Benefits to Being a Rookie Leader

Benefits to Being a Rookie Leader

April 20, 2016
Human Resources

When you transition from retail team member to manager, the truth is you are stepping up to an entirely new level, entering a new game. So how do you make sure to do your best and avoid mistakes with your newfound power and responsibilities? Liz Wiseman, author of Rookie Smarts and leadership coach to innovative companies like Apple,, PayPal, and Nike to name a few, says the best way to approach this transition is by embracing your “rookie status.”

Liz and her team studied how inexperienced professionals performed relative to their experienced counterparts and found that those in “rookie mode,” i.e. new to important and difficult tasks — are surprisingly strong performers. What makes them so? Because they seek guidance, experiment, listen, and openly receive feedback.

On the other hand, Wiseman’s research demonstrated that this “rookie advantage” doesn’t hold true with new managers. Most are ineffective, and tend to make two big mistakes:

1. They keep getting stuff done. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, but now as a manager the new role is to enable others to do the work, not to do it all yourself. 

2. They tend to try too hard, feeling pressure to justify their newfound authority. 

So how can you as a new manager break free from these tendencies? Liz would say, embrace the “rookie status” or assume the role of a learner. Here are four things to get you back to “learning mode”:

1. Keep a list of everything you think you need to understand better to succeed in your new role; this might include more of the business side of retail for example. As a new manager, shift your mindset from an assumption of knowing to an attitude of inquiry. 

2. Confess your limitations. Let people know you’re learning and working on improving. This humility will also increase your likability.

3. Ask questions… but listen first so you can develop the right questions. Sometimes these questions are simple, but they cut to the core, potentially revealing problems, and prompt the team to think differently and find new solutions.

4. Do less; challenge more, aka delegate. Instead of contributing all of your ideas, offer challenges that require your team to develop the great ideas.