Leadership Tips: Starting Your Career – Part II

As a business coach, I’ve spent my career working alongside some incredible leaders. I’ve gleaned a lot of invaluable knowledge over the years.  If you are starting your career, I want to share what I’ve learned with you.

Last week, I shared my first series of tips on how to improve your leadership skills as you’re starting your career. This week, let’s – quite literally – pick up the conversation.Leadership Tips: Starting Your Career

Listen more than you talk.

When starting your career, you simply don’t have all of the answers. Encourage your teammates to speak-up and make recommendations. Insist that you get a recommendation for improvement and not just another description of the problem.

Be aware of your outward actions.

Your temper, tone, and body language should be carefully controlled and representative of what you aspire to. Your co-workers and, eventually, subordinates, see you at your best and worst moments, so be on your best behavior.  

Be extraordinarily passionate.

If you’re not passionate about your role, do something else. Fast.

If you’re not passionate about your work, you won’t do it well. You won’t give your best effort and eventually, it will show.

Seth Godin said it best: “It is easier to bring your passion to a job than to find a job to match your passion.”

Never take credit for successes.

Only the failures and the lessons. Reflect the praise and accolades back onto your team.  You are only the shepherd. If you want your employees to respect you, make them the stars and you take the bullets.

Find a mentor and be a mentor.

In every business, there are talented senior people who will gladly help you learn the business and provide sincere and honest advice. You only have to ask.

When it is your time to be the mentor, offer to help and enjoy one of the great joys in your career.

Be willing to change jobs and, ultimately, companies.

Don’t get locked into believing that one firm will nurture and do the best for you over a long time period.

When you become type-casted as an expert, your employer will be reluctant to allow you to move to another role. Conversely, if you are thought to have inadequacies, you may never have a chance to fight out of that hole. You may have to find another opportunity to grow your talents.

Hire slow and fire fast.  

We usually hire fast and fire slow – and that is so wrong.  

Beware of “battlefield promotions” caused by poor succession plan. Remember the 5 functions and that staffing is a key component of your role. You should always have a file of potential hires or a list of people you want to talk to in the future.

Make yourself visible and approachable.

All members of your company should feel comfortable coming to you to talk.

When you’re the boss, unfortunately, your role will intimidate most of your team. I have found that the best way is consistently ask questions about what your company should be doing better. Once you break the ice, the feedback will flow and you clearly hear what is important to know and what to change.

Learn how to manage meetings.  

Be intentional when you gather your people. No one likes to sit through long meetings that get few things accomplished. Learn how to write meaningful agendas; stick to a fixed time limit; identify a timekeeper and a note-taker; know when to “parking lot” things; make a plan for next steps; and insist on accountability.

Give more attention to the people that make you stop and think.  

Look for the informal leaders on your team that everyone listens to. These people have influence.

Look for the people that have the ideas and the courage in their convictions to challenge the deluge of momentum. These people have influence.

Challenge your belief that a leader has to look and act the way you or your peers do. These people may have influence.

Leaders come in many different varieties. Find the people in your firm that powerfully influence others and give them a forum to exert even more influence. They are the leaders that will help you take your company to the next level.

You can’t save them all.  

New managers starting their career usually tolerate poor performance for too long. Our ingrained humanistic training forces us to want to “fix” people. I had one senior executive tell me, “It takes a leader to make a leader.” It’s partially true, but some employees just don’t have what it takes.  

If you made a bad hire, or you aren’t driving better performance, promote them to a new career.

I have been guilty of this many times. Many of the early hires I made were great for an early stage business but they didn’t have the horsepower for a big business.

Keep your commitments.

Only make commitments you can keep. Keep your integrity intact.

Learn from leaders – good and bad.

It’s easy to learn from great leaders. They are natural role models and we instinctively adopt their traits. But the best lessons are learned from bad leaders.

Bad leaders will teach you exactly what not to do. You will never forget these valuable and painful lessons.

Demonstrate integrity in all that you do, say, or profess.

Insist on complete honesty with your teammates and yourself. You have to walk the walk if you expect others to do the same.

When you get tired of hearing yourself repeat the strategy, you are only beginning to be effective.

Show grit to your people.

If something is hard, and you fail at it, don’t give up right away. Tenacity is an attribute of successful leaders.

Fear the impact of preferential treatment.  

Nothing will incite your people more than the whisper that you have favorites and they are being treated better or paid more. Be very careful.

Be mindful of your legacy.

Your legacy will be the people that you shaped, impacted, and developed. It’s not how much money you made or the glamorous jobs that you had. You won’t remember all the goals you achieved, the applause, the awards, or the big bonus checks.

What you will cherish is the feedback you get from people about how you changed their lives.

Becoming a great leader takes work and determination. By implementing these tips, you’ll not only become stronger professionally, but you’ll become stronger personally.


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Coach Dave



Dave Schoenbeck
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