Archives January 2020

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There – 5 Skills To Go Further

If you are soon to take over a ‘new-to-you’ department or organization, I expect you are feeling pretty good about yourself.

I know I always did.

Whenever I was taking on a new team, I’d thought about what I wanted to be as a leader, what I wanted my legacy to be, and how we would be successful.

Our experiences define what kind of leader we will be and how we will operate.

I now look back on my leadership growth, and I think about what I got right and wrong.

In hindsight, I have two observations on the role of a front line and middle manager.

1. What got you here won’t get you further.

To get to lead a team, you have had to prove you were successful with those jobs that came before.

But simply applying what you learned in those jobs isn’t enough to make you successful at the next level.

Remember that what you’ve learned so far won’t automatically make you a great boss

2. Beware of doing the job of your subordinates.

At this point in your career, you’d make a great team leader.

You’d undoubtedly be the best front-line supervisor in your company.

But that’s not your job.

If you try and make it your job to be great at your subordinates’ jobs, you’ll fail.

They won’t grow, and you won’t be able to do your actual job.

Three Differences

Don’t throw your experience out of the window but understand that being a senior leader has differences from your previous roles.

Success is about understanding those differences and acting accordingly.

These are the three differences that I observed and have reflected on:

1. Define success

Your new role offers an unprecedented level of freedom to get to define success.

When your people complete a task with a glance of an eye, you can deliver instant and visceral feedback.

So how you define success is critical and powerful. 

Your criteria for success should include a combination of performing your mission, developing your people and building your team.

Even more importantly, it should have medium- and long-term elements.

Measuring success is about how your team performs during your tenure, and whether or not you leave it in a better place than when you found it.

How you will define success will have a significant effect on your organization.

Read about success

2. Set the culture deliberately

Once you know what your ‘success’ looks like, you can set about creating the culture that will deliver it.

This is a deliberate act.

When you are planning those ‘team cohesion’ events, make sure they are underpinning the stories and messages at the heart of the culture you are trying to build.

For me, it was about being an inclusive, learning and improving organization that unlocked people’s potential to better the whole organization and not just your part of it.

Decide what culture you want then set about reinforcing it as a series of deliberate actions.

3. It’s different now, so communicate differently

For everything I’ve said above, the most significant difference between an organizational leader and being a frontline leader is about how you communicate.

You should be able to remember the faces and names of all of your employees.

But you will have a tiny amount of direct influence over your people will be face to face.

Now you will have to project your leadership through you’re the people on your leadership team.

This means that when you interact with your leadership team, you must always think about the effect of that interaction on your front line people.

They won’t hear you.

They will hear someone’s interpretation of what you said and feel the effect of your message, not the words.

Similarly, the face to face interactions you have with those outside the team will be less regular but more significant.

You will touch people’s lives less often, but the fingerprints you leave will be much deeper.

The most junior employees will remember what you did and how you made them feel infinitely more than anything you said.

Read about nail polish & coloured pencils

Enjoy the ride

As a leader, you have no choice but to lead through others.

It’s also where you gain autonomy.

These are what define its difference.

Understanding culture and communication is important to every leader.

Defining where the team is going and then creating the environment in which your people can get there is a significant part of your job.

It is all underpinned by consistent, constant communication that is designed for second-order effects.

There is, of course, much more than this.

Nor did I got everything right.

I missed opportunities.

I  controlled when I should have loosened the reigns.

When things went right, it was because I had given my people the freedom to use their initiative and rectify my mistakes.

When I got angry I always regretted it.

My biggest regrets are from when I didn’t look after my people as well as I should have done.

That said, it was a wonderful experience, and I would recommend you enjoy the ride.

3 Action To Not Kill Vulnerability On Your team

You’ve likely heard all about the importance of vulnerability in being a leader.  

Vulnerability is the ability to acknowledge a mistake, to admit a weakness, to ask for help when you need it, even to put a crazy idea out there. Most importantly, you need to know that you can be vulnerable without fear of judgment.  

Vulnerability is a crucial ingredient in allowing teams to perform at an epic level. 

Most leaders say that they want a high level of openness and honesty on their teams, yet the up-undermining vulnerability.  

Leaders frequently allow these three actions to kill vulnerability. 

#1: Confusing “being supportive”… with “being efficient.”

When someone comes to you with a project they’re struggling with, what do you do?  

The natural tendency is to be efficient in solving the problem and say, “Thank you so much for being so vulnerable!  Now let me take that away from you and give it to someone else more capable.”  

Reassigning ownership discourages vulnerability. You’ve taken away something that your team members enjoyed and wanted to be successful.  Now they won’t have that chance.

Instead of efficiency, be supportive.  Ask how you can help, and don’t assume that changing owners is the answer. 

I worked with a CEO recently who had someone on the team who was having some real challenges.

I coached the CEO that instead of jumping in with a solution, to respond with, “You still own this.  What can we all do to help?” This led the executive team to a fantastic conversation that allowed them to all pitch in with their input and expertise, while still encouraging her to keep going.

Read more about asking good questions

#2: Fostering a spirit of internal competition.

I get it. You have a competitive spirit.

Your competitiveness likely contributed to your successes.

You want to crush your competitors, and you want people on your team to have that same attitude.

But competitiveness pushed too far becomes the enemy of great collaboration by encouraging the focus on individual goals, individual owners, and personal achievement.

Read more about competing priorities

3:  Setting clear expectations … and not telling anyone

Lack of clarity around what the leader expects is one of the biggest detractors to vulnerability on a team. 

Lack of clarity invites fear into the party, and fear brings along defensiveness.  

Be transparent, explicit, and clear.  

On a truly great team, everyone knows exactly where they stand at any particular point in time.  

The very best leaders that I’ve worked with have been able to improve trust and vulnerability with their teams by consistently holding them accountable to their expectations.  

Sometimes that requires giving them what we call the “kind truth.”

It’s easy to be nice, but sometimes being kind means being honest. 

Read more about communicating with clarity

Final Thoughts

Even great leaders will occasionally slip up and negatively impact vulnerability on their teams.  

It happens.  

We’re human.  

But, interestingly enough, so are the rest of your teammates.  

Encourage vulnerability, and you’ll be sure to get the most of every one of them.