Most of us realize that generational change is occurring.
Baby boomers are retiring in droves.
This change is leading to many significant differences in the world. Both personal and business.
One of the changes is the vacuum being created in leadership.
Many boomers have worked their entire careers or much of their careers for the same organizations. As a result, many have reached leadership roles.
Succession is one of the biggest challenges for any company. It’s often been the result of business failure. It’s just incredibly difficult to go from a great leader to another great leader.
As a result, companies are asking many seasoned leaders to stay on their jobs longer. Postponing retirement even for part-time leadership roles.
If you’re in a younger generation, even a slightly younger generation, this presents an opportunity. An opportunity to move into a leadership position. To make more money. To have more control. To perhaps have more fulfillment from your work.
For others, it’s out of necessity. You’re either asked to fill an open leadership role or possibly lose your current job.
Leadership isn’t natural for many. It’s also a big change even if it is something you want. So how can you make the move if you’re in this situation?
Here are a few tips…
1. Remember Good Things
When you move to a new position that has more responsibility and different skill requirements, it’s easy to focus on what you don’t know. What you’re uncomfortable with.
It’s natural to remember previous times when you’ve been uncomfortable. When you haven’t been good at something.
That’s why it’s important, in these new situations, to remember the good things you’ve done. At some point, you weren’t good at your current job. You had to work your way into the position you’re in now. It’s good to remember that rise. Because you’ve done it before. There is no reason you can’t do it again.
Golfers struggle with this all the time. It’s an incredibly cruel game. Ben Hogan, perhaps the greatest ball striker of all time, once said that he would hit three perfect shots per round…in a good round. Say he took 32 putts and 36 shots for a 68. That’s 3 good shots out of 36. Not great odds. It’s also a lot of okay and bad shots to remember. Especially when you do it every day.
The best golfers. The ones with sustained success, are seemingly able to remember the good shots. Most golfers are pained by the bad shots. That adds up over time and most eventually succumb to the pressure.
Remember the good you’ve done.
2. Prepare For Everything
Once you’re hired for a leadership position, begin preparing for the new tasks. Start practicing. One of the big changes that often comes is dealing with people. Setting expectations. Communicating with them.
Start practicing these things. Over and over. Start talking to people more. Start setting expectations. Start following up.
Also prepare for the unexpected. You’ve probably fallen into a routine in your current role. Now you have to set a new routine. Let it be flexible. Also allow for the unexpected to pop up. You’ll never know exactly what it will be, but there will always be things on your desk in the morning that need resolving. Make sure you have the time for it.
Matt LaFleur was hired as the head coach of the Green Bay Packers in 2019. One of the things he made sure to do was to over-communicate with his players. And probably with his staff.
Here is what a player said about LaFleur’s approach:
“I tip my hat to Matt. I don’t know how he does it with his ability to want to be involved and hear every little thing. It’s the little details with him that he’s willing to put through. Sometimes I look at him like, ‘Yo, are you sure you want to deal with this?’ But he can take it. So that’s what’s impressive.”
LaFleur wants to be as involved as possible. He wants his players to know that he cares about them. No matter how minute the detail. Obviously there are seemingly more important things for LaFleur to spend his time on. But any organization is about more than the results. It’s about the people and the emotions.
If you think you’re communicating with your new team, start communicating more. Make sure that everybody feels heard. Make sure you’re on top of all the emotions going on. Help when you can and seek out help if you feel you can’t.
4. Aim For Small Wins
One way to build confidence is to start small. Jordan Peterson talks about how people struggle to get out of ruts in their lives. He says that the best advice he has to give is for them to clean their room.
That is a small thing. A small win. If you clean your room it builds a little nugget of accomplishment. Of a job well done. Of confidence.
Leadership isn’t built in a day. It’s built one step at a time. That’s a boring way to think about it, but we often overestimate how long it will take to build something. But the days go slow and the years go fast.
If you get into a good routine of small wins over and over, pretty soon you’ll be a very successful leader with lots of compounding accomplishments.
One more example, in 1979, Bill Walsh was hired by the San Francisco 49ers. The team had gone 2-14 in 1978. In 1979, his first year, they also went 2-14. By objective measure, no progress. But Bill knew that win-loss record was too big of a measure for a dismal team. He focused on smaller wins. Better participation in practice. Better attendance in team meetings.
In 1980, the team went 6-10. Not bad improvement, but I’m sure at this time it felt like big success was a long ways off. But then in 1981 the team won the Super Bowl.
Small wins compounded for two years and in the third year they really took off.
5. Get Things Done
Building on the idea of small things is the idea of doing what you say you will do. When you say that you’ll meet with an employee tomorrow at 10am… be there at 10am.
Start small and start getting things done. Don’t flake on things right out of the gate. Don’t overpromise. Especially with your new team. You have to work to build trust in them and from that trust and belief in you, you’ll build trust and belief and confidence in yourself.
Making the right decisions is a crapshoot. But the more decisions you make and the more you move on to the next thing and keep getting things done, the better you’ll be in the long run.
Confidence is a fragile thing. It can seemingly come and go without warning. But it’s a requirement for leadership. If you’re finding yourself in a new leadership role, it’s important to carry confidence about yourself. How can your team believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself?
Remember the things you’ve done in the past. Feel good about what you’re capable of doing in the future. Hopefully these tips help you as you move into your new role. One that can take you to new heights in your career.