If you are in leadership position, you're bound to experience growing pains.
It doesn't matter which field you're in. I've worked with leaders in every industry, and the challenges are the same. Don't count on a pile of leadership books to make up for your skill deficiencies: they're great for increasing your knowledge, but may not help you navigate difficult leader scenarios in which feathers get ruffled and egos get bruised.
Here are three secrets your manager wants you to know to help you thrive in your role.
1. Sometimes avoidance is the right tactic.
Leaders know the importance of giving feedback, sharing ideas, and not shirking from conflict. But in some instances, avoiding a situation can be just as powerful as confronting it head on. When I lead managerial trainings, I ask participants to tell me one time when they backed away from a conflict.
Managers often report, sheepishly, a confrontation which they could have avoided. For example, a Director of Product Marketing told me that he and the Director of Sales were consistently having conflicts. We determined that these tiffs were preceded by the Sales Director venting his frustrations--the Product Director was not sure if he was then expected to take action.
To alleviate the issue, we created a decision tree (a tree-like diagram used for making decisions based upon risks etc.) to help determine which of the Sales Director's conversations and emails were essential to act upon. By mindfully planning how he responded, the Product Director was able to eliminate some unproductive discussions with the Sales Director.
2. Leverage internal networking.
Leaders understand the importance of external networking--such as meeting a mentor for a drink, sitting on a non-profit board, or attending a meet-up. But internal networking can have just as many benefits for your career. Internal networking provides an opportunity for you to expand your "brand" outside your department.
This broader network within your company will help you when it comes time for a promotion or for you to sell your ideas. For example: when I was working in an advertising agency, my manager told me that I needed to expand my base of influence to help me with the promotion track. When the senior leadership team discussed possible promotions, it was advantageous for me if multiple sources confirmed my viability as a senior leader.
A client that I worked with faced an internal networking dilemma. He wanted to feel more connected within his organization, yet he frequently telecommuted and missed out on face-to-face interaction. Due to his travel schedule, opportunities for in-person meetings were extremely limited.
We developed a plan by which my client would get "face time" with a colleague once every two weeks. Though he initially thought that bi-weekly in-person meetings weren't enough, it was a preferable system to my client's current quota of zero face time. Over the course of a year, he could reach out to everyone on his list of desired connections.
One benefit my client experienced was that he learned a lot more about his organization's digital strategy platform through these connections. While this wasn't necessary to his immediate job functions, it was great learning. Thus, my client was able to strengthen relationships with co-workers and 'up' his professional stock by learning something new.
3. Stop over-preparing.
Many of my clients worry and over-prepare for meetings. Healthy preparation is a good thing, but too much can inhibit connection.
One client consistently over-prepared. Her deck was filled with notes--she would write out word for word her entire presentation. While my client could recite her presentations without a hitch, she wasn't connecting with the audience. She wanted her meetings to have the feel of a conversation between two friendly colleagues--but in the meetings, she was too worried about hitting all of her points to be truly present and attentive to others in the room.
We started by working on her mindset. If my client missed a key point in a presentation, she could always circle back. If she missed a recommendation--well, that was okay, too. By adjusting her mindset and shifting from 'being perfect' to 'being present,' my client was able to listen more intently; this led her to have more relaxed and productive conversations with her teammates.
Your manager wants you to know these secrets so you can understand the nuances of leadership when you're called to step up. Pick one area of growth and create a plan to change your method of planning, thinking, or communicating. These tactics will help you grow into a leader who makes a difference.