Even the most accomplished professionals struggle with being in charge. (If you haven’t already, check out this recent New York Times feature on how four female leaders found their voices.) We asked the experts for their best advice on becoming the boss you always wanted. Here’s what they told us:
1. Realize that it’s no longer about you
Becoming a manager is the employment equivalent of becoming a parent. Which is to say your job is no longer just about you and your performance—now, it’s also about bringing out the best in the people you’re charged to manage.
It’s a substantial but significant mental shift, says Eileen Chadnick, business coach and founder of Big Cheese Coaching. “When you’re a leader you need to be reframing and think about how you’re developing your people and supporting your people.”
“It is also your job to help them succeed,” says Catherine Thorburn, a business and life coach based in Toronto. “If they aren’t doing well, ask yourself what role you are playing in their failures?”
2. Consider the type of boss you want to be
You’ve had good bosses, you’ve had great bosses, but chances are you’ve also had some absolutely horrendous bosses. Now that you’re in control of your career and possess some power to change the work culture, it’s time to “pause, park and reflect,” says Chadnick. Ask yourself what kind of boss you want to be, what kind of work environment you want to create and how to best to go about it. For example, if you want to cultivate an open and supportive work culture, Chadnick suggests making thoughtful and considered feedback a daily occurrence rather than an anxiety-triggering “annual review.”
3. Be authentic
Don’t make the rookie mistake of thinking a status change requires a radical personality shift. Some people think they need to show up to work differently (read, Iron Lady) after a promotion, says Chadnick. That’s an act, however, and you’re not Meryl Streep so people are probably going to see through it, fast.
Instead of stressing out about whether or not your former colleagues will respect your newly won authority, make a positive plan to win people’s respect in a truly meaningful and effective way: through professional competence. The competence approach takes time, says Chadnick, but your patience will pay off far better than demanding respect you’ve yet to earn.
4. Ease your way into the role
You’re so excited to put in place all of your bright ideas and you just can’t wait to revolutionize your department on Monday morning… but you should wait, says Chadnick. Instead of over-performing or announcing big changes, take a “listening tour,” consult with colleagues, get their insights and establish a timeline for change that comes as a result of your fact-finding mission and not your ego.
5. Adopt a learner’s mind
You are the boss, but you’re not omnipotent or infallible. So, while you’re developing the skills of those around you, don’t forget to develop yourself. The best technique for doing so is to adopt a “learner’s mind.”
“A good leader is always in a state of continuous learning,” says Chadnick. “A leader is a learner. She has to be curious to learn and to develop herself and also to learn about how to get the best of out people around her.”
6. Dress the part
A new gig may not require a personality change but it may entail a wardrobe change. “If you’re stepping out from behind the scenes to become more of a representative of your department or group or brand, then you have to dress the part,” says Chadnick.
There’s no one size fits all, she says, but you have to see what’s appropriate for that role. If you’re attending meetings or public events, then jeans and ballet flats might not cut it.
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