Whether it’s a larger promotion in leadership, or your first time leading others, jumping into a new role can be exciting and rewarding long term. Despite all of your goals, dreams, and ambitions, you can flounder in your new role, if you approach it the wrong way. You must be able to change yourself, your leadership style, and your priorities in order to be successful in your new role.
The phrase, “What got you here, won’t get you where are going” certainly applies to this critical juncture as you transition in your own leadership.
Be willing to let go of things that you love
We all have things that we love to do in our jobs. From the super quirky to the very relevant, there are just things that we love to do ourselves. It’s also highly likely that you are the best person at whatever the particular task is and you also get a nice level of satisfaction for completing the task.
One of the personal rubs that you will have to overcome in your transition, are the things that you love doing. Those projects or tasks that you enjoyed so much are likely not appropriate for you to be doing at that next level of leadership.
Continuing to do those old things that you loved will mean that you are leading a level down, which means that you are likely going to frustrate those that you are serving and cause things to be less efficient.
Let go of those old things that you love and give grace and space to those that take up your previous passion projects. Rest assured, the work will still get done and you’re likely to find a whole host of new passion projects in your new role.
Adapt how you lead
Your leadership style is going to need to change as you make your transition, regardless of your current leadership status.
For those leading others for the first time: You need to really lean into delegation and supporting your team to avoid the temptation to try to do it all yourself. Stay close to your direct leader and a trusted advisor or mentor to help keep you on track with what to prioritize and delegate.
For those that were previously leading people: You are now likely leading leaders instead of individual contributors, or you are leading a full segment of the business. Your influencing skills need to take center stage for you know as you lead leaders. Prioritize your direct reports and make sure that they are prioritizing their direct reports (instead of you) to ensure the vision, and the message are getting down to the front line people.
Other items that you’ll need to assess and change are your communication style, how you spend your time and the way that you carry yourself among other things.
Consider your sweet spot
I’ve seen many leaders over the years get unpleasantly surprised with then promote a great employee from within. They showed all the right signs; high performance, and dedication to the job and to others while having a can-do attitude. Once these great people got into their new roles they floundered. The leader was frustrated, efficiency dropped and many times the employee ended up leaving.
The person was extended one past their sweet spot. Your sweet spot is your calling. It’s your happy place where you are the most impactful and feel the reward in what you do. You are typically very good at what you do and that’s why leaders are naturally drawn to give these people promotions. They think, “They are wonderful at this role, then they’ll be great at the next one.” Once the person is extended past their sweet spot, they will drop in engagement and capability. It’s not really the person’s fault. They just aren’t in the role that was meant for them anymore.
Based on your personal goals, passing and personal calling, you should have a fairly good sense of knowing if you’ve hit your sweet spot or not. Once you do, don’t continue to move up the organizational ladder. You’ll be doing the company and yourself a disservice. Instead of passing through a leadership transition that you shouldn’t, invest in yourself by going deeper in your expertise or by gaining new knowledge. This will keep you relevant for the future and help you from getting bored in your everyday work.
One of the guarantees in your work life is that you are going to be a part of new teams as you go on your career journey. Whether you are jumping on a team as a leader or a follower, it’s important to begin building that trust with them as early as possible.
While the reminder of building trust is a good one for us to consider, it can be far more challenging and complex to live out and be successful at. I can think back to times when it was extremely easy to build trust after they previously had a poor leader. Other times it was like climbing up a vertical mountainside because the team was so committed to the prior leader. Here are some strategies to think about as you work to build trust with that new team.
Find small wins to show you care
Ambitus leaders sometimes jump the gun a bit when they are with a new group. They want to show their strength and want to affirm their boss, and themselves, that their promotion or hiring was the right move. A mindful leader takes the time at the very beginning to learn about the pain points that people are going through and then they quickly and decisively make a move to secure a quick win. Some areas to look at include:
The common areas/break area: As a field leader, one of my first areas to get a quick win in was the breakroom. It’s amazing what a coat of paint and a little updating will do for morale trust-building. Common areas are another great area to consider. This need may not be voiced as much as in other areas, and that’s because they’ve gone blind to how bad it is. Use those fresh eyes you have to find a few quick facility-related wins. If you don’t have the authority or ability to make changes to areas like a breakroom, look for ways that you can enhance, clean, or add value to other areas of the shared workspace.
Efficiency opportunities: If you ask a new team what holds them back, frustrates them, or would be something that they would like changed, and they’ll often point back to an efficiency breakdown, an outdated process or redundancy in work. Pick out one or two that you can fix with a lower amount of effort and put them in place. People love when they can do their job easier.
Be accommodating: Get to know each individual and listen to their workloads and personal situations. Look for ways to be more accommodating by adjusting schedules, bringing in additional help, or helping people perhaps even change how and where they work.
If you can help in those three areas, you just showed your team that you care about their work environment, eliminated hurdles that get in the way of great work, and you an invested in the whole being and not just their work life. A powerful combo to build trust, wouldn’t you agree?
The key here is speed. The quicker you can get these kinds of wins the better.
Listen and learn before you change
It can be hard to walk into a scenario that’s especially challenging and not want to immediately change and fix everything. The trap here is that if you do start executing a large amount of change without the buy-in and trust of your team, your change won’t likely stick long term and your turnover rate is going to increase dramatically. Unless it’s a moral, ethical, or compliance issue, the problem can wait at least until you do some learning and discovery around the why behind the breakdown and what other circumstances may be leading to the issue. Be sure to approach the scenario from a curiosity perspective instead of one that is accusatory or as if you already have the answer.
“I would love to know more about…”, goes a lot further than “We need to talk about why this scenario is where it is.”
As much as your people want to hear from you, be mindful to listen more than you speak with your new team.
Gaining trust as a follower
Unless you are the CEO, you’ll also be joining a team as a follower as well. The temptation is similar here to try to shine and prove your worth immediately. Take a slower and more mindful approach here as well. Learn the dynamics of the group, who speaks up more, who holds back etc., while providing your input when it’s relevant.
Understand the people and build relationships with those you work with to help get an understanding of work proverbial land mines are out there and to get an understanding of some of the unwritten rules at the company. Also, consider:
Being genuine in your desire to learn about others on a personal level
Understanding how much time and space you are taking up in conversations
Keeping the same curious approach to understanding new areas of the business
Get your stuff turned in on time and be on early to meetings
Get to know those you lead and work with as you enter your new role and look for those easy early wins and be intentional to build relational equity early. You’ll be well on your way to establishing that trust that you so need as a leader
Micromanagers can suck all of the joy and efficiency out of your work and productivity. I know when I had them in my own life, I was more stressed and certainly not fully satisfied in my role and even had lower engagement with the overall organization as a result. Think you have a micromanager in your line of leadership? Last week we talked about how to identify one and what the possible reasons were for the behavior.
So what do you do if you have a micromanager? Quit? Become passive-aggressive? Subvert authority? All of those may be tempting, but we’ll look at some healthy ways to address the person and behavior.
Eliminate the “You” factors
As we discussed last week, there are situations where you as the follower are driving the need for micromanagement. If the “you” factor is in play, you’re in luck. You’ll have a clearer and easier path to grow through the behavior.
Be more proactive in communication. Anticipate the needs of your supervisor when it comes to what information they look for and what time frame they like to receive communication in. You can cut off some of the micromanaging behavior by heading it off before it happens.
Beat those deadlines! It’s always helpful to come in ahead of deadlines and require little to no follow-up on the task or project.
Show your growth in knowledge. It’s also helpful to show how you are growing in experience in your immediate area and residual areas that influence your work. You may be getting micromanaged because your boss doesn’t think that you know the job well enough or you aren’t a technical expert in the area yet.
Show your partnerships. Show your leader how you are collaborating with others to get the job done well. Recognize others in your conversations with your supervisor. It shows you are a team player and also lets your leader know that you celebrate the success and achievements of others.
Find small ways to boost your credibility. Small wins add up. Look for ways to get some small victories in your work or responsibility to help grow your credibility and trust with your supervisor.
Mimic their style. Don’t micromanage back, but adjust your style of communication to match theirs. Timeliness, length, and method of communication.
Understand their intent
As you decipher the best way to address your leader about micromanaging behavior it’s important to understand their intent so you can connect in a way that resonates with them. Put yourself in their shoes to help understand where they are coming from. Other ways to understand intent include:
Tap into their vision and aspirations. Find out what they are trying to accomplish or achieve through the work that you are doing. Having this understanding helps you communicate in a way that resonates with them and can lead to them giving you more space.
Guide those that micromanage without intent. Sometimes micromanagers don’t even realize that they are one. In these cases, it may also be helpful to take the behavior from a different approach. Ask for freedom in a way that is not confrontational, “Can I run this one and check in with you to give you updates?” Start small and agree on a timetable for when check-ins will occur.
Being straightforward with your leader can be the best approach at times when it comes to micromanagement. This can be a difficult conversation to have because you may feel like you are putting your job on standing in the organization in jeopardy if the person is an insecure leader and the conversation doesn’t go as planned.
Take a soft, yet straightforward approach. Coming in too hard will certainly not be received well and can do more harm than good. Instead of being confrontational, come in with a desire to grow through a caring approach. Try things like, “I feel like I don’t have your full trust yet to do my job well. How can I grow that trust with you?” or even more direct, “I feel like I’m being micromanaged. When you do X, I feel Y and it impacts my ability to get the job done.” Either way that you start the conversation, look to make the solution a collaborative effort where you are both agreeing on the next steps to take.
Remember that no one loves being called out as a micromanager. Be friendly, smile, and try to keep the conversation light when possible to help your message be received better.
This week Zack sits down with Mark Herschberg to discuss his latest book The Career Toolkit. During the podcast, you will learn about:
How to maximize your efforts in terms of growth and potential
What personal considerations should be thought about when looking at a new role
Demystifying HR’s role in the hiring process
How to get your resume in the right hands
Remember that you are always interviewing
The power of communication and it’s ability to raise or lower your potential
Resources from the show
The Career Toolkit App
Mark Herschberg is the author of The Career Toolkit, Essential Skills for Success That No One Taught You. From tracking criminals and terrorists on the dark web to creating marketplaces and new authentication systems, Mark has spent his career launching and developing new ventures at startups and Fortune 500s and in academia. He helped to start the Undergraduate Practice Opportunities Program, dubbed MIT’s “career success accelerator,” where he teaches annually. At MIT, he received a B.S. in physics, a B.S. in electrical engineering & computer science, and a M.Eng. in electrical engineering & computer science, focusing on cryptography. At Harvard Business School, Mark helped create a platform used to teach finance at prominent business schools. He also works with many non-profits, currently serving on the board of Plant A Million Corals. He was one of the top-ranked ballroom dancers in the country and now lives in New York City, where he is known for his social gatherings, including his annual Halloween party, as well as his diverse cufflink collection.
I seem to coach and help a lot of leaders looking for their next job or step in their career. One thing I always stress is for the person to find their job, not just any job. (Ep 228-231) There is an intentional reason behind the distinction between the two; your job has purpose and will give you long-lasting satisfaction, while any available job will likely leave you empty and back and same place of searching for another role.
We all want our work to mean something. We want to know that we are contributing to something larger than gathering a paycheck. Here are some ways to lock in on your purpose as you carry a strong connection to what you do.
1. Find purpose in your purpose
A purpose that doesn’t run deep or ring true on a foundational level is…well not a true purpose.
It’s easy for an organization to say, “These are our Values and the purpose of our work.” Unless you find a way to connect with that on a personal level then that purpose doesn’t really mean anything. We all have inherent things that uniquely drive us and motivate us to be our best. Some people are drawn to be connectors, others are servants, others creative, builders and solutionists. Connect to whatever your inner drive is to latch on to your purpose in your work. It’s common to find people working on the same team and on the same tasks with totally different purposes for being there and finding value in their work.
2. Think of purpose holistically
I’ve coached several very talented people in the past that had bountiful potential. It struck me as odd at first how some would burn out, not meet their potential and leave their job. You could see it coming towards the end, so it wasn’t a surprise but it surely was disheartening. They were frustrated by not reaching their sense of purpose, which was often a world-changing event on impact in the organization.
Purpose is certainly having a large-scale impact on others, but that is not all of what purpose is. Those “tent-pole” moments of purpose don’t happen on a daily basis, and if we hold ourselves to the all-or-nothing mindset of purpose we can have long stretches of dissatisfaction in what we do.
Think of purpose holistically. We often talk on the show about how minor things matter. That’s certainly the case with purpose. Making someone’s day a bit easier, bringing a smile to someone’s face, or helping someone meet a need could all be parts of your purpose. Find purpose and joy in the smaller things that you do throughout your week. There are plenty of small opportunities to serve a bigger purpose and cause in what you do.
If you only chase after monumental purpose moments and events, you’ll find yourself unfulfilled.
3. Break the comparisons
Not everyone is going to be a CEO or someone that is written about in the history books. As obvious as that sounds, there are plenty of people that put their purpose and impact through a comparison lens of others. Perhaps you look back every once in a while to see how you are doing compared to your high school or college classmates. Maybe you compare yourself to your teammate or a family member. Letting go of the self-induced pressure of legacy frees you up to truly live out your purpose in your work and in your life.
I once coached and mentored a small-town business leader who was singularly focused on leaving a great legacy behind as he retired. You’ve likely never heard of him, but that doesn’t mean his legacy with those that do know him is any less valuable. He truly lived thrived in his purpose to serve others by not caring about comparisons between him and someone else.
4. Remind yourself of your purpose
We can lose our focus on purpose through changes in the how of the work, cultural changes, or technology changes. If you find yourself struggling to find the Why in work, take some time to refocus on what you do.
Make a list of all the things that you enjoy about your job. Remember the small things!
List out all of the accomplishments you’ve had over the last 6 months or a year. You’ll likely be surprised by how much you have accomplished.
Take some time off to refresh and recharge.
Be transparent with your supervisor or peers. Look for new opportunities or projects that you can be a part of to help introduce you to some new people and concepts.
Latch on to your purpose, let go of comparisons and keep your focus on your Why as you navigate change. You’ll be more productive, have a higher sense of satisfaction, and work in what you do and you’ll have a long-lasting impact on others.