Working for big business certainly has its perks, there’s no doubt about it. Stability, direction, benefits, work that is defined – you name it. It can be a magical place so long as we do enough to stay off the radar of those watching while mentally checking out for 8 hours a day to do this thing we call ‘work’.
If working for the bigs’ is so great than why are so many people changing their professional course of direction and seeking the world of the start-up?
The start-up world can be an exciting place. I’ve experienced this personally over the last two years while also support many clients who are in the same place. Decisions are often made speedily, there’s typically less bureaucracy, work is more flexible and of course it tends to be much more creative.
Then it’s settled, everyone should work in a start-up! I mean, who wouldn’t want to work in that kind of an environment?
Pump the brakes my impatient chums. Before you diving into the world of a start-up (including small business) take a moment to check in with yourself on how you land with these five characteristics of the start-up world:
1. Working Outside the Box
When we work for big companies often times our job and daily output is focused on a certain set of tasks. It’s the opposite in the start-up world as often times the mentality of those who are successful in this space is that they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done and company moving forward. This includes taking out your own trash! If you’ve ever said “that’s not part of my job description” in response to work that was requested of you I would recommend taking a hard look at whether a start-up or small company is the right move for your career.
2. Time Requirements
Working 8-5 in a large company can be a very nice perk. If you’ve done that for any length of time you may have forgotten how nice it is to mentally shut off at 5PM. In start-ups working 8-5 is non-existent. It’s common to work long hours and or be tethered to your smart phone around the clock. The statement of ‘work life balance’ is blurred beyond recognition in the start-up world. Those that are successful here know and understand that it takes time and effort to create something. How dedicated are you to making that happen and what are you giving up in the process?
3. Ambiguous Nature
Working in a large company doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is clearly defined and outlined yet it is typical that SOPs (standard operating processes) are at the very least available for workers who choose to use them. In the start-up world you may find yourself creating these on your own. Take a moment to think how you would feel about being confronted with a daily situation where you are supposed to be working hard, hell – harder than ever before, and there isn’t a lot of direction or support to help you in that effort. If the thought of that excites you than the start-up world may be a breath of fresh air, if not then maybe your 3 foot wide cubicle and plush ergonomic chair your large company bought is the safer bet.
This is one of the most overlooked aspects of a start-up in my opinion. Leadership. If you haven’t worked in the start-up world before you may not be aware that people in leadership still do much of the hands on work. In big business this is hardly the case. Neither camp of leaders are necessarily better than one of the other, it’s just a very different environment. In start-ups every person on the team has to give 150% to the cause which means those who don a leadership title still have to get dirty in the day to day work. The reason you want to consider this as a part of your ‘can I make it in the start-up world’ is because leadership ultimately can have a great or very grave impact on the start-up business. Seems a bit obvious but when someone is doing both daily work and in charge of strategic decision making their influence and involvement has a much greater impact. In big business if a company experiences a failure with one of their leaders it typically can be salvaged whereas in the start-up world one or two cost mistakes by leadership will send the company into a grave six feet under.
Start-ups offer an intimate working experience. It’s a necessity. Working in a start-up everyone knows everything about everyone. It’s close quarters with high amounts of communication, partnering and feedback. Collaboration of course exists in big business but not at the intimate level of the start-up. When we work for a big company we are often a part of a team but doing work independently, even times on our own little island. If you’ve come to enjoy your island and aren’t interested in having neighbors up in your grill on the daily than perhaps staying in big business is the right decision for you.
A professional life in a start-up can indeed be a rewarding and exciting adventure. Once we’ve spent some time analyzing what’s most important to us in our career and what we’re willing to do to get it than we’ll have a better idea of how the start-up environment and career fits in with our plans.
It’s amazing at how many things are sold to professionals which claim to be the next best thing in advancing your career. From books and seminars to workshops and online tutorials, there seems to be an endless supply of crap that many of us buy to help our careers yet few ever see any real return on investment.
There is one thing that doesn’t rely on fancy sales pitches or overdone workbooks and it can truly elevate your professional game. Best part is we all have access to it and most often it is completely free of charge.
Welcome to MENTORSHIP.
No matter where you are in your career having a mentor is highly advisable as it can be the difference between you navigating the waters of a successful career versus drowning in the murky depths of the rat race. Mentors aren’t just strategic career advisors they’re the angel over your shoulder whispering sweet nothings into your ear.
So if having a mentor was so impactful how come more people don’t have them?
Typically it’s because we’re scared to ask for help. It’s possible we don’t think we need the help, though many would object. It could also be because we don’t know where to look to find such a connection.
At the start of this year I decided it was high time to get me a new mentor. I’ve been lucky in my life to have a consistent and very good mentor in my father which I’m incredibly thankful and fortunate to have. I was looking for an additional mentor that had specific experience – growing a business from the ground up and doing so with a technical customer base.
After doing some snooping around I landed on the website of Micro Mentor. It’s like a dating site for professionals looking for a mentor, but no hanky panky is involved. You fill out a profile and then your needs and interests are matched with a possible mentor. Both parties get to review one another’s profiles after which they have an initial conversation to see if the match is a good fit. This is where I met Bonnie.
Fast forward Bonnie and I have now been working together for eight months and I’m continually impressed and appreciative of the guidance and thought provoking perspective she brings to the table. Bonnie started a technology service business in San Francisco a couple decades ago by investing a couple thousand dollars to start the company. From that start she grew the business to over 100 employees and has recently retired, earlier nonetheless, as a result of the success she experience along the way. Needless to say I feel like I can accomplish a lot knowing I have Bonnie in my corner. (let’s also not forget my father)
Why am I sharing this with you? If you don’t have a mentor you need to get one!
The relationship, when done right, will positively change every aspect of your career and outlook on business. I’m so passionate about mentoring that I too am a mentor – it’s worth every minute of my day.
Here’s what mentors, like Bonnie and my father, bring to the table and why they’re so incredibly valuable to you and I:
> Business Savvy – they bring experience and knowledge to the table that just can’t be matched by a text book or online workshop. You can’t replace real experience. Learning from a mentor isn’t just about accomplishing big feats it’s also about learning from their mistakes. Yes they’ve made plenty of them just like you and I.
> External Perspective – often times when we need advice we go to people who are close to us, most commonly that work for the same company. While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing what is important to remember is that these people have a certain level of bias in their thoughts and advice. Having a mentor outside your company gives you the chance to get advice which focuses on the situation at hand rather than personal bias or internal company politics. Mentors can also share with you how they have dealt with situations perhaps in other lines of business or industries which could provide you with a fresh approach to handling a situation. When your mentor is outside your company you can also rest easier knowing you can share your true feelings and thoughts and know that information won’t get back to your boss or be passed along at the water cooler.
> Confidant – Mentor are great listeners. Like my mentor Bonnie, she’ll sit on the phone with me and graciously give me ample time to spill my guts at which point she does an excellent job summarizing the situation and delivering exceptional feedback. I trust that I can be open with her which ultimately helps my development process.
> Accountability – Mentors vary greatly in this area and how they approach it. If you are going to ask for a mentor make sure you are willing to actually implement the ideas and suggestions the two of you collectively come up with. There’s no better way to ruin a good mentor relationship than to talk the talk but not walk the walk. If you are one of those people that sometimes needs a swift kick in the ass to get going mentors can also be utilized for that, just be careful how much ass kicking you need. Mentors ultimately aren’t baby sitters and they’re not supposed to run your business or career for you.
> Comfort Zone Executioners – let’s face it, we all love dancing in the comfort zone for longer than we should. Mentors are great at breaking up common thoughts or practices to get you out of your area of complacency. When this happens true growth is right around the corner.
Back in January of this year I was less than a month away from being a first time Dad. To put it bluntly, I was scared! What do I know about raising a kid and how will I show up for our daughter so that she grows up to be a strong and healthy young woman? It’s a daunting thought process for a new parent as there is so much left to the unknown. What I hoped was that I would be able to lean on some of my leadership experiences from my career to get me through the soon to be experience of being a parent.
Six months later I’m amazed at what I’ve learned along the way about being a father. Infants have much to teach us as their souls give us a glimpse into perfection. They don’t have a negative bone in their body as their main desire in life is to be loved and cared for. Simple as that. Accomplish that and they’ll love you unconditionally. Along the way I’ve picked up some nuggets of knowledge, which mind you were bestowed on be by an infant, and are now the cornerstone for my focus in business and as a leader.
> Caring for others without expectation
I’ve learned quickly the importance and result of what happens when you give all of yourself to someone for their benefit and their benefit only. When we do things for people because we’re looking to get something in return it cheapens the relationship as the receiver almost always sees through the other person. What’s amazing is infants have this same perceptive quality. When you care for them unconditionally they love you no matter what. They appreciate and respect your kindness and give it back a thousand times what was originally offered. Leadership is the same way. Put yourself out there for others placing their careers ahead of your own and you’ll have a team of people who happily run through brick walls, achieving great heights along the way.
Even if you don’t have kids you’ve probably heard this…kids require a lot of patience. My whole life I’ve struggled in this area yet through some caring feedback over the years I’ve managed to slowly improve. My daughter requires a whole new level of patience that I’ve never had to deploy before yet I find myself yearning for the opportunity to give it. What you come to realize is that many times people don’t do things on purpose which leads to feeling of being upset, frustrated, irritated, etc which is what can cause people to lose their patience. A lot of times it’s just a simple miscommunication. When we keep this top of mind at work we can approach situations with a calmer, more understanding mindset which alleviates our need to get fired up.
> It’s the small things that count
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in life, focusing on things that are completely irrelevant to our day or perhaps even the reason for being alive in the first place. I must admit, I struggle with this often. One of the best things I’ve learned from my daughter is most of the worldly challenges I’m faced with are actually quite insignificant and the reality is that some of the smallest things in life are what really makes a difference. A great example is every morning when I go to get her out of her crib (sometimes at a ripe 5:15AM mind you) I’m greeted with the biggest toothless smile you could ever image. It goes ear to ear and immediately puts me in my happy place. It’s moments like these that are great reminders for us that life is not all about spreadsheets, bottom lines and performance reviews. If we take this same approach with our employees at work we’ll find ourselves much more satisfied with our career experience.
> The Platinum Rule of Relationships
The Golden Rule is the principle of treating others as one would wish to be treated oneself. I’ve learned from my daughter that the ‘Platinum Rule’ is far more effective as the focus is to ‘treat others the way they want to be treated’. If I take the time to do the things which are important to my daughter (like throwing blocks, yelling at trees, bouncing to music or gnawing on the couch cushions) I find she’s far more involved and happy with me than when I have her do something I want to do. (which typically means she’s sitting there supervising me from her Bumbo) This same rule applies to our employees as when we treat them how they want to be treated and not how we ourselves want to be treated it sends a very specific message that we care about them and what’s important to their cause.
While this may sound a little cliché I can assure you it is all too real. I’ve grown up experiencing a life full of grand adventures and silly shenanigans. Let’s just say I’ve had a lot of fun living life yet somewhere along the way I forgot how to have good, honest fun. How to pretend. My daughter reminds me that having fun is a state of mind and should be a source of achievement often. While that may sound daunting and rather tiresome to focus on always having fun I can assure you the other side of the coin sucks royally. When you aren’t having fun life feels like it’s just dragging on by. So now if we aren’t having fun I make an abrupt face change in what we’re doing so that she’s smiling and giggling all over again. Your employees will do the same. If you purposefully make their work environment an enjoyable place to be your employees will enjoy coming to work, rather than having a serious case of the Mondays.
It’s happening all around you and chances are you haven’t even noticed. Don’t feel bad, you’re not the only one that may have missed it. There’s a lot of attention being drawn to a specific area of our domestic workplace which stands to change much of what we know about working for corporate America in the very near term.
Meet the Solopreneur!
A Solopreneur, we’ll call them ‘Bob’ for purposes of this article, is someone who owns a business, yet has no formal employees. (W2 employees)
Bob represents a fast growing portion of the US economy and he’s got a lot of friends interested to learn more about what Bob does, how he did it and how they can get in on a piece of the action. According to the SBA Bob’s makes up an estimated 70% of all small businesses across the country. Furthermore, Intuit released a study that estimates 40% of ALL businesses in the country will be like Bob by 2020.
What does a Bob look like?
As mentioned a moment ago it’s someone who is in business and is the sole employee of that business. They’re owner, operator and doer all in one. They come in all shapes and sizes and their most popular amongst Baby Boomer and Millennial generations. In years past our Solopreneur Bob has had more traditional titles like Consultant, Contractor or even Gig Economy. They all represent the same thing which is someone who does work on behalf of others through their own means – and this type of work is growing quickly.
If we follow the laws of supply & demand we find that when there is demand for something the market typically reacts, responding with a solution. Why is it then there is such a demand for Bob? The uptick in Bob’s is caused by three major factors:
1. Our workforces’ desire for work life balance and flexibility in their jobs.
2. Company’s desires to reduce overhead costs associated with hiring full-time employees, especially as the cost of having employees continues to rise.
3. Company’s desires to continue to find more efficient means of getting work done.
With all these Bob’s running about its only natural to wonder how this might impact the overall workforce as we know it. Here are the top 7 workforce impacts that we could experience as a result of the Bob’s.
1. As more people move towards the Solopreneur career it becomes harder for companies to control their internal culture and keep their employees motivated amongst the constantly changing faces in the office.
2. The old thought process which said “to build a great company we must hire great employees” quickly diminishes as companies are hiring Bob’s who are experts in specialized areas to produce quicker than normal results. Efficiency is the driver of many of our decisions in the business world.
3. Companies become more agile as they use flexible resources allowing to bob and weave with the economic punches. (pun intended)
4. It’s possible our workforce could become fractured as Bob’s risk alienating themselves due to the isolation that comes with being on their own
5. The need for excellent leadership increases dramatically. We’re already at a deficit now with good leaders in our country but with a larger portion of our country working independently it will be crucial for companies to have exceptional leaders which are capable of meeting objectives while successfully motivating both internal and external resources
6. People who choose to go the Bob route and do so successfully may find much more enjoyment in their careers as they are making both a difference in their respective industries as well as an internal drive to truly be independent
7. Being a Bob isn’t always easy. The fact is that in order to be a successful Bob you have to know how to sell and market yourself and your services. If you’ve never done that before allow me to be the first to tell you selling and marketing a service is not easy nor for the faint of heart as rejection is common place in the Bob business. As a result it is likely many would enter into a Bob career to only sputter out in a year or two after they’ve realized it’s more demanding than a normal 8-5.
Whether you’re a fan or not of the Solopreneur, Bob phenomenon, the fact stands that it’s a growing need in our workforce. What does the Bob-life mean for you?
By the by, I happen to be a Bob myself!
The craze of the new hot app, Pokémon Go, has taken the world by storm as people meander aimlessly trying to catch little creatures to their hearts content. As users continue to increase and we gain a better understanding of the fanfare this game has adopted an interesting parallel is developing which isn’t necessarily what the game is about at all, yet it’s a great learning opportunity for anyone in a leadership role.
Before we get into that, let’s start off with what the heck is this game anyways?
What is Pokémon Go?
It's a free-to-play, location-based, augmented reality, multiplayer online mobile game. It’s a rebirth of a game that came out originally in the early 90’s which allows you to search for critters, catch them, train them and battle with them. The game that was launched on July 6th uses your phone's GPS to track where you are while making use of a stylized Google map as the primary game board. Your character moves in the game as you walk around in real life, and events and objects – known as PokéStops – are associated with specific locations in the physical world. You can look at the game world through your phone's display which serves as a viewfinder that mixes reality with game objects.
What has Pokémon Go accomplished?
It took a mere 3 hours to hit #1 on the iPhone app sales charts and a total of 13 hours for the game to hit the top of the US sales charts, bringing in $2M a day in revenue. If that wasn’t impressive enough, its daily user penetration rate (% of people who download the app per day) is 10.81% whereas other blockbuster apps prior were only around 1.67% and 0.84%. The average amount of time a user spends on the app each day is upwards of 45 minutes and the games retention rates are double the industry norm. Lastly, this single app managed to raise Nintendo’s (creater of the app) market share by more than $7 billion, or 25%. Basically it’s minting money left and right for the gamer maker.
Why are so many people across such a large age range totally immersed in this app and what could we learn from it to implement in the workplace? After reading that some of you might be thinking “why do we need to learn anything from it? It’s a game, not work.” That’s a valid point and you would be justified in saying that however I think there’s a great learning opportunity for any business owner or person in leadership to take note.
People like Pokémon Go because it’s an experience!
As leaders in business if we took anything away from what this app has accomplished it should be that the majority of people out there respond positively to things which elicit an interactive, creative and fun experience. Is it then possible to harness the Pokémon Go experience and create that in a business setting? You bet your backside it is, it’ll just take a little creative licensing to make it work.
Before we get into the 'how' let’s quickly explore why we would want to do this in the first place?
It’s a simple fact that happy employees produce successful companies. When employees are cared for, respected and engaged successfully their productivity levels and general happiness soar in the workplace. When people are happy they take less sick days, require less vacation and go above and beyond on the regular. They don’t need to be told to go above and beyond as they do so naturally. It’s not a utopian day dream to think that this is possible for every company out there because it is indeed possible. It just requires someone to recognize the need for positive change and actually do something about it.
Now we’ll take what we’ve learned from the Pokémon Go experience and translate that into the workplace.
To create an experience that people will gravitate towards in the workplace we first have to listen and give people what they want, not what you (the leader) wants. Once we know what our people desire we need to deliver on it by creating a work environment and culture that people are drawn too. As Pokémon Go shows us people are willing to adopt things very quickly when it meets their needs and interests. Creating a culture and environment that supports collaboration, appreciation and respect, along with having fun, are good starting points.
We also need to keep in mind that over complicating things at work doesn’t necessarily make it a better experience. In fact, the simpler something is the better. Pokémon Go does this perfectly by using something we already know (our phone GPS) and integrates it with our personal space and creative expression. As a result we, the user, are put in the drivers’ seat to create an experience that is catered to our unique interests. What that looks like at work is giving people the autonomy to make decisions and do their job effectively.
There’s an added bonus for us in the workplace!
We can create an experience that is stimulating and rewarding without the worry of being hit by a car, running into light poles or literally falling on our faces, which have been some wonderful experiences to come as a result of using Pokémon Go.
After more than a decade of hiring people on a daily basis I’ve seen a thing or two when it comes to good vs. bad practices as it relates to hiring employees. During that time I’ve also made my fair share of mistakes which have offered up a lot of learning opportunities. What I've learned over the years is that making a hiring mistake can be costly.
Hiring an employee is an interesting and vital part of business. Interesting in that the end result is bringing on a new person into your company with the idea that they will fulfill a role to help the company move forward. Vital, because hiring really is one of the most important activities a business can do outside of generating revenue. Without revenue streaming in there is no need for hiring and no company for that matter.
The act of hiring is often whimsical and mythical in nature, like a unicorn. Everyone loves to say they’re great at interviewing as they ‘know how to pick em’, they’re ‘able to sniff out the best from the worst’, etc. I always enjoy a good chuckle when I hear comments like this because the reality is that these words often come with hollow ground.
In fact, the act of interviewing and hiring is so tough it’s probably best we just get these two stats out ahead of time:
With stats like that you’d think companies would focus more on hiring to improve that area of the business similarly to how they spend endless amounts of time and money on activities like kaizen events and lean initiatives in order to improve yields by a couple percentage points.
In the end the numbers don’t lie as they tell us a very sobering story – no one is perfect when it comes to hiring employees. However the quicker we build awareness around our actual performance in the area of hiring the quicker we can begin to improve it.
Take a look below and see where you land on these 10 hiring blunders:
Do you or your company fall short in any of these areas?
If so you’ve got an opportunity to improve the process and create a great hiring experience for the sake of your new hire and company’s performance in the future.
It's paramount to a leaders success that they create an environment where their employees can flourish and do so in a manner that breeds optimism and opportunity while showing them that the company (and leadership) is there to support them.
The above statement probably comes off a bit obvious as most people in business recognize that without a supportive, positive work environment leaders will struggle to keep their employees happy and working diligently. If the notion of a positive work environment is so obvious than why do the vast majority of leaders struggle significantly to actually put one into action?
The answer: they don't listen!
Many leaders have a similar characteristic which contributes to our little problem we're discussing here. The problem is that people love the sound of their own voice, so much so that other sounds (people's voices, options, ideas, frustrations, etc.) get stifled in the process. The sound of our own voice makes us feel good yet too much of it can put us in situations where our mouths write checks our bodies can’t cash. Wanting to be heard is part of our desire to influence, make an impact or speak our minds; whereas wanting to be heard over others (intentionally or unintentinoally) can be directly attributed to ego.
Listening isn't as easy as one thinks it is but it's one of the great truths having to do with leadership. That truth is the art of listening is the end all be all in leadership.
Why is listening an important habit to develop to be a good leader? Those who possess the ability to listen earnestly experience deeper relationships, advanced awareness of how they show up and how others are impacted by them (EQ), are genuine in their care for others and are touted as being “leaders people would run through a wall for”. To become an exceptional leader, you must develop your ability to listen.
You may be thinking, “Well, that’s not very profound. I listen all the time.” But, do you really listen?
Let’s see how good of a listener you are. If you’ve done one of the following in the last week you’ll want to continue reading this article:
The list goes on, and on, however these six items seem to be the biggest perpetrators of what we see from people who aren’t engaged and listening.
Why is it we don’t listen? Short answer – our egos get in the way of allowing someone else the stage to talk.
The long answer – Perhaps you’re the exception as your listening skills are top notch. For everyone else out there, which I’ll gladly throw myself into this boat, as leaders we struggle with listening. We tell ourselves that others are wrong; only we know the truth; “I don’t have time for this”; I can multi-task while we’re talking; my point makes more sense; they’re idiots; they must not see the big picture (love that one); they have to hear my side before we can move on, etc. With so much going on in the world today it’s easy to fall into the trap that you don’t have time to have a conversation, especially if that conversation isn’t of grave importance.
Leaders – read closely here.
The success of your job depends on your ability to listen. Forbes writer Glenn Llopis says that when “leaders judge, they expose their immaturity and inability to embrace differences.” Did you know that your act of not listening actually sent such a strong communication to the person on the other end?
Imagine how it made them feel!
How can we fix this?
Short answer – zip it (our mouths that is) and focus on the person in front of you.
Long answer – put away your phone, your work at hand, close your computer screen or turn it off, close your door for that matter and stop mulling over that rerun episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians you watched for the sixth time last night. Do whatever you need to in order to give the person on the other side of the table your complete and undivided attention.
WHY should we focus on being better listeners?
When we listen we allow others to speak their mind furthering an atmosphere of open communication, respect and free flowing ideas. Employees perform best in these environments and show up to work often times much happier to take on the day at hand.
People follow and support leaders who live a servants’ mentality which means when their people have an idea, a question, a problem, or a wild haired suggestion, they listen as if listening is going out of style. Being a servant doesn’t mean being a leader is weak, it means their people and company come first, before themselves. Conversation is the gateway to a persons’ mind, body and soul. It's best we listen or we’ll run the chance of missing out on some truly incredible opportunities to serve the very people that make all the difference - our employees.
Back in December of 2015 I wrote on a topic that was near and dear to my heart as it is something I came across often in business, matter of fact still do today. It’s a challenge which all companies deal with quite frequently and seem to struggle creating a sound solution to the problem.
What is the challenge you ask?
It’s transitioning an individual contributor into a management role for the first time and doing so successfully.
Identifying a person, let alone the right person, to take on management responsibilities is becoming increasingly more difficult. HBR put out a stat recently which indicated companies fail to choose the candidate with the right talent for the job 82% of the time when hiring for management roles.
If it is so tough to hire for management than imagine the challenge and stress a person feels when they do get the job and are new to the role. I’ve been there and can share from direct experience that most often you get thrown into the deep end, left to tread water with a giant weight over your head. The majority of companies out there don’t offer formal training programs to their newly promoted managers therefore the sink or swim mentality is a very real and potentially frightening hurdle people looking to be promoted need to be aware of. Without the right training, development and mentorship it’s incredibly challenging how tough management jobs can be.
Have no fear my friends. Even if you find yourself in a management role without the necessary training and development there are many things you can do to improve your likelihood of success. If you follow these 13 steps you will be on your way to building a future that is purposeful and aligned for success as your lead your team to victory. (or a full write up and details of how each step below works click on the following links: part-1, part-2 and part-3)
1. Read “The Go-Giver” by Bob Burg and John David Mann
2.Have a 1:1 (One-on-One) with Your New Boss
3. Communicate Your Plans to Your New Team
4. Learn About Your New Role and How It Impacts the Business
5. Identify a Professional Mentor Outside of Your Immediate Company
6.Schedule 1:1 (One-on-One) with Your Team
7.Create Performance and Professional Development Plans
8.Develop Time Management Structure
9.Develop Relationships With Other Leadership
10.Create A Department Game Plan
11.Present Game Plan To Your Team
12.Create Systematic Communications & Follow Ups
13.Plan A Team Event
These 13 steps are to be used as an outline to reach success as you step into leadership. My best advice is to use this framework in combination with a style that is authentic to who you are as a person and who you want to be for others.
It is my belief that anyone CAN be successful in leadership so long as they have the right attitude, mindset and care for others. This is the foundation for which you need to be successful in leadership. Having a leadership game plan along the way merely keeps you on track, increasing your chances for success and happiness, providing you the best opportunity to serve those lead.
For many Americans career progression is as important to them as the air they breathe. When we’re at a point in our careers where we’re looking for the next best thing or a new challenge often times it means taking into consideration a management role.
To be successful in management, or leadership for that matter, it requires a completely different set of skills which are typically very different than the skills which were needed to be successful in a staff level role. When we are a staff employee, meaning we don’t have any direct reports, our focus is to ensure we do the best individual job possible. Regardless if we’re a part of a team or not, when we’re a staff employee we really have one main concern – make sure our butts are protected by doing a great job.
Being in a management role is very different. While it’s important the manager does a good job, she is also responsible for a number of direct reports and therefore is responsible for their contributions as well.
The transition to management can either be a dream come true or a living nightmare. Regardless of which camp you may be in it’s important to consider two things before you make the decision to throw your hat in the ring for the next management opportunity:
What the statistic above from HBR and Gallup tells us is that it’s incredibly tough to make a good decision on who will be successful in a leadership role. While the decision to hire or promote someone into a management role ultimate rests with the company, what happens thereafter is largely attributed to the individual in the role. Let’s make no mistake about it, a move from staff level to management can be an incredibly rewarding opportunity but to be successful in the new venture you need to know beforehand if you’ve got the foundation for what it takes to be successful leading others.
Before you consider a career in management think about how you deal with these five foundational leadership questions:
1.Do You Genuinely Care About Other People?
I’m going to take a hard stance here and simply say if you don’t care about others and aren’t willing to put others before yourself you’ll never be truly successful in leadership. I choose the word ‘never’ because you may see some success early on however in the long run a lack of genuine care for the people will always bring about challenges which are near impossible to overcome. The best leaders out there, regardless of their titles or the size of the company they work for, view leadership as an act of service and truly care about the wellbeing of their employees. “Leaders eat last.” – Simon Sinek
2.How will you handle ‘The Technician Syndrome’?
This is particularly important for people in a technical capacity to consider. The word ‘technician’ refers to a person who is in an individual contributor role focusing on hands-on work. When you make a transition into management you are stepping away from some or most of your daily technical hands on duties. There are some exceptions to this, for example if you work for a start-up or small company and are a ‘working executive’, however most of the time management roles focus their time and energy on their people and a strategy for getting work done. People who have technical backgrounds tend to struggle with this change as often times their original passion which has guided them to this point in their career was focused on being hands-on in their role, creating, building or testing things. (a Mechanical Engineer that designs new products)
3.Are You An Influencer or a Dictator?
What is your natural working style when you are in situations where you are working with others? Do you have a tendency to listen, support and coach or are you the type that would rather just tell people what to do? Successful leaders do more listening than they do talking. They understand the importance of giving their people an opportunity to contribute ideas, take risks, do things their own way, etc. Managers that don’t do this have a hard time motivating their employees as they view their employees as workers who are to be told what to do, when to do and how to do their work.
4.Can You Delegate?
Can you give someone else an opportunity to take on a project or work? Are you able to allow someone else the chance to take the spot light and recognition? Do you trust others to get the job done? These are all important questions which tie into delegation. Successful leaders delegate frequently because they know firsthand that it isn’t wise or feasible for them to do everything. Delegation also has a unique outcome which communicates trust and ownership to your employees whereas not delegating sends the exact opposite signal.
5.Are You Willing to be a Shrink?
It’s not the prettiest part of the job but a consideration nonetheless. A very real part of management is dealing with people problems, like a shrink would, and working constantly in conflict resolution. This aspect of the job often sends people screaming for the hills as dealing with people problems can be challenging and often viewed as a waste of time in the corporate world. Successful leaders view the people interaction part of the job as an opportunity for improving themselves and their employees while further developing a deeper relationship. They look forward to the moments to learn from, listen, coach and guide their employees. They do this because they genuinely care about the welfare of their employees both at work and home.
If you’re considering going into management take the time to think about how you show up with these five foundational leadership questions. What’s important to consider is that if you don’t have these intangible skills now can you develop them over time? The answer is most definitely yes, it’ll just take time, patience and a willingness to always be learning.
Leadership is one of the hardest things a person can do. There’s no manual, no playbook, no cliff notes that give leaders the ‘secret sauce’ to successfully lead the charge. Sure there are thousands of avenues one could go to learn more about leadership however at the end of the day it’s still a job that mainly rests on intangible actions like care, intuition and respect for the very people leaders serve.
Leading can be a lonely experience.
The feeling of loneliness at the top is much more common than most people realize as more than 50% of leaders indicate they have experienced loneliness at one point or another in their career. The stats are even higher for first time leaders at a whopping 70%.
When leaders experience solitary the impacts can be devastating. Isolation and loneliness have a direct negative affect on a leaders’ performance which then directly impacts their employees, departments, business units and companies.
How is it then that leaders find themselves down in the dumps? Some of the most common causes are:
1. Forced Isolation
Leaders often times seclude themselves from the rest of the group by working in an office which can create imaginary barriers between them and their staff. Closing the door actual creates a real barrier that communicates “I’m not available and don’t have time for you”. Regardless if this isolation was intentional or unintentional it produces the same results where the leaders’ staff hesitates to communicate with their boss, or not at all.
2. Decision Making
In most businesses decision making is typically left to the people carrying the torch. When decisions go well all is good in the world yet when decisions produce less than spectacular results the leader is left out in the cold to take the brunt of the responsibility. It’s part of the job but it can also produce isolation at a whole new level which isn’t typically understood or felt by the leaders direct reports.
3. Don’t Ask For Help
Many times isolation is self-inflicted as leaders don’t ask for help from their teams or peers. There’s an unspoken feeling for many leaders which goes something like, “they expect me to know everything because that’s what I get paid for”. Thoughts like this can be incredibly damaging and certainly have no justifiable basis for being correct or healthy.
4. Lack Humility
When leaders act in a way which broadcasts ‘I’m more important than you because I’m in a leadership role’ employees quickly disengage, refraining from putting effort in to build relationships with their leaders or working hard on their behalf. When leaders act this way many times it can be attributed to ego.
5. Poor Treatment of Others
One of the quickest ways a leader can find themselves on solo island is by treating their employees or staff in a poor manner, as they lack emotional intelligence. When employees feel like they aren’t valued or respected they withdraw which commonly leads to limited interaction and feedback with leadership. The result is a drift occurs in the organization between what leadership wants and what employees are doing.
Let’s be clear here, we aren’t about to throw a pity party for our leaders. They’re grown ups right, big boys and big girls who have made the choice to enter leadership on their own accord. So if they’re feeling isolated or lonely than it’s by their own doing, right?
While we’d all love to think that statement above is accurate the reality is that employees do in fact have some ownership in the leadership isolation situation. Employees have a unique ability to see things their leaders don’t, hear things their leaders don’t and help in situations their leaders would otherwise be clueless about.
These five options when implemented help to foster an environment of support and mutual respect, one in which both leader and employee benefits from:
When leaders and employees work together and support one another it significantly reduces the likelihood people of any kind will experience isolation.
“There is no respect for others without humility in one's self.” - Henri Frederic Amiel
About the Author
Serving over a decade in the technical services industry in Orange County, CA, Travis Smith has developed a talent for assessing technical talent and overseeing technical projects. His other areas of specialty include: leadership development, business development, resource planning and creative solutioning.