Adding Value Every Day

If you would ever thank one of my favorite Creative Directors for his contributions, he would always reply, “Just adding value.” And it was true. Every big idea or quick insight was adding incredible value to the project and our clients. He certainly taught me the concept of adding value at every opportunity. That quip seemed like an off-handed casual comment, but it was one of the best lessons I learned.

I challenge you to think about every project or team you are on. Take a minute to write down all the ways you add value to that team. Celebrate those!!

Now, take another minute to write down what the team needs to perform at a higher level. Are some of those ideas you can take on?

Here are some ways to add value to teams/projects:
– Share your notes from team meetings. Call out the highlights and decisions at the top and the action items at the bottom. (Organization)
– Thank someone for their specific contributions. (Gratitude)
– Share an article or podcast that has relevant information your project or a challenge the team is facing. (Inspiration)
Refocus the conversation around the decision at hand. (Efficiency)

How to Transition from Doing to Managing

The toughest transition I see with new leaders is to move from doing to managing. All those things you were celebrated and rewarded for in your last role aren’t part of this new role. You need to master some new skills to be successful in this role. Here are three tips to help with this transition.

1 – Let go of your old identity. So often, I’ll ask new leaders to tell me about themselves, and it’s easy for them to go back to their old identity. “I was the top salesperson in my region.” This role requires a new self-image, “I coach my team to be high performers based on my experience and their skills.” Let go of who you were as an individual contributor because your new role is accountable for the success of a larger goal.

2 – Identify the traits your team needs in a manager. Think of the best managers you had; what were their best qualities? Did they give you autonomy? Would they listen to your challenges without jumping in to solve everything quickly? Now think about your team members; when have you seen them at their best and what role did their manager play? When I lead a very diverse team, some were motivated by public recognition while others preferred a personal email, letter, or conversation. Some wanted me to tell them the answer while others wanted to talk through situations. Remember your new role is to make the team succeed so adapt to their needs.

3 – Find sources of support and inspiration. Know that you are not in this alone. The weight of the world shouldn’t be on your shoulders. The new role is a fantastic opportunity to learn new skills and take on new tasks. Find ways you can keep getting better by learning from books, podcasts, and mentors. Find someone (of course, I’d recommend a Leadership Coach like me) to support you by talking through sticky situations, defining goals, and being your accountability partner.

Finally, remember your role is not to do your team’s job. As tempting as it may be to jump in and ghostwrite a tough email for them or fix some corrupt code; figure out how you can support your team to do their job. It may take longer, and it may get to a point when you realize a team member should be a different role and separate from the company. Resist the urge and don’t do the work; manage the work.

Five People You Need in Your Network

There are five types of people you should have in your network.  These are people who will teach, connect, and support you.  Tell a look at your current network and see if you have at least three people of each type in your network.  If not, be intentional in to round out your network by the end of the summer with them. Also, remember strong networking is about both giving and benefiting (read this blog for more on that).

1 – Buyer/Client/Future Boss.  Whether you’re a freelancer, entrepreneur, or full-time employee.  Who are people that will contribute to your future income?  Is there someone rising the ranks at your current company – meet up with them, gain advice, add value to their current/future roles (through your network, experience, or skills).  Hitch your wagon to that star.  If you’re a freelancer, who is the hiring manager/freelance resource manager that is building out project teams at your dream agency? 

2 – Connectors.  Some people are magnets for awesome people.  Every time you talk to them, they say, “Do you know XXXX?  They are doing something that you would be interested in.”  These connectors know the growing businesses, the hiring managers, and thought leaders to follow.  Listen to them closely because their recommendations for a book, blog, or connection can be a catalyst in your career.  They are also great people to email and share an awesome project you just completed or share your goals for what’s next for you. 

3 – Mentors & Mentees.  Hopefully you have met some great people in your career that are a few steps ahead of you.  Be a sponge around these people: learn from their mistakes, understand the risks they have taken, and get inspired to push yourself.  The best mentors love helping those who are coming up behind them and reliving their professional journey.  Which means, you should also be mentoring those coming up behind you.  Do you have mentees that you are sharing your experiences and sage advice with?

4 – High-Five/SOS Tribe.  This tribe gets you.  You may be in the same or similar roles, work for the same company.  These are people that you can call and say, “This crazy specific huge accomplishment just happened!” and it will feel like they have jumped through the phone to give you a high five.  They get what it means to get an SOW fully executed or have a crucial conversation with a client, and they are there to support you in a big way.  These may also be people that you call for advice on a problem or a new way of doing something.  “This client just called and ask for a project-based quote vs. an hourly quote.  Have you done that before?  How do you respond?”  This tribe is a great source of advice and knowledge.

5 – Diverse Thinkers.  Is everyone in your network like you or do you have some people that are completely different from you?  Currently, I’m working on a project with someone who is so far on the opposite spectrum of leadership theories.  We talked for 45 minutes yesterday about theories I’ve never seen in practice.  Sometimes it feels like we’re on different planets, but I always take something away from our conversations and know that those nuggets will make me a better leadership coach. 

High-five if you have a well rounded network.  Keep growing.  Keep learning.  And keep paying it forward.

Leadership Isn’t a Title; It’s a Responsibility

Management is a title.  There’s a list of tasks that go along with a manager role.  But not all managers are leaders.  And there are some leaders that aren’t managers.  Leadership is not a title; it’s a responsibility. 

You can lead people, processes, or projects.  Even if you don’t have the title, stretch your leadership skills.  What do you want or expect from your leaders?  How can you provide those expectations to your teams and projects?  How can you be the person that the team looks to for guidance, decision-making, and organization?  There are many ways to provide value and leadership to teams.  Find your space and make it so!

Improved Communications Skills should be a Goal that lasts your entire Career

One of my current clients has a goal to improve her communication skills. I hear this goal from almost every one of my clients in every stage of their career. It demonstrates self-awareness that even professionals at the top of their game want to be better communicators.

Being a better communicator can be broken down into multiple SMART goals throughout your career around presentation skills, active listening skills, emotional intelligence and more. Over the last six months, my client has increased her confidence contributing in meetings, tailors her emails to her different audiences, and even joined a group to improve her presentation skills.

As we talked each month, she was shocked to realize that even people she considers great communicators still have goals to improve their communication skills. Just knowing that almost every self-aware professional is working on their communication skills gave her the confidence to go outside her comfort zone and push herself.

The Reciprocity of Empathy will improve your Professional Development

Perception is Reality;” I was frustrated the first time I heard this quote. My manager was sitting down to talk to me about some negative feedback about my teamwork and attitude. It didn’t feel good because that negative feedback came from people that didn’t understand my intention. I have a strong work ethic, and I wanted what was best for the work. However, I sometimes forgot to consider other’s feelings and goals in my communications and comments with my peers. I wanted them to have empathy and understanding for me, but I wasn’t reciprocating.

This was a big revelation for me: that reciprocity of empathy. Here are some thought starters to think of others and some self-reflection for you.

Others:

  • What are their big motivators/goals?
  • Do they understand how their work contributes to the bigger goals?
  • How do they feel about work currently/in the future?
  • What can they do to make the team/work/process better? Do they have ideas they want to share?

You:

  • Have you clearly articulated the bigger picture/big goals?
  • Have you shared their purpose beyond their tasks? Can you help them see how their actions are contributions to the big goals? Are you acknowledging and celebrating those contributions?
  • Are you using the appropriate tone and language when giving direction/sharing the plan?
  • Are you allowing for time and space in conversations and relationships for others to share ideas/suggestions?
  • Are you acting in ways that support the culture you want: high-performing, collaborative, efficient, autonomous, effective, fun?

Be sure you are aligning your actions to your aspirations. Empathy can be a significant factor in improving your professional reputation. How do you want people to describe your professional reputation? Are your actions supporting that reputation? What’s missing? What can you improve? We are all evolving to be better peers, managers, and leaders. Keep working at it!

Align your Actions with your Leadership Aspirations

Who is that leader you emulate? What does your leadership style look like when you are at your best? Which adjectives would you use to express the leader you want to be? How would you want others to describe your leadership? Think big: Sheryl Sandberg, MLK Jr., Bill & Melinda Gates, your parents, a mentor, your best boss ever.

Now think about all the work they invested in becoming that leader. They all successfully aligned their actions to their aspirations in authentic ways. They learned to walk the walk.

I’ve worked with leaders who shared in 1:1s that they care about their people but then on stage at an employee meeting, they felt they had to talk about themselves and almost justify why they have their job. We collaborated to figure out their aspirations and priorities, then aligned their actions and messages to push them to be the best leader they can be. It’s incredibly important and rewarding working. I love doing it.

What are your leadership aspirations? What is your action plan to get you there? Let’s connect to brainstorm actions that align with your aspiration and develop a robust action plan you can start with today.