In a coaching session a client they asked me, “what were the main things I wish I’d known that would have helped me become a better leader sooner“.
This got me thinking about my first real leadership role, which was over 25 years ago when I took over the lead on a Project that I had been working on for 2 years. I had worked on the project in a number of roles architect, development lead, test manager and then implementation manager. So I had held some team leader roles, but this was the first time that I had been involved in leading people who were also leading people. This meant that my hands-on skills were now less relevant as the role was a 100% leadership role.
I had a lot of respect from the teams as I was extremely knowledgable about the project, and also because of my lead from the front, hands-on work ethic which had helped us to go live with the first phase of the project on time.
But all of these were just table stakes, the qualities that gave me the opportunity to take on the leadership role but they hadn’t really prepared me for leading a team of over 50 people.
I had done lots of project management training, but again none of this really covered leadership. This training was more focused on how to run a project, what were the mechanics of scoping, planning, documenting, tracking and implementing plans.
I was very fortunate to have such knowledge about the project and project management as this gave me the time to focus on leadership and boy did I need it.
My very first day was a huge wake-up call for me. I arrived at the office at 8.30, and at 8.35 I was dragged into a 1-2-1 meeting with a very distressed colleague who wanted to speak to me immediately. She was the test manager, and this was a new role for her, but having been the test manager myself previously, I was sure that whatever issue we were facing, I would be able to help with.
How wrong I was!
As we sat down in the room, she just looked at me and said “I have a lump in my breast, I think it’s cancer and I don’t know what to do” and then burst into tears.
Nothing in my career or training had ever prepared me for this moment.
After freezing for a couple of seconds, I did the only thing I could do which was to show my concern, to try and comfort her and ensure that she sought the proper medical attention.
Fortunately, it was just a lump and nothing too serious, but for me, it was a clear indication that as a leader I still had a lot to learn.
Here are five things I want to share about what I wish I had known before taking on my first leadership role that would have helped me become a better leader sooner.
It’s all about the people
As that example above clearly showed, the people aspect of leadership is very significant. In fact, I would go so far as to say it is the most significant.
I would love to have known more about how to engage and motivate people. What were the things that they were looking for from their leaders? How to get them to buy into the goals and visions that I was setting.
If you can take care of the people, then everything else is plain sailing, if you don’t then everything is going to be a challenge that will probably result in failure.
Not communicating enough is the same as not leading enough
It always comes as a surprise to people, but in spite of being a public speaker, I wasn’t always that keen to get up in front of people and talk. But as a leader, you have to communicate the vision, the goals, the purpose, their roles, and the progress being made. And you have to do this more than once, and also in more than one way.
We need to learn that there are different communication and learning styles and we have to make sure that our messages get through to everyone. There is no such thing as too much communication, yes one or two might get the message earlier than the others, but my advice to anyone moving into leadership would be communicate, communicate, communicate. Good communication helps build connection, engagement, and understanding all of which are keys to success.
Everyone wants to be successful
Too many of my previous bosses complained that many of their staff were lazy, disinterested and were just showing up to take their paycheck. I heard this so many times that it became one of my beliefs too. If so many people are saying it, then it has to be true, right?
This was something that took me a while to learn, but in reality, most people want to be successful. Yes, some people want to pick up a paycheck, but the majority would prefer to be successful while doing it. Let’s face it its pretty soul destroying to come to work every day and experience little to no success.
Over time what I found was that if you can put people in a position where they can be successful, then the majority of people will take that opportunity.
The challenge was many of my previous bosses had used this perceived lack of desire as an excuse for them not to do their jobs, which is to put people in a position to be successful.
The importance of creating belief
In line with the previous point, one of the critical things I have learned is that most people are not afraid of hard work, they are afraid of failure. If they cannot see, or understand how success will be achieved, or if they believe that success is not possible, then many will quit at the first sign of trouble.
One of our key roles as a leader is that once we have put people in a position where they can be successful, is to explain to them how that success can be achieved and to let them know that we will be there to provide support if needed. We need to work on creating belief in themselves, and also in us as leaders. Do that and your teams will become excited and will look to move mountains.
The power of recognition
I have always been a believer in recognition, I think it came from my love of sports and seeing the effects of cheering crowds and compliments.
But what I didn’t realize was that we need to start the recognition process right at the start of our endeavors. We have to start be recognizing effort because what get’s recognized gets repeated, and we want people to repeat those efforts. Then when we plan we have to include some quick wins which then allows us to recognize those early successes, all of which helps to build momentum.
As leaders, we do need to become chief recognition officers, because recognition, in my experience, is one of the critical building blocks in creating high performing teams. But it starts at the beginning of the journey not the end.
While there have been many things that I have learned on my leadership journey, I think these are the five things that would have helped accelerate my progress as a leader the most and that I wish I had had a better understanding of them before taking on my first leadership role.
If you’re moving into a new leadership role, and are looking for support and or guidance, then email me at email@example.com and let’s talk about how I can help.
When growing your small business, there are a lot of factors to balance to stay afloat. Between acquiring clients and keeping your finances in check, things like the culture of your workplace can be forgotten. Although it can be hard to see how fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace can impact your business’s bottom line, the fact is that ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform homogenous ones.
So how do you create a more diverse workplace culture? One of the easiest ways is to alter the language that you use in your everyday business and recruiting materials. You may be surprised how many biased terms and phrases are a part of your vocabulary simply because others use them. By learning about and avoiding which words and phrases isolate and exclude employees in certain demographics, you can promote a more inclusive workplace.
This may feel unnatural at first, and will take time to implement among your staff, partners, and coworkers. Don’t get discouraged. Change takes time, but demonstrating the change that you want to innact will eventually see positive returns. For more specifics on how to incorporate inclusive language in your office, check out this helpful infographic by Fundera:
Finding your calling in life is never a straight line. You may pursue
something, and one day come to the realization that it wasn’t exactly what you
should have done. So, how exactly should you decide on the type of higher
education that you should pursue? Why should you even obtain an undergraduate
degree or a masters for that matter?
Individuals that want to differentiate themselves and learn valuable
skills should always pursue a degree that will benefit them. Something good will
always come out of the years you spend studying a particular subject.
This is your guide on how to decide what education you should pursue.
After all, you always want to find something that will allow you to be
and what is important to you
Your personality will always play a major role in what you decide to do
with your future, and the type of degree that you will pursue at one point. Be
true to yourself and what you want, and that is also how you will
achieve the success that you aspire towards.
Make a list
of your options
It is always worthwhile to make a list of options if you are at a loss
and are deciding on a variety of different paths.
Once you make the list, think of what the pros and cons are of the
different degrees you have listed.
how it will benefit you personally and professionally
Take a moment to think about how the higher education you are pursuing
will benefit you. On the one hand, society stands to benefit given that it
grows people’s skills and knowledge, and this also impacts you on a personal
You will have a much easier time getting employed somewhere if you have
spent a few years cultivating the skills you needed for that particular job.
in a way that is convenient for your lifestyle
Some people may feel that they can’t properly pursue what they want to
because of how busy they are in other aspects of their daily life. Perhaps you
are running a business, or you have a family, and other responsibilities that
take away from the time that you would be able to spend focusing on your higher
The good news is that technology is ubiquitous and as a result of it
there are now countless opportunities for you to pursue an online degree in any
field of your choosing. Even if you decide to look into teaching
programs online, you would be able to obtain a masters in this
You will never regret going after your higher education, as it will make
you more hirable, and it will simply help strengthen a number of your
skillsets, whether it’s critical thinking, communication, learning how to work
in a team, and so on.
The key is for you to find something that you are passionate about, as
only then will you be successful at what you pursue. Your life will
tremendously change for the better when you put your mind to doing what you
want to do.
The transition from technical expert to first-time leader is a difficult step and one that causes many to stumble and fail. I know this from personal experience.
In fact, I initially struggled to get the respect of my team, almost lost control and failed to deliver the project I was leading. Fortunately, I had a very supportive manager who stepped in and helped to pull me through that ordeal so I could ultimately make the grade. But the lesson was clear: Too often, people are put into leadership positions without the appropriate training, and they just simply struggle.
Here are six common mistakes that rookie managers make, which can cause them to fail.
1. Believe they have all the answers
When you appoint technical experts to leadership positions without the appropriate management skills, they believe that it’s their technical experience which will save them, and they start to believe that either they have, or need to have all the answers. This can lead to team members to feel uninvolved and uncommitted.
2. Too hands off
What a lot of people fail to realize is that with every promotion comes more work not less. When leaders make that mistake, they become hands-off, sitting in their office and leaving everything to their team. As a leader you are heavily involved in defining the goals, setting the vision, inspiring the team and leading the charge. Leadership is not a hands-off paper shuffling job.
3. Too hands on
Just because you were the expert doesn’t mean you need to be involved in everything. Your job is to lead the team, not necessarily to do the work. Sure, there may be times when you need to step in and get your hands dirty, but that should be the exception, not the rule.
4. Micromanage every task
Micromanagement is a productivity killer. No one wants their boss looking over their shoulder every two minutes asking are we there yet. It shows a lack of trust and that you don’t respect their skills. You need to strike the right balance between given them enough space to do the job themselves but also checking in to see how they are doing and whether or not they need support.
5. Create distance
One of the worst and most common mistakes that I see with new leaders and managers is when they look to create a distance between themselves and the people that work for them. They take the ‘it’s lonely at the top,’ to be a strategy for good leadership rather than a description of how it can sometimes feel to be a leader. When you create distance, you make it difficult for people to feel engaged, and when teams become disengaged results can suffer.
6. Act like a friend instead of a manager
It’s good to be friendly, but you need to make sure that the friendship you have with your team doesn’t impact your judgment or decision making. If you were previously one of the team, this can be a difficult balance to strike, as there is a good chance that you’re already friends with many of them, especially if you have worked together for a while.
It doesn’t mean you should immediately drop people, but you need to be able to delineate between being a friend and being their boss. People will try and take advantage, but you need to be firm, and look to do what’s right and fair, and definitely don’t play favorites.
It’s not easy to make the transition from team member to team leader, but as you start on that journey remember that it’s your job to engage, inspire and support your team. They are the people that are going to do the bulk of the work and your job is to put them in a postion to be successful, and then help them to be successful.
workers are forced to compete against each other as individuals, collaborative
projects can help to increase productivity as well as having a number of benefits for your employee’s mental
health. Many workers feel isolated at work, which leads to low motivation and
negative mindsets; collaborative work can change this by being inclusive and
allowing people to work together to reach a group potential.
39% of the workforce believe their company does not cooperate enough. However, working collaboratively
allows your employees to create new ideas at a faster pace than they would on
an individual level. In a cooperative environment, employees can build on each
other’s ideas and discuss them with others to find their strengths and
weaknesses. Collaborative environments are perfect for being able to pitch
ideas and other employees can comment on
the viability of their ideas or any
issues that could arise. Additionally, employees are more likely to ask
questions about their work and will gain help in trying to fix any problems
they may have with their idea. Then, the ideas that come out of collaborative
environments are usually stronger and are more likely to be workable in the
Collaborative working environments also lead to improved focus and
motivation as employees feel as if they are more in control of their work and
ideas. By working in a team, everyone has an equal level of say and are working
towards a common purpose – that of getting the job done as well as possible.
become bored and unmotivated at work; however, if they are working as part of a
team, they are more likely to stay focused on the task at hand as collaborative
work is often found to be more engaging than the isolations of individual work. Without collaborative work, it is more
likely that employees will become distracted and be less motivated to complete
tasks than if other people are encouraging them.
Strengths and Weaknesses
work also plays to your team members’ strengths and weaknesses. While one person may be more creative, another
may be more focused on statistics or economics. When
team members work together, they can combine their skills to create
stronger ideas by using each of their strengths. By working to their strengths,
your team members will feel more useful and more likely to feel proud of their
work, which in turn can increase motivation as they strive to be the best that
they can be. A private office space London can help you to provide the best
environment for your staff, with bright, airy meeting rooms and collaborative
working spaces where people can work together in a peaceful environment.
other people can also greatly increase your
employee’s mental health as being social throughout the day is important to have a well-balanced lifestyle and
avoid loneliness. This, in turn, will increase morale as more people will want to
come to work. Additionally, if one person has an issue or begins to feel
unmotivated, other employees will often help to encourage them and praise their
Not only will
you begin to see an improvement in employee happiness and productivity at work,
but establishing a collaborative workspace
will also create more exciting ideas that can help you to grow your business.
Whether as a manager or a coworker, at some point in time almost
everyone will have to deal with a difficult employee. There are many ways to
deal with difficult people such as transferring them, firing them or in some
way simply removing the issue. In other cases, however, the difficult employee
may actually be an effective and valuable part of the team.
They may be one of your top earning salespeople or one of the
most tenured and trusted employees, while you are the new person. When simply
removing a difficult person is not an option, here are 4 tips to dealing with
1. Identify specific behaviors
they engage in that make them “difficult”
More often than not, “difficult people” are difficult
because they rub us the wrong way.
When we actually look at very specific behaviors they engage in that irritate,
bother or annoy us, it can make us feel very petty and childish for being
bothered by them. Which is exactly why we avoid looking at specifics in the
In some cases, they might just be too loud for our liking or
always want to be the center of attention. Perhaps they steal the ideas of
others and claim them as their own or just spend too much time chatting and not
enough time working.
When you focus on
specific behaviors it also forces you to question why they bother you so much.
Generally the reason we hate dealing with difficult people is that they often
reveal things about ourselves that we don’t like to face.
2. TALK to them
It is shocking how often people try to “deal” with
difficult people by simply avoiding
dealing with them at all. In some cases, abrasive employees may legitimately be
completely unaware of the negative effect they have on people and in other
cases, they may be going through something that is causing the behavior.
Rather than confronting them directly and dealing with them like
mature adults however, many teams can resort to behaviors more suited to school
children. They may start to gossip about the person behind their back, refuse
to invite them to socialize after work or even shun them in the break room over
None of these behaviors will help the situation and in many
cases it can even begin to affect office dynamics on a much larger scale. Clear
communication is critical. Before things get out of hand, it is important to
sit down and have a meaningful face-to-face with the
3. Work with them to create
boundaries around specific behaviors
More often than not, when we find someone else’s behavior to be
irritating, annoying or inappropriate we want them to be the ones to change,
not us. There are some behaviors they can change, however, and some they can’t.
If there are behaviors they can change, such as consistently talking too loudly
in an open office, you can work on ways to facilitate changes, such as asking
them to lower their voice or moving their conversations to a private room.
The attributes, traits or behaviors they can’t change, you will
have to find a way to deal with. For instance, if you just simply find their
voice to be annoying in general no matter how softly they speak, you may need
to find a way to simply block it out such as by wearing noise cancelling
4. Adapt your behavior to
facilitate changes in theirs
In many cases, the best and most effective way of changing
someone else’s behavior is to change your own. One great way to do this is to
start accentuating the positive rather than the negative. It is very easy to
create a long list of all the things you don’t like about difficult people, but
you may have far more success focusing on their positive
It may be difficult to find positive traits in difficult people,
but if you look hard enough, you will certainly find them. Even the most
difficult and challenging people have their good qualities if you just take the
time to look for them. Who knows, when you find their good qualities and start
to focus on those, you may not even find the person quite so challenging
anymore. You may even start to like them.
The trouble with dealing with difficult people is that they
often force us to address issues in ourselves we would rather not face. We want
difficult people to be the sole problem, not our own attitudes or (in some
cases) even prejudices. The truth is, however, that most difficulties arise
because of issues that need to be addressed in both parties. When dealing with difficult
people, you always have to look at both their behaviors and your own to see
what changes can be made on both sides.
Jasmine Williams covers the good and the bad of today’s business and marketing. When she’s not being all serious and busy, she’s usually hunched over a book or dancing in the kitchen, trying hard to maintain rhythm, and delivering some fine cooking (her family says so). Contact her @JazzyWilliams88
No one is perfect and by owning up to mistakes it builds trust, and it also sets a great example for the rest of the team. When accountability starts at the top, the rest of the team will model it.
What do you need from me to make this a success?
This is my favorite approach to leadership as it clearly shows that we are in this together and that their success is one of our concerns, and we are more than happy to contribute to it. It also clarifies whether or not they have everything they need to be successful. Once they say I have everything I need, then they have accepted accountability for the outcome which will help increase the probability of success.
I value your contribution.
Everyone wants to feel valued and needed as it helps to build confidence and self-esteem. The more confident our teams are the better, as confidence is a key contributor to achieving success. What get’s recognized gets repeated and we start by recognizing contribution, as this will then lead to results.
What did we learn from this that we can use next time?
Mistakes are always going to happen, but by asking this question we avoid the blame game and we can look to learn from it and improve for the next attempt. I am a big fan of feed forward rather than feedback. We need to learn how we can avoid mistakes rather than allocate blame.
I have complete faith in you.
It pays dividends to let your teams know that you have trust in their abilities as it will help them build trust and self-confidence in themselves. Confidence and self-belief are key contributors to success.
How could we do this better?
There is nothing worse than an arrogant know-it-all leader who thinks he’s cornered the market in great ideas. Trust me I know I worked for several. With this one phrase, you dispel that illusion and show that you’re open to input, and that collaboration will help us achieve the best results. You never know where great ideas are going to come from, and it’s never a good idea to close down possible sources of great ideas.
Do you have the capacity to do this now?
Too many people struggle to say no to the boss, often committing to a workload that is both unhealthy, and will not lead to success. By asking the question, genuinely and with concern, it will allow people to agree to what is achievable without seriously over committing themselves. It also acts to remind them that we are interested in their health and success. As leaders it’s your job to set people up for success!
Two of greatest words any employee can hear from their boss. Simple, zero costs and massively impactful. The more you say it, the more you will have to say it as performance will improve. What gets recognized gets repeated and you want to encourage your teams to repeat good performance, and this simple phrase will do that. Zero cost, great return.
Politeness costs nothing. A lack of politeness, on the other hand, shows disrespect and a feeling of entitlement, neither of which is going to build trust and loyalty within the team.
This simple phrase makes people feel valued, recognized and appreciated, all of which are great motivators.
How are you doing?
‘No one cares how much you know until they know you care’ is one of my favorite Theodore Roosevelt quotes and the best way to show you care is to ask people how they are doing.
Leadership is often seen as difficult and complex, but by just using these 10 simple phrases it will help you to keep it simple and create highly engaged, empowered and excited teams who will follow you anywhere and will achieve great results.
If you you liked this article and you would be interested in having me come and speak at your organization or event email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are some links of me speaking at events around the world
Yep, that’s right smile more! When you smile more, you create a more positive atmosphere, which will result in a more positive attitude in both yourself and in your teams. When you smile more it builds a stronger connection with your teams and makes you more approachable. Smiling is contagious—when you smile at someone they will smile back and when people smile it has a positive impact on their well-being.
On a biochemical level, smiling releases endorphins and serotonin. Endorphins are natural painkillers. The more endorphins your brain releases, the more your body can fight off symptoms of illness. Similarly, serotonin is a brain chemical that acts as a natural anti-depressant, which can help reduce stress.
It also makes you appear more approachable, and people love to feel connected to their leaders. Smile at everyone, too: cleaning staff, security, everyone, not just your direct reports or your boss. Make smiling an authentic part of who you are.
Oh, and the good news, no special degrees or MBAs are needed to do this.
When you listen more, you show your teams respect, you show that you value them and their opinion. All of which helps build trust and respect for you as a leader. You don’t always have to take the advice or input given, but when you listen you make the teams feel more involved, and when they become involved then they become more committed. I don’t just mean being attentive in meetings, I’m talking about taking the time to listen to people even in informal settings, maybe in the staff canteen, or whilst getting a coffee.
As an added bonus you might actually hear something of value, as the people on the front lines often know more than the managers about what is going on and where the issues are that need to be addressed.
When I have shown that I am someone who is approachable and prepared to listen, I often find that people will come me with valuable information to give me a chance to address an issue before it becomes a major problem.
Three of the most important things you can do to engage your team are Communicate, Communicate and Communicate. But don’t just tell your teams what you want them to do, tell them why it’s important. Help them understand the purpose and importance of what they are doing, and, if possible, why it should be important to them. The more people understand what they have to do and why, the higher the probability that they will be successful. And don’t just tell people once—if it’s important to be sure to repeat your messages, this will underline its importance. Communicate your company’s goals, communicate your company’s performance against those goals, and communicate their contribution and do this regularly.
When you communicate frequently, more people feel more involved; as people feel more involved, that’s important to the success of the company as it will help increase their commitment and involvement.
Everyone wants to feel like they are doing a good job, that they have contributed to the success of the company, and praise is a simple way to do this. It helps boost people’s self-esteem, which, according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, is one of our basic needs.
Praise can be as simple as saying “well done”, “good job”, “thank you”. It doesn’t need to be a major event, but even small recognition can have a major impact on the people who receive it. One of my favourite quotes on praise is, “what gets recognized gets repeated”, which means that not only will your team feel positive because of the praise they have received, but they will be likely to repeat the feat as they know it has been seen and valued.
I always like to use the PRAISE model to increase the impact of praise by making the praise Public; Recognising their contribution; being Authentic; giving praise Immediately, not waiting for an annual review or a monthly newsletter; being Specific, the more specific the praise the more sincere it sounds; and, lastly, being Enthusiastic, enthusiasm is contagious and it highlights how much you value their contribution.
The best news about praise is that it costs absolutely nothing, you have an unlimited supply of good-jobs and well-dones for everyone, and the return on that investment can be amazing.
Just doing these four simple things, right now, will make you more respected, trusted, engaging and inspiring to your team, all of which will improve your leadership and the results your team will generate.
If you liked this article and you would be interested in having me come and speak at your organization or event email, me at email@example.com
Here are some links of me speaking at events around the world
are provided with major responsibility when they’re introduced into a new
organisation and their leadership in an authoritative role can either make or
break the success of a business. How they act when managing a team can either
develop brand new leaders and allow your business to grow or discourage the
team and have it whittled down to its bare bones.
the most common reasons why employees choose to leave their job is
because of their bosses and the last thing you wish to do is lose your best talent.
In order to ensure that you hire the correct person for the job, look out for
potential candidates that have these leadership qualities.
Good Communication Skills
the knowledge in understanding how a job can be done but it’s another thing
being able to communicate it to the team so the job can get done and mitigating
the different priorities. A great manager always has great communication
skills. They’re able to engage their team and successfully communicate the
different tasks to each team member in a way that they understand. This is
relevant for verbal and written communication.
order to gain the support of their team, good managers have the confidence to
make decisions that they believe to be right. Even when there are contrasting
views about the matter. Confidence is great for getting others onside and
reassuring them that the decisions being made are a positive one. Regardless of
the circumstance, managers need to be able to steer their team in the right
manager who’s aware they’re in charge is a good one to achieve goals and
targets, even if it doesn’t work out they take responsibility for both the
success and failure. They do this by monitoring the performance of their
employees and encourage them to be a better worker. Better performance then
leads to larger business growth and better professional development.
good to gauge whether the candidate you’re hiring is in it for the long-run or
is simply there for the stepping stone opportunity. If you have a leader that’s
looking forward to climbing the ladder and watching your business grow, they’ll
be sure to remain in the long run.
also great for when your business grows internationally as you’ll have someone
who’s been through thick and thin and are able to support new employees through
their UK visa application, integrating
them with new employees and accommodating them with the correct tasks.
only way that a business can move forward is by making a routine decision and
being efficient with processes. This also includes making tough decisions too.
To choose the best possible candidate, make sure they’re decisive with their
decision making and can still be effective in difficult situations.
want a business that’s going to grow and move with the times, hire a manager
that has a creative spark and can bring new ideas to the table. Most problems
can’t be completely solved through a simple method and it would require a bit
of creativity to resolve. Great managers are always looking for improvements on
the service side as well with internal operations in creative ways that can
help your business stand out and make your employees happy.
take a lot to find someone with all the traits possible for an excellent
manager, but these candidates do exist. Even if they don’t have every single
one, if they have the majority then you’re potentially on to a winner. It’s
about filtering it down until you have the right person.