I’m almost 3 months into my new role as COO for Globacap. I’m enjoying it and learning a lot as I adapt to a new team and bring my skills to bear. One of my key reflections though has been how I need to work differently than I have before. I’ve talked about change and adjusting your style at different leadership levels before but this role has bought it into focus more so than ever before.
This is my first full time role since becoming a mother and I’ve recognised that I can’t work in the same way that I did before. I don’t feel any less smart or capable but I can’t just rely on putting in more hours when there’s a lot to do. It makes the need for effective prioritisation, delegation and building the right team, whilst important before, absolutely critical now. I can’t say I’ve cracked it yet but hopefully recognising this need to change my approach is the first step in figuring out how to be most effective at work, whilst still being present as a parent.
As you progress into leadership you also have to change your expectations of recognition. As one of the most senior people in the company, and similarly when I’m running my coaching business, I’ve had to redefine success for myself. It’s no longer about my individual actions and getting recognition through an end of year rating and bonus for being the best “manager” or “doer”. Instead success is the outcome delivered by the team and I get validation from the team succeeding through the support, structures and direction I provide.
The most effective leaders are those that recognise this shift of mindset and approach that is required at each new level and can adapt. The first step is moving from an individual contributor to a team leader. No longer is it your individual effort and achievements that are recognised. You need to give your team space to grow and do things their own way, to achieve through them rather than doing it yourself, in your way. It’s often a challenging step for first time leaders to go through and to get comfortable with letting go of control.
As you get confident in this role, you may then become a leader of leaders. This again requires another shift in mindset. You can no longer know what everyone in your team is doing. You have to trust your direct team to be leading their respective teams well and setting up ways to be accessible and approachable to those more junior so you can understand what is happening. Your responsibilities become more about setting clear direction and ensuring progress is being made. Supporting the team to have the resources they require, removing obstacles and recognising achievements. There will be times when you need to get into the detail of what is happening and then zoom back out to the big picture. It is quite a skill to learn to get that balance right.
When you get to the top of an organisation (of whatever size) the guardrails are very much looser and you no longer have people above you telling you you’re doing a good job or setting the direction. As my CEO Myles Milston describes, at times it feels like driving in the fog with no headlights or road signs, with everyone behind you trusting that you’re leading them in the right direction.
My advice for anyone going through similar shifts is to give yourself some time to pause and consider what you need to do differently. Know your strengths but don’t assume that what worked before will continue to work in your new role. It doesn’t mean you’re not capable, you may just need to tweak your approach - to time management, delegation, coaching and communication. Stretch yourself in different ways and you will be amazed by how much you can grow.