First time manager? Let’s develop our leadership skills with Roxana Axini

Irena Dontov

Congratulations! You are a first time manager. Now what?! This new role sounds exciting and scary at the same time, as now you can be the leader you always wanted to be. Maybe you were even lucky enough to have a leader who inspired you. And now it’s your turn to grow others and guide them in their work. Pretty exciting!


We thought of exploring this subject with Roxana Axini, who is a human connector with multiple international specializations in coaching, assessment, development solutions, and strong experience in helping leaders become aware of their leadership styles, helping them to improve and create better relationships with their direct reports, partners and stakeholders.

Roxana shared with us valuable insights and thoughts on how to become a better leader during your first management experience.


Let’s start with you. What is one of the most important things you could teach yourself about people management if you were to go back to the time when you first became a manager?

I remember clearly that my motivation for being a manager was actually the opportunity to bring up to life more of my own ideas through a team. As a high performer, I was excited to have an extension of myself, but with more resources for the execution itself. Now I would get closer to my younger and innocent self in this new managerial role and, with kindness, I would share with her a new vision: 

“It’s not about your performance, Roxana. Neither is it about your ideas. It’s about sharing what you want to create with clarity, inspiring meaning and serving your team so that they bring their best contribution on the table.”

From your experience so far, what are the top 5 managers’ struggles regarding people management and what is the best way to deal with each of them?

From my coaching experience, the most frequent challenges communicated by managers are:

  • Constantly feeling overwhelmed: So many things to do. Always in a hurry, solving operational aspects. No time to reflect, to invest in people or to think strategically. How do I keep myself focused on what’s important and find my inner balance?
  • Lack of team’s proactivity: How do I develop people’s autonomy and ownership when they lack proactivity and constantly have to be pushed?
  • Engagement in the context of high diversity: Some of my people work in the office, others remote. Some are hired with labor contracts others are just collaborators. They have different needs and personalities. In the business things are changing constantly. How do I manage such context and keep my team engaged and focused?
  • Conflict management: There are moments when I need to address a conflict, a poor performance, or I need to fire someone. How do I run these sensitive conversations  in a way that strengthens the relationship and sets a standard?
  • Workforce shortage: I am required to achieve more with the same number of people. How do I do that?
  • Influence to make a difference: Any change or idea I want to implement is dependent on the agreement of some key stakeholders. How do I build a healthy relationship with them so I can influence them easier and make things move faster? 


I believe in leadership that starts with leading self purposefully and in solutions that address more than one challenge. So, to answer the question “how will all these be solved”, I would say that this can be achieved by creating a healthy managerial mindset.


How can we, as HR professionals, help people managers care and have a positive impact on their people’s life?

From my experience as an HR professional, I can share four eye openers when it comes to a positive impact. You can use them when talking with Managers:

  • People usually grow when there is will and some discomfort, not necessarily when the manager wants it. Discomfort always plays an important role in the change equation. Keeping close to them and noticing their discomfort (people leaving their teams, conflicts, not progressing as expected in terms of results) is a good opportunity to introduce the perspective of listening more to the people and their psychological needs. In this way you as HR are part of the solutions and not highlighting the problem they don’t see.
  • Awareness can increase people’s need for new perspectives. Running a leadership impact assessment or one that identifies how likely the managers are to get the best out of their team, might be useful.
  • Initiating conversations about the impact they want to have as leaders in their teams and what they want people to recognize them for at the end of their mandate could be one good starting point. Building on where they are and how they can get closer to this impact can create a good space for bringing people’s needs on the table.
  • It's also important to manage our own expectations regarding developing this competency. According to Lominger “understanding others” is among the top 5 hardest competencies to develop so it's clear that we don't develop it over night or in a 2-day training. It's a longer journey made step by step. 


What mindsets and skills do you think leaders of today and tomorrow need to have?

In my perspective, leaders of today and tomorrow need to find the right balance between the focus on building trustful relations with the team and always challenging them for better thinking and results.

When you think of leaders of yesterday versus leaders of today and tomorrow, what are the main differences amongst those three?

l believe the difference is given by the generations of people we manage and the needs that drive each generation.

The leaders of yesterday led a generation driven by the need of certainty and who valued the leader for his authority and expertise. 

The leaders of today are leading a generation driven by the need of connection and growth who recognize the leader for his ability to guide them to understand themselves and discover their own path and solutions.

The leaders of tomorrow I believe will lead a generation driven by the need of contribution and people connection and will recognize the leader for his ability to first inspire meaning.

What do you think are some of the greatest challenges leaders of tomorrow will be facing?

  1. Developing the relational and emotional intelligence to be able to manage a diverse workforce looking for connection in a tech era.
  2. Stimulating self accountability and growth among people and investing trust.
  3. Keeping the business and human capital flexible, fluid and ready to adapt and readapt.
  4. Developing a purpose driven vision.


Can you share with us several leadership hacks that have worked well for you and/or your coachees?

From my coaching experience I can say that asking questions instead of offering solutions always makes miracles, not only with employees but in any area you manage.
So, if you are a manager reading this article, I am inviting you to take a moment of reflection, guided by the following questions:

  • What are the emotions you want your people to feel around you?
  • What are the key 3 beliefs that will best support you facilitating these emotions?
  • How can you best stimulate these emotions through your daily actions?

If what you want to achieve with your team it’s clear, the journey is defined by your answers to the above three questions.



Main image source: Pexels.com