Stepping Up? 5 Solutions to the challenges of a first leadership role.

5 challenges of a first leadership role. Julia Ngapo Business Coaching

There are many challenges associated with a leadership role, but none more so than making the initial transition from individual contributor, or team member, to leader. Being responsible for the future success of the organisation, as well as managing others, requires you to develop a very different skill set.

In this blog, we will consider five of the most significant challenges that anyone new to leadership may face and provide actionable steps with which to overcome them.

Delegation. Those new to a leadership role can often struggle to delegate effectively. This can be down to a number of reasons. Firstly, you may feel inhibited, struggling with imposter syndrome, and feeling less empowered to delegate, especially to those who were previously your peers.  

You may alternatively feel you are better able to complete the task, or conversely, be less confident in your own ability, fearing instead that a team member may be better equipped to complete the task.

This damaging limiting behaviour can lead to micromanagement, burnout, and decreased productivity.

Solution: To overcome this challenge, it is important to understand that delegation is key in allowing yourself time to focus on the “bigger picture” required of your new position.

Not only this, but delegation also builds and communicates trust within your team; team members feel empowered and become more invested in the future success of the organisation. The first step of effective delegation is therefore learning to trust team members and identifying their individual strengths.

Clear communication of your expectations and provision of the necessary resources and support are the first steps to empowering others. After all, leadership is less about being the one “doing” and more about strategy – strategically employing the resources available to you for the overall benefit of the business.

Start by identifying tasks that can be delegated and selecting team members who are capable of handling those tasks. Set clear goals, define the results you are seeking and convey deadlines, and monitor progress without micromanaging.

Communication. Effective communication is a mainstay of effective leadership. Keeping your team informed, and knowing not only what to say, but how to say it is key.

Those new to a leadership role often struggle with communication because they are not used to communicating with multiple stakeholders, including team members, peers, and senior leaders. They may also struggle to give feedback and manage difficult conversations.

Solution: To improve your communication skills, actively listen and understand different perspectives. One of the most underrated leadership skills is empathy. Taking time to talk to your team and to understand their viewpoint helps them to build trust in you, and also serves to inform you of their strengths and weaknesses as well as any challenges that they are facing within their work.

Giving constructive feedback and managing difficult conversations is another key leadership skill that needs to be mastered. Practice your communication skills regularly by seeking feedback from team members and colleagues and making necessary adjustments.

Time management. As a leader, it can be difficult to balance the responsibilities that come from increased demands on your time; not only managing your team, but attending meetings, and focusing on the strategic planning and increased workload, that comes from a leadership role. It is easy to get caught in the minutiae of every day, especially when you operate an “open door” policy with team members free to access you at any time throughout the day.

Solution: Start by prioritising your tasks and responsibilities based on their urgency and importance. A great tool to help accomplish this is the Eisenhower matrix (Download your copy here)

Effective diary management is key. That open-door policy is no longer effective, so ditch it in favour of specific, allocated times throughout the day or week when you make yourself available.

Set realistic deadlines and avoid multitasking, which can decrease productivity. Learn to say no to unnecessary meetings and requests that do not align with your goals and priorities. Using tools such as calendars and to-do lists effectively can help manage your time effectively. Blocking out time in your day that is a no-go for any meetings etc, but allows you time for reflection, preparation, and planning allows more flexibility in your day, whilst increasing your productivity.

Managing conflict. Conflict is inevitable in any team or organisation, particularly those going through change, and it can be challenging for new leaders to manage it effectively.

It can feel like a “quick fix” is the solution, avoiding the conflict or trying to resolve it quickly without considering all perspectives, leading to unresolved issues and resentment. But not every conflict in an organisation needs to be combative. Effective management and control of the situation can often diffuse any conflict before it has the opportunity to explode. For further information and support on managing conflict, download my free workbook here.

Solution: To manage conflict effectively, learn to identify and address conflicts early. Actively listening and giving equal weight to all perspectives, whilst seeking to understand the root cause of the conflict will result in both sides feeling “heard”.

Encourage open communication and collaboration to find a solution that benefits all parties involved, and consider seeking the help of a coach or mentor who can provide guidance and support in managing conflict.

Building trust. This is the single most important factor in building your authority and the foundation of any successful team or organisation. As a new leader, it can be challenging to build trust with your team members, especially if they are used to a different leadership style.

Solution: To build trust, new leaders need to demonstrate integrity and authenticity. This involves demonstrating transparency and honesty in both your communications and actions. Encourage open communication within your teams and ensure there is ample and regular opportunity for feedback.  

Invest time and effort in getting to know your team members and understanding their strengths, weaknesses, and motivations.

So, how can you make your path to leadership easier?

My first suggestion is to seek out a mentor or coach: Finding a mentor or coach can be a game-changer for those new to a leadership role.

A mentor or coach, whether found internally within your organisation, or externally, can offer guidance, support, and feedback on your leadership skills and help you identify areas for improvement.

They can also offer a valuable fresh perspective on challenges you may be facing and provide insights on how to handle difficult situations.

If you’re not sure where to start, consider reaching out to industry associations, networking groups, or professional coaching organisations to find a mentor or coach that fits your needs.

Secondly, build a strong support network: Being a leader can be lonely at times, but it doesn’t have to be.

Building a strong support network of peers, colleagues, and friends can help you stay grounded and connected to others. It’s important to find people who share your values, goals, and interests and who can offer support and encouragement when you need it most.

Attend industry events, join online forums or social media groups, or participate in local networking groups to meet other professionals in your field. Building a strong network of trusted peers allows a fresh perspective on any challenges that you are facing and can be invaluable in realising that challenges affect every leader and that you are not alone!

In summary, it can be challenging as you adjust to your new leadership role.  By taking the time to understand your strengths and weaknesses, developing both your communication and emotional intelligence skills, seeking out a mentor or coach to support you, and building a strong support network, you can overcome these challenges and thrive in your leadership role.

If you’re a new leader looking to improve your leadership skills and overcome the challenges you’re facing, consider booking a discovery call with me. As an executive coach, I can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, develop your communication and emotional intelligence skills, and create a personalised plan to help you reach your leadership goals. Let’s work together to help you become the best leader you can be.

Client-First Culture. 4 Tips on Building Client Relationships in Professional Practices

Paper Dolls - Building Client Relationships

What’s your greatest challenge in future-proofing your practice? In a recent survey carried out by Thomson Reuters Solo and Small Law Firm group, almost 80% of respondents ranked acquiring new client business as one of their top challenges.

Given the “buyers’ market” in which professional practices now find themselves, it’s vital that your organisation’s focus is set on building client relationships, not only to attract new clients but to retain existing business, too.

So, how do you build a client-first culture? 4 considerations for building client relationships here:

1. Market Effectively.

It’s not enough to buy some Google or Facebook ad space and hope for the best. Modern marketing is about demonstrating not only your USP, but your UHP, or Unique Human Proposition.  It’s about connecting on a human level; building the ‘Know, Like and Trust’ with your (targeted) audience, and demonstrating social proof via testimonials, reviews, and case studies. We’re often told to put the ‘social’ into social media and this is true; building relationships to attract new business as well as staying front of mind with existing clients is key.

2. Don’t hide behind Tech.

Technology provides an efficient and accessible solution to the case and client management, and, where possible, automation of processes. Although this may be the most efficient path for the practice, the “face” of the firm should still be human! It is vital that the client builds a relationship and feels comfortable with an expert who is seen to deliver “in-person”, rather than relying on technology.

3. Communicate Your Value.

As the saying goes, “under-promise and over-deliver”. Focus on building client relationships by delivering an exceptional client experience. However, on the basis that “clarity is kind”, managing expectations from the start of your relationship is key to its success. Whilst the client may believe that professionals within the practice are interchangeable, with one offering much the same service as the next, it’s your job to convince them otherwise.

Most clients will default to viewing your services as a cost, rather than a value, so it is vital that you actively demonstrate (and periodically remind them!) the ways in which you have saved them money, time, or grief.

4. Create Service Standards.

Create service standards and communicate them, not only to all team members but to clients also. Producing a ‘client charter’ helps you demonstrate transparency. Set KPIs to be reviewed regularly to ensure “buy-in” from new staff members.


Whilst it is often the case that focus tends to fall on the “here and now” of any busy practice, it is also vital that time is taken for business development, including client attraction and retention strategies.

Building and demonstrating a client-first culture takes time and opt-in of the whole practice, requiring effective communication, not to mention patience, but what is clear is that building client relationships and taking time to understand your client base is the secret sauce that will make all the difference.

With almost 30 years of marketing experience, I support professional practices not only with Executive coaching and mentoring but in helping their comms team to create cohesive, structured, and targeted marketing, including ensuring that your customers become your best brand advocates! if you would like to discuss how I can support you, your practice, and your support teams, then do get in touch.

How Do You Get Noticed? 5 Digital Marketing Tips for Professional Practices

Digital Marketing Tips - Orange umbrella amongst blue umbrellas

In a world of digital “white noise”, there is a real danger that your marketing efforts may fall into the black hole of “just another professional services firm”

So, how do you ensure your practice stands out? How do you get your message across? The message that attracts the right clients, and expertly demonstrates what makes you different?

Here are 5 digital marketing tips for generating leads, driving traffic to your website, and building that all-important authority online.

Digital Marketing Tips for Professional Practices

1. Know your Audience.

The better you know who you are talking to, the easier it is to craft effective communications. This means not only understanding the issues that your target market experience, but demonstrating an understanding of what life is like on their “side of the fence”.

Here. empathic communication is key. A switch from the perspective of “what we offer” to “we understand your challenges, and here is how we can help”, should be the base of your communications; whether via social media, your blog, or website content.

As consumers, we approach any marketing with one thought foremost, “What’s in it for me?”

By pivoting your communications to providing the solution through appreciation and understanding of your audience’s challenges, you start to build trust and a connection with that audience.

For practices specialising in a particular area, this is relatively straightforward. But, for more general practices, it’s often easier to segment audiences by specialism, rather than adopting a “one-size-fits-all” approach.

Every piece of content you create should be of value to your target market. Consider a wide variety of content, from blogs to case studies, to current news items. Test a variety of formats, too.

With video continuing to see much higher engagement including some video content in your strategy is a must. This could be as simple as creating a YouTube channel, and sharing from there to a blog post, for example, and could include an introduction to your offices, your staff (Not forgetting support staff, as they are often the first point of contact for your clients) a case study or short snippets of advice, perhaps answering frequently asked questions.

Julia Ngapo Business Coaching-Kids using a can as telephone against gray background - 5 digital marketing tips for professional practices

2. Develop Your E.A.T.

Google is placing increasing importance on those websites that demonstrate E.A.T (Expertise, Authority, and Trust). Including case studies, publishing positive testimonials, as well as including a short author bio at the end of a blog are ideal opportunities for professional practices to demonstrate this.

3. Create Lead Magnets.

One of the best digital marketing tips but one that is often overlooked is to grow an email list. Offering, for example, a checklist, booklet, or something of value to your audience to download in exchange for their email details, is an effective means of building a list of warm leads.

There are several free or low-cost options for managing your list and from which you can create a regular email newsletter. Mailchimp and Mailerlite are two of the most popular.

Given that it currently takes around thirteen touchpoints of your audience seeing your message before they act, this is an ideal option and offers you the chance of maintaining contact with those who have demonstrated that they are sufficiently interested in your services to download your free offering.

It is worth remembering here, that whilst a client may not be in need of your services now, by keeping in regular contact with them, you increase the chances of them contacting you when such a need arises, or recommending you to a friend or colleague.

4. SEO Your Site.

Too often, professional practices have a visually appealing website, containing every bit of information that a prospective client might require, but forget to pay sufficient attention to the back office workings, particularly the site’s SEO. If you want to rank on Google in an increasingly competitive market, then you need to give your site some SEO love! Pay particular attention to the keywords you use, and ensure your site is optimised for mobile use and fast loading.

Remember, if your audience can’t see your site, they will move to your competitors. In addition, and as basic as it sounds, ensure that all information is current and that all web links are working.

5. Have a strong CTA.

Ensure you include a strong Call to Action with every communication. This serves to pull your reader further down the path of doing business with you.

In addition, ensure that the web page where you direct your audience is somewhere where they are required to take further action. Examples of this could be providing a link from one blog to a previous blog in a similar subject area (and vice-versa), or linking from your “Team Members” page to service pages.

Remember, the longer you can keep your reader in your presence, the longer you have to persuade them that you are the solution they need.

Digital Marketing Tips – Summary.

Five digital marketing tips to help you create effective communications, demonstrate your expertise and stay relevant in the online marketplace.

Remember, however, that your marketing is very much a “long game”. It is about planting and nurturing the seeds for future business far more than it is a “quick win” of gaining new business today.

For more insight into creating a client-first culture, why not read my recent blog, Client-First Culture. 4 Tips on Building Client Relationships in Professional Practices here

I am a Business and Executive coach, supporting business owners and leaders to become measurably more effective in every aspect of their business.

I work with senior executives and leaders to improve their performance, manage both their teams and workload effectively, and to claim that mythical work-life balance!

If you would like support in your business. either for you or your teams, then please see my 1:1 business and executive coaching pages, or contact me for a no-obligation chat.