As an ambitious young worker, your desire for promotion to a managerial role is natural. But once you get it, every skill and tactic you used to get there may no longer serve you. You must now shift your priorities and perspectives from being an individual producer to a leader — and that’s a lot to suddenly have on your plate. For many young leaders, this transition can prove to be challenging or even anxiety-provoking.
From Individual Star To Team Player
As you worked your way up, you honed your individual performance to a high level. But now that you are a manager, the focus shifts from what you can produce to what you can inspire others to produce. To do this effectively, you’ll need to apply awareness — both around yourself and others. You’ll need heightened awareness to be able to practice leadership and to know when to apply what conversational move.
Those leadership skills aren’t necessarily taught to young leaders, and you aren’t alone. A staggering 93% feel they need training on how to coach their employees. One of the quickest ways to get up to speed on management skills, even on a junior level, is coaching.
Coaching Isn’t Just For Experienced Executives
A survey of high-potential millennials conducted via LinkedIn revealed that many hadn’t heard of executive coaching, and less than 20% had worked with a coach. That’s surprising considering millennials (those born between 1982 and 2000) are typically eager to learn. However, they are still early in their careers, and coaching simply may not be on their radar.
My youngest executive coaching client was 24-year-old “Ryan.” He wanted to focus on developing himself professionally while reaching his goal of becoming a chief technology officer. I coached him to think, respond and perform at a much higher level than his current position. Ryan’s emotional intelligence and situational leadership grew as a result. Five years later, just before his 30th birthday, he became a CTO in the financial trading industry.
Ryan was an incredibly talented young man, but coaching helped him learn to think, communicate and process like a CTO early on in his career. He acquired skills people typically don’t achieve until much later in life.
A coach can help improve your communication skills, teach you how to think from a leadership perspective and create the presence of a leader. I typically work with young executives on three key areas: communication, blind spots and stress management.
1. Communication: Communication is a vital skill set, entailing both speaking and listening. Upon entering a management role, you’ll have to have difficult conversations with direct reports. You’ll be challenged daily with making effective requests and providing targeted feedback. You will also be judged on your followership and how aligned and engaged your team is.
Instead of working in a silo as a producer, being a manager is about creating alliances. One way to do that is to always allow team members to voice their opinions. In my experience, functioning team members understand that if their opinions have been considered, they can support a decision, even if they were initially against it. When an entire team agrees on a course of action, you will achieve consensus and certainty while gaining followership.
2. Blind Spots: Perhaps the biggest advantage young leaders who engage in coaching will have is an opportunity to recognize blind spots. Blind spots indicate a lack of self-awareness, and they can often lead to consequences with your performance or others’. In fact, there are times when individuals think they perform well, but actually create unintended negative consequences that they don’t see.
For example, you might think you are good at driving results (and you may be), but the unintended consequences could be that you lack emotional intelligence for how your directives are received, and as a result, you lack followership. Your good directs leave, and the rest are underperforming.
Working with a coach can help you to determine how effective your performance is and what you can do to optimize it. The ability to recognize and address blind spots quickly builds your emotional intelligence and this is often one of the most critical components for success in middle management and above.
3. Stress Management: And let’s not forget about the stress and anxiety a new position brings. When you are stressed, you are less productive and less likely to make good decisions. But a coach can help you understand how you are feeling and combat those responses. When you understand what triggers stress for you, you can work to minimize or eliminate those triggering perspectives. I help young executives ascertain how their own leadership style influences workplace interactions and how to address the aspects of your management approach that are contributing to stress.
We cover stress management techniques such as focused breathing, visualization and mindfulness meditation. A Harvard study found that the mere act of clearing your mind for 15 minutes each day actually alters how your genes operate and can be effective in lowering blood pressure. Now, researchers are delving even deeper into how mindfulness meditation can also help battle depression, chronic pain and anxiety.
All of the work I do with my clients, whether young or old, is geared toward long-term, systemic change. By increasing your self-awareness and practicing these techniques, you are literally retraining how your brain responds to situations. That will eventually lead to new responses to circumstances, conversations, conflict and your environment that can result in improved professional and personal performance.
Every great emerging leader is faced with increased complexity throughout their journey. Some challenges may simply be growing pains, while others are roadblocks that may require professional help to clear.