Five Success Tips For New Leaders

So, Friday was your last day in your previous position, and now it’s the first week in your new role as a leader (actual title may be supervisor, manager, lead). Nothing is more exciting than getting a promotion, and yet as daunting at the same time. Leaving the comfort of being a team member has many benefits: salary increases, perks, possibly more office space, etc., and with it so many new expectations, responsibilities, unknowns and moving parts. You have worked hard and been dedicated to developing your own skills, and all of those efforts have landed you this great opportunity. You may feel a heightened sense of pride and for a while it feels good to be you!

So, a question – What amount of wisdom, insight and talent was dumped into you over the weekend that has now prepared you for this new bigger role in which you find yourself? Yes, you still maintain all the job and industry knowledge you possessed prior, but now all eyes are looking at you, people are awaiting your input and direction, and wondering how you are going to show up. They are also concerned about what will change, how your promotion affects them in their role, and may even be worried about their jobs. Some may not agree with the decision to make you the boss, or at least may be cynical in their assessment of what they already know about you and the new expectations you will be facing.

This wonderful change now comes with lots of new questions. Everyone before you who has risen in the ranks to be a boss, supervisor, manager, director, or C-level leader has had to undergo the agonies and ecstasies of promotion, just like you are now. You will also find plenty of people who will offer their advice to you in what to do, not do, and how to behave. You may even be put right away into some type of leadership training if your organization wants to help you get a better start in your new role. No matter, you still have to show up and begin to perform in new and unfamiliar ways.

I am often asked from people in these situations what is the most important things I can share with them. In order to best succeed as a first-time leader (I use the term leader as a metaphor – you will choose which type of leader you’ll become soon enough), the following Five Tips are what I offer to all leaders, no matter their age, tenure, track-record or success history:

1. Know Yourself. You are now going to be responsible for many new things and people, so you need to have a healthy level of self-awareness and knowledge about how you interact with others, how you take in information, and how you assess situations. I suggest you interview a few people in your network (co-workers, supervisors, family and friends) and ask them what strengths they most admire about you, what weaknesses they see in you, and what they might like to see you do differently to enhance the way you work and communicate with others. Take that input as gold, find ways to stay mindful of your impact on others, and get coaching or mentoring help in those areas proving more challenging. Self-awareness is the cornerstone to leadership, so begin to be intentional on how you can develop and expand in this area.
2. Know Your People. You are no longer the doer – a leader’s prime role is to get the right things done well through other people, so you need to become an ongoing expert in human behavior ASAP. I suggest spending lots of time early in your new role getting to know your teammates better, find out what they love about their job and where they are having difficulty. Explore what they know, and don’t know, and see where you will be able to offer assistance to them. Get a sense of the ‘feel’ of your team and organization, as this will help you navigate any areas that need improving or changing. I suggest, unless you are inheriting a sinking ship, spend 10-times more effort watching, listening and asking questions to what’s going on that speaking yourself in the beginning. Remember this – a leader is one who works with people and get’s them to want to give their best. You will be respected and beloved by how much you care for them and let them know you are there for them.
3. Know Your Mission / Deliverables. What you want is less important than what it is you and your team are put there by others to accomplish. When we agree to be hired, that agreement comes with expectations and requirements from those who hired us, so find out quickly what those definitions of success looks like in their eyes. When you are clear you can easily share that with your team and help them understand what success looks like. Have your goals and plans clear and visible, refer to them and their progress often, and let them be the guide for everyone to boost responsibility and accountability. Being a leader isn’t all about you – it’s about accomplishing your mission, together.
4. Know What to Track. The world of work has way too much information streaming at us, via reports, meetings, emails, and communications. After you realize your and your team’s deliverables, meet with your people and see what key measurables are available to all of you that best tracks whether you are progressing as planned. Leaders are concerned about meeting deadlines and due-dates, maintaining quality, meeting customer satisfaction levels, managing costs and motivating people, so look for metrics that act like gauges on your dashboard you all can refer to regularly.
5. Know How to Learn Daily. It’s not your job to know everything, in fact it’s impossible, so get comfortable with not-knowing, and yet keep an open and curious mind so you can see clearly what is really going on around you. Observe others, see the impact of decisions, look at how opportunities come in and out, listen to what’s being said, and not said, and pay attention to what’s working and not working. You job is to inspire others to put their best forward and get things done well. Your learning can then be shared with your team and your entire level of performance will rise. As you learn to coach better from the sidelines, you will learn more about people and find new ways to help them succeed.

In my experience these are the core foundational strengths of successful leaders, past and present, and if you take these on as your own they will not fail you, nor the people you impact.

Leadership is a never-ending, life-long journey for those who the rest of us affectionately and realistically call ‘leaders.’ Hopefully you are aspiring to be so well connected to the stakeholders you touch that everyone feels they are positively directly impacting the organization, and receiving the highest and best benefits of their being involved. Your kudos will come when everyone feels like they are winning, being heard and cared for, and have their own sense of personal and professional growth.

Learn to be a catalyst to unlock the potentials and possibilities in others, and they will always astound you with ever higher levels of engagement, productivity, success and enjoyment!

Leading from Love

Leadership is the hot topic in business journals, boardrooms and in the minds of most CEO’s. In my experience, most everyone calls people who are in positions of power and authority “leaders”, when in fact, they are mostly managers. I love the old saying, “managers do things right, leaders do the right things.” I can update this by saying, “managers force things to get done, leaders inspire others to want to get the right things done better.” No matter the title, people who are responsible for others typically fall into two categories: managers or leaders.

Look back in your work experience at those bosses you have worked with, and reflect on whether you tolerated, avoided, loathed, disliked, or disrespected them because of how you and others were treated by them, or, did you like them, felt trusted and listened to, and wanted to go the extra mile because of the environment they created?

Managers push people, tell, want things their way, use intimidation and threats, while leaders openly communicate, influence others and keep focusing on the bigger purpose and values of the organization. Managers are more interested on results rather than connecting with the people who are responsible for getting the results accomplished. Too many managers are focused on looking good to enhance their own career and standing, where leaders look to make their teammates shine and works to help them grow their careers.

When people ask me what’s the core difference between managers and leaders, I say managers are focused on externals, and leaders love people. Managers care about things and results, leaders care about people who get things done. Managers are more interested in wanting things their way, leaders enjoy the human interactions and want to see others succeed.

Take a look at these characteristics and drivers I’ve listed below. Assess yourself first, then center on current and past managers / leaders.

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What areas you can further develop? Who can you ask to give you feedback and do some evaluations so you can see yourself more clearly? As you reflect also see which ones you’d like to expand into and improve. Get some feedback from co-workers and supervisors and use that to develop your own personal improvement plan. Get coaching and have peers help keep you awake and accountable to meet your improvement goals.

Leaders who love people get more productivity and higher quality work than managers. Leaders make more money for their organizations and people than managers. Leaders create more engagement, enjoyment and harmony than do managers. Leaders make work fulfilling and meaningful and lift people up. I bet the bosses you love were more leaders than managers.

What kind of person are you . . . one who enjoys working with others, one who cares what others are going through, and one who relates? If you want to be a leader, look deep and long into your own “people-skills.” The good news is that people-skills can all be learned and developed throughout one’s lifetime. The world needs more leaders, what about you?

Remember – Managers care about getting things done right. Leaders love their people and care about doing the right things well. Which are you?

What’s Your Wake?

If you’ve ever ridden in a boat, and looked out the back, you always see a wake from the propulsion system creating waves and turbulence in the water. Depending on the speed and angle of the turns of the boat, the wake has varying degrees of significance. Those in the water close after the boat passes definitely know what impact the wake has on them as they go bobbing around, and when higher speeds or sharp turns are involved it can pose quite a concern.

We humans are like boats in the water. We go about our days passing people in a variety of ways. Yes we encounter others in the physical sense, in close quarters at home, work, or social places, and we also connect via all the electronic media we use to get in touch. Yet we almost never really slow down enough to think about how we are showing up with others, and what our interactions cause to stir up within those we engage. Every action has a reaction, and every word has an interpretation. Every piece of body language sends multiple messages out into the ether. The question is, are you aware of the impact of your wake?

With my coaching clients I love to use the word ‘wake’ because we all know what it means, and it is the root of another word – ‘awake.’ To wake is to become roused from some previous space of sleep, tranquility, or inactivity. To awaken is to become aware of where you are, to see clearly what is really going on around you, and to stay awake to what’s happening. To awaken is to have a ‘boat’ pass close enough by you to shake a wake of turbulence into your mental state.

Are you awake enough to know what impact you have on others? Do you know what impact you have on those around you? Are you aware of the affects you have, in body, words and deeds on all the others you encounter during the days of your life?

I invite you to think about how, and who, you touch, think about how you show up for them, and how you make their moments go either to some positive or negative place. If you are not sure what impact you have, I invite you to go ask them. Set up a brief meeting and ask a few simple yet very revealing questions such as:

– Tell me one or two things about the way I show up with you, and communicate with you, that you truly appreciate?

– Tell me one or two things about the way I show up with you, and communicate with you, that you really don’t’ like, or struggle with?

– Tell me what you’d like to see different from me (start doing or stop doing) that would make a positive impact on our relationship?

By being mindful of how we make a difference to those around us can shift relationships quickly, can lead to improved productivity and reduce errors or misunderstandings. Being mindful of your wake significantly reduces incorrect assumptions others may carry which can make relationships messy and unstable. Being awakened to your wake will make a huge difference in yours and those around you.

Be awake to your wake – it can make all the difference in how you show up in your world, and how your world shows up for you!

Six Strokes of Wisdom I’d Leave My 25 Year-old Self

Wouldn’t it be great if we could go back in time, after having lived a full and meaningful life, to where we could enlighten our younger selves? Take all that knowledge, experience and insight and try to educate an earlier version of oneself so not to make similar mistakes and live the fullest and best life possible! On my walk today a few nuggets came to me that I’d like to share with a 25 year old Kevin, just a few core things it has taken my 62 years on this planet to realize.

  1. Wake up and see that you are living in a box. This box was created the day you arrived, and inside this box are an incalculable number of other people’s “should and shouldn’ts” lists, things you must do and better not do, ways to think, what to believe, and how to think and feel. Now is the time to awaken to the fact that a lot of your make-up is attributed to other people. It is now time for you young man to wake up and see, think and feel for yourself. Don’t continue to follow other people’s definitions of success and happiness, it is time for you to determine your formula for those. Start looking at what you truly know, believe and desire. Look at your values, your passions, your beliefs and innate gifts. Determine what purpose and vision your life is calling and go out after them, with zeal and fervor. The path won’t be easy, but at least it will be YOUR path!
  1. Allow yourself to truly feel. Whatever you were told as a young man growing up about how to be a ‘real man’ dump it. You are first and foremost a human being, and feelings come along with that title. Actually the best part about living are those deep feelings are when you are really alive and connected to those people in your life you care so deeply about. Life is meant to lived, experienced, and we do so not just in the physical or mental aspects, but in our emotions and human spirit. Find the ways to see where you are blocked emotionally, and let go of the fears and beliefs that build the walls around your heart. It’s OK to seek help in this area, because we cannot get through this thing called life alone. Get out of your own way and be open, vulnerable, honest and real. Accept, respect and care for yourself as much as you care for others. Life is messy – get over it! Live my son, live fully!
  1. When you find out what your true gifts are, and what others say they most admire and respect about you, then reconnect them with your own passions, and then blend the two in some service to others. Everyone told you to get educated, get a job and make a career and lots of money. They have it backwards – find out who you are and what you are gifted to do, and then find ways to offer your full self in work that is fulfilling and meaningful to you and really lights you up. Find work that connects you to your highest and best self, and then that work will offer the highest benefit to others. This type of work won’t feel like work – it will be many forms of joy in action. We are not islands, protecting ourselves from others. No, life is challenging and yet in spite of that we need to jump in fully.
  1. Take plenty of time for quiet self-reflection, and allow yourself to be “in awe” of Life around you. Too many people feel they have to be busy, or have lots of noise around them to feel like they are alive. You cannot think for yourself when you are always ‘on.’ Learn to meditate, contemplate, read, and expand your mind and spirit. Connect to nature and others and just find ways to be in the flow without having to judge, name, blame or analyze things. In those moments allow deep gratitude and humility to bubble up and let that juiciness expand you, resulting in experiencing the sweetness of gratitude to overwhelm you. Life wants to live through you – be open to it and allow it to flow. This will be a new definition of “awe-some!”
  1. Be kind and respectful to everyone you encounter. Life is hard, and you’ll never know what others are going through. Be known as a powerful man that lives from a position of warmth, consideration and compassion for others. This will engender safety and trust around you, and both of those are the secret keys to authentic and meaningful relationships. People will be attracted to you because you allow them to just be themselves. You won’t need to out-smart them, out-perform them, or make them wrong. On the contrary, you will be a magnet for others who just want to be around you because it feels good. This will be your definition of leadership and it will always attract the right / best people to align and engage with you at such high levels. Give this gift away as often and as consciously as you can.
  1. Have fun! Just be you, and enjoy every moment – especially the tough ones.

Enough said!