Let me share with you three simple yet powerful leadership tweaks that will help you boost your career.
What got you here won’t get you there.
This phrase, which comes from Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, is a very powerful one. Continuing to do more of what you’re good at is seductive, but limiting, at least if you want to keep rising. And not all organizations are good at making this clear to their newer leaders.
While we know that new roles and increased seniority require new skills and perspectives, I also speak with the leaders I coach about what they need to give up. Owning your own work and pushing to high standards are great for individual contributors, and they give the career some lift off. But you need to give up a lot of what you have been recognized for and been good at, once you’re managing a team. How do you encourage and motivate team members to own their work and set and meet high standards? Different skills altogether. The degree of shift required here is usually under-estimated. Think about both what you need to give up, AND be better at, to be a more powerful leader.
Create strong foundations that will serve your entire career.
Notwithstanding that you need take on and give up certain skills and perspectives as your career grows, there are a couple of related foundation skills for leaders that help regardless of the size and shape of your job. I think these are some of the toughest things to manage, but worth it in terms of the payback:
Manage your attention
– disciplined attention is the currency of leadership. To be successful you need to pay attention to the things that matter most, and sustain your attention on those things in the midst of many distractions.
At increasingly senior levels this intensifies, and focusing strategically and productively becomes ever more challenging. How to zone out the minutiae of everyday demands and keep attention on the big picture? You’ve got to be a bit ruthless with your attention and give up any need you might have to be all things to all people, or to be the one who has the right answers. Instead, prioritize what matters most and excel at it.
This is where mindfulness techniques of various kinds are invaluable. They are powerful leadership tools that you can build into your routine. What are you focusing on in this moment, and how well does it serve you?
Manage your perspective
– being able to manage your attention helps you to manage your perspective taking. And managing your perspective taking helps with important things like enabling others to do their work, and managing complexity.
One big shift in perspective is from first position – me and my motivations and achievements, to second position – you and your motivations and achievements. I still recall one leader I was coaching for his lack of empathy with his team, who was shocked to hear that there was such a thing as second position! Thankfully, he’s a rarity, but taking the perspective of others is critical if they’re going to produce the outcomes you seek from them.
The only effective way of dealing with complexity is being able to take different perspectives. Instead of managing for certainty, we need to lead for possibility. That can be challenging, and anxiety-provoking, in organizations where the drive is towards certainty. Seeking out the perspectives of people who are different from us, irritate us, or who stretch us beyond our comfort zones, can unlock enormous creativity and power. What questions do/would they ask? Build them into your repertoire to develop greater flexibility in your thinking. And be a more inclusive leader into the bargain.
Know your story, and tell it well
How do you want the world to know you, and to understand the leader you are becoming? Spending time crafting your storylines is of critical importance firstly in gaining your own clarity. Ask yourself, what’s your leadership purpose, your values and motivations to lead? How readily and clearly can you articulate these?
When you’re growing and developing, your stories may become a little confused, and some of them are changing. You may need to discard some, and find new ones. Working out how to articulate them clearly can help you gain clarity on what they are. Win:win!
I find that women in particular may be reluctant to tell their stories; I often hear ‘I don’t think I have anything interesting to say’. But everyone does. And a story should only take 60 to 90 seconds to tell.
No-one else will be clear about what you stand for if you’re not. Your stories serve to prime you for success. They are a powerful leadership tool. As you tell your stories people come to better connect with you, understand the authentic you, and appreciate your intentions. Help them to see you as the leader you want to be known as.
If you’d like some extra support in boosting your career, please get in touch.
Photo credit: lechon-kirb-29129 Unsplash.com
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