Finally, as the last post in our four part series, let’s discuss organizations that value leadership. Obviously all organizations value leadership in one form or another, but some throw the word around a lot more than others. In many ways, this series is all about being the leader of your own career – Identifying your organization’s goals, your own goals, and then initiating the steps required to get you there.
How to know if your organization values leadership:
- During performance reviews, you are questioned about projects you led, specific tasks that you were responsible for, and/or the amount of input you provided on a team/committee/project
- Your role allows you a lot of flexibility – work from home days, flex time, etc
- Your role provides a lot of visibility – e.g. client-facing roles, customer relationship roles, etc
- Your higher-ups say things like, “We want/expect everyone to be a leader”
Three tips for being more of a leader at work:
- Never guess what your boss wants to see** – Just like “collaboration,” “leadership” is a word with many meanings and connotations. You may work at an organization where everyone is encouraged to lead a team at least once… be it the party planning committee or a major capital project. Or, you may work at an organization where the words “be a leader” just mean “take initiative”… and your manager would like to see you proactively bring new ideas to his or her attention. The good news is that your organization’s definition of leadership is usually pretty easy to nail down. Try to always ask “Can you give me an example, please?” the next time someone brings up leadership.
- Pick one area to improve at a time – I maintain that adding one or two new best practices to your workweek is the easiest way to make measurable improvement without too much added stress. But if you are trying to improve your leadership skills, I would make it even more granular. Pick just one project to focus on and try to make incremental changes to your work on that project. In your next performance review, you will be able to point out what worked and what didn’t work in that specific situation, rather than speaking in generalities across the board.
- Balance outside of work – Like everything else we have discussed in this series, cultivating a “leader” mindset outside the office can really help you inside the office as well. For you that might be volunteering to lead a committee at church, taking over a home improvement project for your family, or just making a point to read books about great leaders. The goal isn’t to overwhelm yourself by trying to revamp your entire life, but rather to surround yourself with opportunities to grow your skills. So plan a few outings for your softball team and read the new Elon Musk book… those baby steps will help!
** Yes, these tips have been very similar for the last three posts. That is not because I am lazy, it is because I believe in this process. Improvements can not and should not occur in a vacuum, so it is critical to observe your organization and your own professional situation before deciding how to proceed. Trying to change everything at once is almost always overwhelming and rarely a good idea, so tiny weekly changes are both manageable and should be incrementally measurable. And finally, research is showing that it is very difficult to be one person at work and a different person at home. Using hobbies or things you already do at home to support your professional goals can only be a good thing in the long run.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this four part series! Please leave your comments below or tweet me @RachelLColello.