Tag Archives: promotion

A Day in the Life of a Leader

Right out of college, I worked in the IT department as a help desk representative for an insurance company in upstate New York where I grew up. I was the person you called if you had a computer problem, forgot your password, or couldn’t get your macros to work in Word Perfect.  I didn’t really know much about leadership or managing, but from the outside, it looked pretty cool. Better pay, better title, a nice office, and more authority. It seemed pretty straight forward, and a nice reward for doing good work. It seemed that when you become a manager, you finally made it.

One day my boss told me he was going to hire another representative to help me, and that this person would report to me. Four weeks later, I became a manager for the first time. I had no idea what I was doing. I quickly figured out that management wasn’t so straight forward after all, and frankly, not as fun as I had imagined.

As leaders, we need to give people a peek behind the curtain of what leadership really is; before they become leaders. Perhaps then we will begin to fill leadership positions with people who want the job for the right reasons; to serve others and make an impact.

Here is what I would share with potential leaders before they make the leap.

So, you want to be a leader?

Before you decide, allow me to give you a peek behind the curtain of what being a leader is really like. Because I can tell you for sure, that the fantasy of leadership and the reality of leadership are very, very different.

If you are a leader, here is what you have in store for you. And by all means, this is not an exhaustive list.

  • You are responsible when your employee fails
  • Your days will be a series of meetings, employee complaints, and upward delegating
  • You will rarely have a minute to yourself
  • Your role will completely change: you will be responsible for mentoring, coaching, and teaching (not the technical job you once held)
  • It’s often a thankless job
  • All problems will make their way up to you
  • You will spend significant time training an employee to do something you can do in five minutes
  • You will often work long hours
  • You will leave the office many days wondering what you actually accomplished
  • Meetings, more meetings…did I mention meetings?

In short, effective leadership is no walk in the park. Your focus is people, not things, and people can be complicated. Employees are motivated differently, they all have different personalities, and not everyone will share your work ethic. Your job will be to bring out the best performance in each individual employee to reach the strategic goals of the organization. This may not sound complicated, but many days it can feel like trying to run a marathon when you haven’t eaten or slept in days.

True leadership is about service; it’s serving your employees by developing them and helping them reach their highest potential and personal goals. It’s serving the organization by contributing your best to achieve the goals. It’s serving the membership by having their best interest in mind and helping them achieve their financial dreams.

Of course, there are many rewards in leadership; it’s not all challenges and meetings. But those feelings of accomplishment and fulfillment can sometimes be overshadowed by the daily grind of leadership. Rarely will someone be standing at your door patting you on the back for a job well done.

Leadership should be a decision, not a given or the next step for your technical superstar. Employees should know what the position really entails before they commit to leadership. Leadership is a privilege and a huge responsibility. And as organizations, we need to let people know what to expect—what their days will really be like—when you become a leader.

How to Develop Your Leadership Brand

What value do you bring as a leader? What do you stand for? How do others see you?

When you think of branding, you might think of marketing strategies used at big companies like Disney, Apple, or Zappos. But we all have a brand, whether we realize it or not.

Your personal brand is how you appear to the world. It’s how others see you. It’s your reputation. Your strengths, values, behaviors, and habits all form your personal brand.

Your leadership brand conveys your identity and distinctiveness as a leader. What value to you bring as a leader? What do you stand for? How do others see you?

Most professionals and leaders are not even aware of what their leadership brand is.

Your leadership brand is very important. It’s the basis of many decisions made in the workplace.

When your boss and other leaders are making decisions about promotions or other factors, your leadership brand is impacting these decisions, whether you realize it or not. Your personal strengths and talents plus your behaviors is the value you bring to the people you serve. It’s important to know your strengths and personality and leverage them.

When thinking about your leadership brand, there are two considerations:

  1. How you are seen internally in your organization: your boss, peers, direct reports, board of directors, and others
  1. How you are seen by others outside of your organization: on social media like Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter and at events like Industry meetings, networking events, workshops, and trainings.

There is often a gap between how we want to be viewed and how others view us. Perceptions are not always reality, but perceptions are how other people view us through their own filter.

How do you know what your leadership brand is?

Before you determine what you want to be known for and how you want to be seen, it’s important to determine how others view you now. Once you become aware of your leadership brand, you can shift your behaviors or actions to consciously design your leadership brand.

There are many ways to gain feedback on your performance and how others perceive you. First, ask yourself, how do others view me?

How do you show up at work?  Passive, disengaged, mediocre, thrown together, OR engaged, passionate, supportive, positive, professional, and polished? Are you spending time at the coffee station complaining? Or are you seen as a supportive and positive influence?

How do you show up in life? Are you late to meetings, and unprepared? Do you miss deadlines? Can you handle issues yourself, or do you upward delegate to your manager? Do you deliberately coach and develop your employees?

How do you show up outside of work?  Are you approachable and friendly at outside events? Do you keep to yourself, or use networking to your advantage? How do you show up on social media? Does your picture reflect who you want to portray? Is it professional? Are your posts negative or positive? Personally, I avoid talking about politics and other sensitive subjects on social media.

How do you show up at industry events? Passive, unprofessional, insecure, uninterested, OR professional, positive, upbeat, smiling and confident?  You should always be mindful of what others are experiencing about you. People are always forming impressions.

In addition to self-reflection, you can also employ feedback tools such as:

  • 360 degree assessment
  • Asking your manager for feedback
  • Asking colleagues for feedback
  • Conducting a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis
  • Using a program like Survey Monkey to survey colleagues about your strengths and development opportunities

 Once you understand how you are currently perceived, you can use that information to deliberately design your leadership brand. Think about how you want to be viewed inside and outside of your credit union. Designing your leadership brand is not about trying to be someone you are not. Rather, it’s understanding who you are and how you want to be perceived by others.

Every interaction you have with someone is an opportunity—an opportunity to make a great impression, an opportunity for a promotion, an opportunity to connect with someone who may be your next boss, or an opportunity to attract new opportunities.

Your leadership brand can take years to build, but can be ruined overnight. Be mindful of how you are perceived, both inside and outside of your organization. You want to carefully manage and protect your brand.

Let’s start today to deliberately shape your leadership brand.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when crafting your leadership brand:

  • What do I want to be known for as  a leader?
  • How might others currently perceive me?
  • What is the gap?
  • What behaviors can I start changing immediately?
  • What actions can I take in the next 7 days?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments. What is one aspect of your leadership brand you want to leverage? Are there any behaviors you can change to positively impact your brand?

5 Ways to Earn a Promotion or Raise

I was recently facilitating a leadership program and a participant expressed her frustration that she hadn’t been promoted. Lately, her supervisor had assigned her some extra work, and she felt she should be recognized and compensated for the additional effort. She went to her boss to advocate for a promotion, and was surprised when her efforts were unsuccessful and her manager was annoyed by the request.

There may be times when asking for a promotion is necessary. If you have consistently used the strategies I share below and you are viewed as a high performer, then perhaps it’s time to ask for a promotion or seek other opportunities. But a better approach is to strategically position yourself for a promotion or raise.

Advocating for a raise or promotion (even if you deserve it) usually doesn’t work because your manager may feel backed into a corner. She may not feel you are prepared for a new role, and now she needs to communicate that to you. Even if she does feel you deserve a promotion, now she may feel pressured to act on it.  Either way, it puts your manager in a position of having something else on her plate to deal with.

When you ask for a promotion or raise just because you’ve taken on some additional work, it may come across as entitled or self-focused. The perception is that you care more about your own interests than the needs of the company.

The best approach is to take full ownership of your professional development and prove yourself before you get the promotion.

Below are five strategies for earning the promotion or raise you want:

Take 100% responsibility. Many people believe it’s their managers responsibility to develop them for future growth opportunities. While great leaders do invest time in developing their employees, you should take responsibility for your own development. Delegating your development to your manager is an indication that you won’t take full ownership of a new role. Managers are looking for self-starters who are confident and capable of getting results. Now is the time to prove you possess these traits. Are there new skills you need to learn before you take on a new role? Sign up for a course. Do you need to learn more about the financial side of the business to expand your organizational breadth? Ask someone in finance to mentor you. Don’t wait for someone else to tell you what to do. Take ownership of your career.

Share your professional goals. Have you shared your professional goals with your manager? Your boss can’t support you if she doesn’t know what your personal and professional goals are. If you are interested in a leadership role, share that with your manager and ask her what you would need to do to achieve that goal. Your manager is a great resource for communicating specific actions you need to take to position yourself for a new role.

Earlier in my career, I started working for a credit union as the assistant manager of the call center. A year later, I realized I wanted to work in leadership and human resources. I approached the human resources vice president and told her I was interested in moving into her department. Although there weren’t any positions available at the time, six months later when a position did become available, I was chosen over another internal candidate because I had shared my goals with the VP and had enrolled in an HR class on my own time. Don’t wait for someone else to notice you. Ask for what you want.

Go above and beyond. Don’t wait for a promotion to take on extra work. Be of service before you get the promotion. Ask for additional responsibilities and stretch projects that will prepare you for future roles. This illustrates that you are a hard worker who is willing to support your boss and the organization, and that you are an action-oriented, motivated employee who wants to help your boss succeed.

I believe one quality that helped me to earn four promotions in four years, was supporting my boss any way possible. If she talked about a project she wanted to implement or something we needed to get done in the department, I would step in and take care of it. I took things off her plate and followed through. Go the extra mile to help your manager look good. Become an employee who is easy to delegate to and who welcomes new responsibilities.

Ask for feedback. One of the best ways to prepare yourself for a promotion is to ask for feedback on your current performance. Don’t wait until your annual evaluation. At least quarterly, ask your manager to rate your performance. A great tool is the feedback scale. Ask your boss:

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, how would you rate my current performance?

If he says a ’10’, ask, “What did I do to get such a high score?” (this gives you feedback on what to continue).

If he rates you lower than a 10, ask, “What would make it a 10?” (this gives you feedback on what to start or stop doing).

Also ask what knowledge, skills, or abilities are important to be successful in the position you aspire to, and ask your manager to rate you on each of those factors. This may initially feel uncomfortable, but the way to get promoted is to get as much information as you can to improve your skills and performance.

Be a solution provider, not a problem finder. Don’t go to your boss and point out the problems in the department or the organization. Take ownership of problems and come to your manager with solutions. Even if you don’t know the answer to a problem, think through how you might approach it before going to your boss. Managers don’t need more on their plate. They are looking for employees who will take ownership of their role and bring solutions instead of problems.

Employees are rarely promoted for meeting expectations in their position. It takes some extra effort to show your dedication to the organization and the value you bring. If you take 100% responsibility for your development, you dramatically increase your chances of getting that raise or promotion you have come to deserve.

Now I’d love to hear from you. If you’ve been promoted in your career, what did you do to earn the promotion? What advice do you have for someone who wants to move up in their company?

Share your comments below.