Recently I attended a workshop on “Authentic Leadership” that was led by Trillium Teams. It was a day and a half dedicated to increased self-awareness, behaviour styles, and self-management of personal behaviour and how it relates to your leadership and communication style. The bottom line, if I was to summarize what I took away from the workshop is “how to continually adapt my communication style to support those I lead.” What was also of great value was getting to know other leaders at the workshop. Networking is an incredibly powerful and beneficial way to learn from the experiences of others.
After the workshop wrapped up, I had the privilege of spending time with a young manager who attended the event. As it turned out, after the event both of us took advantage of the location and spent a couple of hours at a nearby spa that has a number of pools and saunas in a natural outdoor setting – an excellent way to wrap up a busy week!
Over the course of the afternoon we had the opportunity to chat. I learned that she was new to the role of manager. She shared how she felt challenged by it and wondered if she had made the right career choice by accepting the new role. She indicated that she knew the work and was very good at it. What she was calling into question was her ability to lead. She was questioning herself as to if she was cut out to be a leader. As we chatted she went on to say how she discussed it with her mentor and was reassured that she was heading in the right direction to support her career path. What she may not have realized is that she was not only demonstrating one of the key competencies of an effective leader – self-awareness – she was also self-managing by reaching out to her emotional support team. She had stepped outside her comfort zone to follow her dream and was gaining valuable experience and emotional intelligence by doing it.
As I listened, I recalled a similar experience. It was a number of years ago when I had stepped outside of my comfort zone and I too called into question my capacity and ability to be an effective leader. It was in the mid 90’s and I was living and working on Vancouver Island. Similar to today, the Federal Government was going through a round of workforce adjustments and the office where I worked was being “right sized”, along with my position. Through a series of events, I relocated to another location and went from managing a dozen employees to more than double. I knew the work but the scope changed significantly. I felt overwhelmed – and very much like this young lady I was calling into question my competence as a leader. I wondered if I was cut out for the job!
Coincidentally, my boss invited me for coffee and asked how it was going. She was checking in with me. Just as this new manager had done with her mentor, I took the risk and conveyed how I was feeling and the challenges I was experiencing. I remember to this day, decades later, how she reassured me by sharing her experience and leadership wisdom. She reminded me that it takes time to transition into a new role, regardless of how well I knew the business, not to mention a new community. She told me that if after four months I felt the same way then we should meet to talk about it again. We didn’t need to have the next conversation, or at least not about that.
Over the years I’ve called on that experience to carry me through a number of life’s challenges, along with sharing it with others I’ve met along the way. If you have taken on a new role, are transitioning into a new environment, or even getting on a new motorcycle this season, regardless of your knowledge or experience, here are four key things to keep in mind:
- As was shared with me, you need to be patient with yourself and recognize that there’s an adjustment period. During this time, despite feelings of inadequacy or self-doubt about your capacity, do what it takes to stick with it. The transition time will vary depending on the scope of the change and its complexity.
- Seek feedback from someone you trust about how you’re doing. What’s important to remember is that what you’re feeling on the inside is not necessarily how you are preforming on the outside or how others may be viewing your performance. Self-perception can be deceiving. I heard it said “feedback is the breakfast of champions”.
- Ensure that you have an emotional support team in place that you call on for encouragement and a safe place to share how you are feeling as you move through the transition and your confidence returns. This may be a friend, a mentor or a coach to help you work through the challenge. A coach can assist you develop strategies and a personal action plan while helping you maintain momentum to successfully move through the change and beyond.
- Finally, don’t give up! You never know how close you are to a breakthrough unless you see it through.