New leaders often struggle to find their place in the organization and in defining or refining their leadership style. Here are 5 key pieces of advice for new leaders and those who are redefining themselves.
1. Knowledge = Confidence
Know the numbers related to your business. From a macro level, take the time to learn the key financial indicators for your organization and how your role or your group influences those numbers. This can sometimes be a difficult task due to the multiple layers within an organization, but it is possible. Attend state of the business meetings, take notes and listen intently. During these meetings, you will be able to learn gradually how each division or segment of the business contributes to the organization's financials. From a micro level, know the numbers related to your specific area. Understand the factors that influence the numbers, how they influence the numbers, and what the numbers mean. Approaching the numbers from a macro and micro level will increase your knowledge of the business and build your confidence as you speak to factors specific to your area.
2. Control the Perceptions
This relates to personal brand management. There are 3 parts to this strategy – knowledge, marketing, and refining your brand. First, from a knowledge standpoint, you must always view yourself as a brand, your skills as the brand promise and your actions as the actual service. As such, always be mindful of what you project. Ask those that you trust to give you feedback regarding what you project and whether or not it is consistent with the brand image you wish to project. The second step relates to marketing. Now that you understand what your brand should be, put messages out that reflect it. Encourage those who speak positively of you to use buzz words that reflect your brand. For example, when someone says they appreciate the work you've done with them on a project, tell them “I am so glad I could help, I would greatly appreciate you telling others how much of a team player I am”. Finally, rebrand yourself as you evolve. As you acquire new skills, experiences and opportunities, evaluate the strength of your brand. Use your performance evaluation as opportunities to assess what's being said about you and adjust your strategies accordingly to either support positive comments or counteract negative ones.
3. Build Your Network
Networking can be a challenge, particularly if it's not something that you are comfortable with it but it is critical to your success. A network can catch you when you fall or pull you up as you seek to progressive opportunities. Build your network 1-2 levels above your position, 1 level below your position and include people on the same level as you. By having a diverse network, you can control your brand (manage perceptions), learn more about the business and learn of various opportunities that may support your professional growth. Ask questions to further your knowledge and engage your network periodically so that they don't feel used only when you need them. Also, identify things you can do quickly to assist those in your network so that you can bring value to your relationship with them.
4. Know Where You Stand
Most organizations have a means of categorizing employees from low performers to high performers. It is important to know where you stand in that categorization as well as where you want to go and how to get there. Know the key competencies associated with your role and work to develop yourself in those areas. Further, use the buzz words from where you are and where you want to go to help define or redefine your personal brand. If where you stand is inconsistent with where you see yourself, seek feedback from your mentor and your network. We are all rock stars in our own mind and in order to actualize that status, use your network to help ground you and see where the opportunities lie or develop strategies to create a more balanced perception.
5. Leave No Man or Woman Behind
Take time to be a mentor. Someone saw a spark in you that led them to take you under their wing and you should constantly look for the same thing in others. It is critical to develop an eye for talent and then invest in them from a mentoring perspective. It shows leaders that you are willing to develop talent and helps strengthen your network. The relationships you develop with those your mentor are ones that are reciprocal. You are able to learn from each other. Further, it feels good! Being able to give back through mentoring is a great feeling because you are helping someone be successful as well.