A jump-start for first time leaders
Credit Suisse Perspectives

A jump-start for first time leaders

Ever tried doing something for the first time? Cycling, driving, or leading a team? We know it can be as daunting as it is thrilling. That's why, at Credit Suisse, we support our employees when they take this quantum leap forward in their career and become a team leader.

Jenny had been working within the Global Marketing & Branding team at Credit Suisse for 12 years when an opportunity came up for her to move on to become a team leader. We spoke to her to find out what it means to be a "fresh" team leader and how to tackle the change.

"Through my career I've experienced working with managers who were able to bring out the best in people, and those who did quite the opposite. Having seen the effect a great manager can have on individuals and teams, I really appreciated the opportunity to join the Management Excellence Program (MEP) and spend two days focused fully on developing my managerial skills."

Three goals of the Management Excellence Program

Every year, there are as many as 1,200 first-time leaders at Credit Suisse. To ensure a smooth transition into the new role, all are obliged to take part in a tailor-made, global MEP. This is a two-day, intensive training designed to deliver on three goals: ensure consistent understanding of the Credit Suisse-specific management culture, help the new leaders build and maintain their teams and – last but not least - enable them to keep the highest quality of work under pressure of great expectations.

"One of my main concerns," Jenny continues, "was whether I would be able to resist the temptation to jump back into my old role and comfort zone. It seems to be a widely-shared worry, as a lot of time was dedicated to this topic. It helped to shift my mindset from the importance of being a great team contributor, to the importance of building and developing a great team. It was quite challenging to practice resisting the urge to answer questions and instead ask 'what do you think?'. I've found almost always people already know the answer, if they are given the space to talk it through."

Emma from Credit Suisse's Risk division, manages people in managerial roles. As a result, she looks at the topic from a slightly different angle and offers this advice: "A lot of people share a tendency to focus on their weaknesses and belittle their strengths. It is strongly advisable to focus on your "killer" weaknesses, enhance your strengths, and not waste energy on the small things."

Can leadership skills be taught?

Some say that leaders are born, not made. While we understand that moving from a specialist role into a leadership role is extremely tough, we believe that everyone is able to learn, as long as they are willing to do so. Emma adds that what is also very natural is that every person will have their own style of leadership, and that leading people will come easier to some than to others.

Instead of expecting the best leadership skills from our new leaders from day one, we aim to equip them with the necessary tools by obliging them to participate in the Management Excellence Program, as well as providing post-training support. The course offers an exchange platform for the participants, they can discuss their issues, reach out for answers to the MEP coaches , or enroll on further, more specialized trainings.

"A year after the Management Excellence Program, I enrolled on a one-day management course as a next step in my leadership development. It was reassuring to discover how much of what I'd learnt I had already put into practice, and a good reminder of where I needed to focus. I've also had the opportunity to put my coaching skills to good use, by volunteering to coach a trainee teacher with Teach First, one of Credit Suisse's charity partners," concludes Jenny.

While there is no doubt about the new leaders being excellent specialists in their field, we want all of them to excel also in their new role. The two days of the MEP certainly offer a starting point and can be a career milestone.