Leadership Tips: Starting Your Career – Part II

By November 30, 2017 March 25th, 2024 Articles on Leadership

Last Updated on March 25, 2024 by Dave Schoenbeck

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

Recently, I shared my first series of tips on improving your leadership skills as you start your career. Let’s pick up the conversation—quite literally.A photo of one lightbulb lit among an array of unlit bulbs

Listen more than you talk.

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

Be aware of your outward actions.

Your temper, tone, and body language should be carefully controlled and represent your aspirations. 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.

You won’t do it well if you’re not passionate about your work. You won’t give your best effort; 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 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.

Some talented senior people will gladly help you learn the business in every 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 plans. Remember the 5 functions and that staffing is critical to 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.

Unfortunately, when you’re the boss, your role will intimidate most of your team. I have found that the best way is to consistently ask questions about what your company should do better. Once you break the ice, the feedback will flow, and you will clearly hear what is essential 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 accomplish little. 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 the 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 with 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 like you or your peers. These people may have influence.

Leaders come in many different varieties. Find the people in your firm who 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 careers usually tolerate poor performance for too long. Our ingrained humanistic training forces us to want to “fix” people. One senior executive told me, “It takes a leader to make a leader.” It’s partially true, but some employees don’t have what it takes.  

If you made a bad hire or 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 evil.

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 precisely what not to do. You will always remember 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 immediately. 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 your glamorous jobs. You won’t remember all the goals you achieved, the applause, the awards, or the big bonus checks.

You will cherish 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 strengthen yourself professionally and personally.

Want to learn more about being an effective leader? Sign up for my weekly blog and stay informed and focused on improving your skills.

Coach Dave




Dave Schoenbeck
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