so you have an accurate record of who said what and what actions were agreed ensure you both then have a copy. It is essential you follow-up on anything you agreed to do and that you ensure the other party does the same. 


Why have you created a workshop specifically for early career leaders?  Who should come and what should they expect from the day?

I have mentored many talented early-career leaders who needed a workshop based on practice, not theory.  I have amassed a lot of experience and I love sharing what works: it’s the one-day course I wish I had received.  By the end of the day, participants should feel more confident as leaders.  There are many actions they’ll be able to implement immediately as well as developing a framework for leadership progression throughout their career.


Check out Andy's workshop here


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