100% Jodi: How to Reach New Levels of Leadership Part I

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Hello everyone and thank you for joining me!

Today I want to start a conversation with you about something that is near and dear to my heart, the various levels of leadership as related to the workplace. This is such an important topic and even if you have career growth and promotions on your mind you may not be aware of all the nuances of taking on a higher level of leadership.

This can impact your ability to get promoted and your ability to be successful after you’ve been promoted.

Promoted five times within 6 years, I learned a lot about what I needed to develop within myself and how to do it, and some of it was baptism by fire because of the pace I was promoted at.

Many of you report struggles that were due to not knowing how you needed to shift your leadership as you rose through the ranks. I’m going to go through some common leadership levels between this episode and the next, and talk about the skills and mindsets you need to take on if you want to achieve higher levels of leadership and be successful in that position once you get there.

This episode covers the first two levels of leadership.

Entry Level Leader/Individual contributor

Yes, this is a level of leadership and it’s the one where you need to master self-leadership. You display to your own leaders that you can lead by first being able to lead yourself. At this level you just need to master the basic mechanics of the job. When you are brand new to your job there is a phase of adjusting to the company culture and the processes and procedures. In the beginning this can be a stressful time because everything is new but it’s also very exciting because it’s all new. You have an opportunity to establish yourself and in some senses recreate yourself from whom you’ve been in the past.

In this level you also need to develop the ability to identify and ask for what you need. You can’t sit around waiting for someone to notice you don’t have enough training or the resources to be successful. Struggling on your own getting frustrated won’t help you. Asking for help is a good thing and the responsible thing. You want to convey you are taking responsibility for your performance so letting your leaders know you need more support, rather than making them figure it out, will be appreciated.

Also, at this level you can stand out from your peers by getting the basics right. Know your job, arrive on time, look presentable, be pleasant to the people you work with, strive to do your best and learn from your mistakes.

Sounds a little too basic, doesn’t it? However, people struggle with these basic behaviors and mindsets. They may not have had good role models or training on how to show up and work well with others. If this is you, focus on the fundamentals listed above and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you are being considered for more responsibility by your current leaders.

Frontline people leader

This can be one of the scariest transitions in leadership. Those of you who have been here for a while or who have continued onto new levels of leadership may forget what it was like to make this leap, but a leap it is. This is the level where a massive shift in perspective is required and all the fundamentals of being a people-leader are introduced. At higher levels of leadership the mental shift has already happened and there are nuanced improvements on the fundamentals.

If you are relatively new to being a people leader or about to make this transition there are a few things you need to be mindful of.

Know that this is not an easy transition so if it’s a little rough at first that’s okay. It’s all part of the learning curve and not a reason to decide you’re not good at this or to give up. You’ve just made a radical change in your responsibilities and the accountability and structure of your job is now very different.

You’re still responsible for your own performance but now you’re responsible and accountable for the performance of others. The difficulty of this transition goes up a notch if your former peers are now your direct reports.

At this level of leadership you need better communication and organization skills. You have to be on top of things or you will easily slip into an experience of things being out of control. As before, you need to ask for help and support until you’ve got your bearings in this new position.

You also need to be able to balance holding people accountable to their performance and having compassion for them as human beings.

You have to be willing to listen with an open mind and make firm decisions when the time comes. You have to be more mindful of your own behavior and attitudes because your people are watching you closely for how they should feel and think about things, and how they should behave.

This may make you feel like you are under a microscope and that people are watching to see if you’ll slip up. My recommendation, if you’re feeling this way is to let that thought go. Instead, tell yourself people are rooting for you to do well and are watching for that. If you think about it their life will be better if you do well in your new position. Ultimately, no matter what attitude or behavior they display, they want you to win.

If you want to have your people’s respect there are few things to be aware of. You have to stay away from and discourage gossip, you need to be a human being without over-sharing, and never require your people to do anything you are not willing to do yourself if needed.

Being a frontline manager you may still be working side-by-side with your team and you need to be an example of what you expect of them.

You are also now running staff meetings so you also need to have a keen understanding of different personality types and communications styles.

For instance, introverts have different needs than extroverts do.

In regard to meetings, introverts want to know exactly what will be discussed and have all the information ahead of time so they can give well thought out responses and contribute ideas and solutions. To them the meeting is a formality to bring everything to a conclusion. If you give them information on the spot, they won’t be able to give you an immediate response. They need time to themselves to think about things. For introverts, group settings are not conducive to creative work – that happens alone.

Extroverts look at meetings differently. You can send the agenda and supporting documentation for the meeting ahead of time but for them the meeting is the beginning of the conversation and is a tool to think out loud, brainstorm, and make sense of the information that was provided ahead of time. Because talking is synonymous with thinking for an extrovert they can typically come to conclusions and make decisions in a group setting.

In just this one example it’s important to not only provide the agenda and all necessary information ahead of time, you need to communicate the purpose of the meeting and what you are looking to accomplish with that time. That way, both personality types have their needs met.

The better you know your people, the work they do, and what they need to be successful at their own job, the easier your job will be.

It’s also important to not play favorites even if you are tempted, and to treat everyone as a valued member of the team regardless of tenure or current capabilities. People perform better when they are working with and for someone they know, like and trust. They won’t trust you if they don’t sense that you like and support them. They also need to sense that you not only support their high performance, you support their development and professional goals as well.

Bonus, as much as possible help your team get to know each other better. They may not all have the same values, motivations, and communication styles, but if they can understand where someone else is coming from it’s easier to get along and get work done as a team.

Ultimately, what all of these skills and behaviors will create is a cohesive team that gets the job done without a lot of fuss (aka drama). This is what will have you stand out to your leaders. When they see what you can do with one team they naturally start to wonder what you can do for another team as well.

As you are working on mastering this level of leadership be on the lookout for those on your team who take ownership of their performance and that of the team. Find out if they would like to take on more responsibility and if they have professional aspirations.

Give these individuals opportunities and additional training so they are ready to become a frontline leader when your next big opportunity comes along. Yup, it’s time to start delegating.

Here, you’re not delegating just to get work off your plate; you are delegating to give others the opportunity to show they want to step up and are capable of stepping up.

Watch how the people you want to develop interact with the team and handle conflict. To be a people leader they have to actually like people and have the ability to deal with various attitudes and fluctuating emotions. These are skills that can be developed in future leaders and the best time to start developing them is before the promotion, not after.

In regard to your own development, once you are on your way to having a high-functioning team, spend more time learning about your company or organization if you haven’t already. Learn the history, be informed on where the organization is now, and what the goals of the future are. Get to understand the different departments and divisions and understand what they do and how each impacts the other. If you want to be considered for the next promotion you need to have greater awareness of the water you are swimming in. And at the next level it’s a requirement.

I would love to get your take on these first two levels of leadership. Comment below and let me know what your experience was like at these first two levels of leadership and what you might add.

I hope this was of value to you and here’s to your success!

Continue to How to Reach New Levels of Leadership Part II.

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