This is part 2 of a 7-part series on “Reclaiming Your Voice At Work” that explores the different reasons our voice/strength weakens over time, and strategies to reclaim it.
Leadership is a lot like parenting. You are electing to be responsible for another human’s engagement, not to mention support and provide them with resources. And similar to parents, we tend to think we have it all figured out until we become one! Then we realize there’s a lot to learn! Leaders aren’t your Mama or your Daddy, nor should they act like it. They should take their role seriously and work to get better. Unfortunately, the cards are often stacked against their success as people leaders.
When you don’t have a great leader, or at least access to them, your voice can become tired, lost and eventually weaken. Understanding the obstacles a leader faces will help you on your own career journey and help you reclaim your voice!
The Power of Promotion in a FLAT World
I’ve seen it so many times…an employee gets promoted to lead a team that does XYZ because s/he is really good at doing XYZ. Most of the time, these employees do deserve acknowledgment and perhaps even a promotion.
Those employees want more. They’ve worked hard at XYZ and been diligent about following the advice of experts that tell them to be a team player, be indispensable and network to get ahead. Check, check, check. So, they want more…perhaps a new title, more pay or new, challenging work that provides them the exposure they desire.
We’ve all heard of people who are good at doing job ABC getting promoted to leadership but struggling at the leadership aspects of their role. And rightfully so – leadership is not an easy gig! After 20+ years in corporate America, I know that providing opportunities and rewards outside of promotions to leadership roles is no easy task. But given that poor leadership is affecting engagement, productivity, turnover and even client satisfaction, organizations will have to solve the issue of ill-equipped leaders.
Pulled in Two
With today’s flat(ter) organizations, the ideal is for leaders to push down information, support and resources. However, the “player-coach” model requires that they be a leader and a player. For example, sales leaders still sell, store managers still hop on the registers/do inventory, and investment banker leaders still woo clients and get involved in deals.
Humans gravitate to rewards. Leaders’ “player” role often brings them more recognition, more money and more satisfaction. Especially if they were good at the roles before they were promoted to oversee them. To get leaders to focus on the “coach” aspect, many of the “player” tasks should be delegated down, freeing them up to provide meaningful experiences, excellent mentorship and targeted investment in talent.
Lack of Impactful "Training"
Have you heard of the 70/20/10 Model? It has to do with the way development occurs and where the most impactful types of development come from. It’s pretty simple; to truly develop you should rely on three types of experiences and not in equal amounts:
70% should come from on-the-job experiences and challenging assignments
20% from developmental relationships with leaders, mentors and coaches
And only 10% from traditional training and courses
With today’s “player-coach model,” I’ve repeatedly seen that leaders have little time to be purposeful and strategic about the experiences and assignments they are providing for their people. Additionally, organizations as a whole are pressed to meet their financial and business goals with less headcount and more outcomes. I’m not saying organizations and leaders don’t give it any thought, but there are many competing demands on their attention and time.
And with fewer layers, leaders don’t have as much time to focus on the 70% by doing leader-on-the-job work. Plus, there are fewer leaders to observe and learn from for that critical 20%.
I’ve been a people leader for over 20 years and coached leaders for much of that time. It’s hard work to care for yourself, your team and your growing list of duties. There are many great leaders and organizations showing us how it can be done. There’s no one right way. But all roads start with a desire to change the experience of the employees and the leaders, thus changing the outcomes.
As you work to reclaim your voice in your work, reach out with questions. I’m a resource for you, even when you think you don’t have any.
Peace and Progress On Your Journey,
p.s. Week 3's post will discuss how style and personality can affect our outcomes.