Don’t get me wrong. I’m not knocking leadership books (I would never!). There’s so much leadership and management content in the world, and a lot of it is immensely valuable. But, at the end of the day, reading, listening to podcasts or watching TED talks alone in your office won’t matter if you don’t try or test out some of the approaches you’re reading about.
Many of us learn by doing — especially when it comes to interacting with others and leading a team. Strict formulas may be hard to follow when it comes to our fellow humans, but being willing to try can go a long way. Here’s what you can expect when you take the leap and try things out:
Sorry to say it, friend, but it’s true. You can be the best of the best in your craft and an amazing leader, but you’re still human. You will put your foot in your mouth or forget to communicate something. It is inevitable. Your goal is to do your best and own it when you botch things up. A genuine “I’m sorry. I really missed the mark on that” goes a very long way when building trust with your employees. Along with, obviously, not missing the mark on the same exact thing next time, if at all possible! You’re human. You know it and they know it. Your willingness to admit it shows them that it’s safe to own up when they too miss the mark on occasion. Speaking of which…
Your team is also human, and that means they’ll inevitably drop the ball on something. It’s hard when that happens — for them and for you. No one likes to admit when they were wrong, but it’s important for you to evolve and learn from your mistakes. That's only possible if you admit and explore them. Sitting down with someone on your team to talk about how they made an error isn’t necessarily a comfortable conversation to have for anyone. However, if you do so openly, honestly and with the intent to help them grow, they will hopefully appreciate it and improve their performance next time around. Ignoring mistakes is not ok. After all, this team is a reflection of you and your skills. You owe it to them to be brave enough to start uncomfortable conversations.
Leading a team is one of those roles where you’re never really done learning. The workplace changes, roles change, generations and the world around us are always evolving... and how you approach or handle your role will change as well. It’s not like you read one book or take one course and relax. It’s an ongoing education. Put yourself out there and enjoy the ride! Ongoing learning is a part of the fun.
You are impacting lives! You have the opportunity to aid in shaping someone’s future. Helping your team evolve is an amazing experience. Knowing that you’ve had a hand in someone’s career evolution gives you good feels and reminds you of why you started in this work to begin with. These days, so many of us talk about the impact of our work, but not everyone realizes the impact that we have day-to-day on the lives of our teams. Honor the opportunity you’ve got and give it your all.
A big part of being a leader is leaning into your own humanity. And for some of us, that’s an incredibly uncomfortable thing to do. Unfortunately, textbooks and formulas can’t account for the unique snowflakes that we humans are. All the more reason to put yourself out there and try. That vulnerability is scary, but absolutely worth it in the long run.
Kelly is a human resources pro and coach who helps people find and achieve what they want career-wise and beyond. Coaching, training, recruiting – if you name it in the world of HR, she's done it in a variety of industries. Her advice has been featured on The Muse, Career Contessa, Levo, Workology, among others. Learn more by scoping her out at www.kellypoulson.com.
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