I was in my early 20’s and was climbing the career ladder pretty quickly. I had been an excellent performer, and as a reward I was promoted into management (facepalm – we all know that a great performer does not automatically make a great leader!). In my twenties, I thought I had the answers to everything. The year I turned 40, I apologized to my mom because of my know-it-all behavior when I was in my 20’s. I was realizing that at 40 I was beginning to know less and less. I digressed, but I believe this is a good foundation for where I am headed.
In my early 20’s when I was promoted to management, the majority of my team was 40 years old and up. Can you imagine how my know-it-all approach to life filtered into the way I managed my team? Of course, in my mind I “knew” all of the answers and I did my very best with the knowledge I had.
Having been the “outstanding” performer I was, I expected the same level of performance from everyone on my team. I would compare their performance to that of my own. I didn’t get to know them as individuals and became a stickler for performance. I didn’t check with them to make sure they had the tools they needed to do their job well. Nor did I offer to give the training that may have helped some of them improve their performance. There were even times that I could sense that members of my team were having a bad day or having some sort of problem, but I didn’t know how to connect in a productive way. Now, all these years later, it saddens me that I never thought to ask them if they were doing ok. Clearly, being strong performer did not automatically make me a good manager, those skills I acquired later.
I quickly learned that style of managing people was not going to serve me, my team, our customers – not anyone. I lacked fundamental training and was afraid to use soft skills that I so graciously had offered my customers and made me good at the job that I had been doing. I eventually got some training, and that was what inspired me to deepen my leadership skills. Emotional intelligence skills also helped tremendously improved my approach to managing a team, and my relationships with individuals. I also got the right coach to help me see these blind areas in myself.
Later in my career, when it came time for me to promote employees, I was not completely opposed to promoting a good performer. I was aware that there were fundamental skills that I needed to look for in leaders. I also needed to make sure that new managers received the tools and training they needed to do well in their role. Additionally, I felt it was important to create a safe environment where they could speak their truth (without judgement) about what challenges they were having. I served as their coach and in turn they became better managers and leaders for their teams.
When I go back to that first team that I managed in my mind, I wish I could go back and apologize to all of them. The truth is, if I had known better, I would have managed better, even in may early 20’s. That experience also inspired me to become the best leader I could be and help build other leaders around me. Good leadership is essential in the workplace. It takes grit, self-awareness, heart and the ability to stay with uncomfortable things. Investing in coaching geared to help you become a better leader is a win-win for you, your teams and your customers. If you are finding yourself needing a leadership sounding board, or development please reach out to The Workplace Shaman.