Look to Those Further Along the Path to Help you Today
A young woman I know, let’s call her Kendra, just got a promotion and a major increase in responsibilities. She’s never been a manager before and there is much she doesn’t know. As she is struggling to figure out answers to the many questions she has, one of the most important steps she can take is tap into her network. Others have been in her shoes. They can help accelerate her learning and greatly contribute to her success. She reached out to her network and I’ll share what she found.
In the course of your career, there will be many “first times” — first time manager, first time vice president, first time CEO or first time ‘chief of anything’. It feels scary when you are given the next level of responsibility. You’ve never done it before and everyone knows that. What most people don’t fully recognize is that while this is your first time, many others have held the role you have been given. And finding and speaking to these more experienced people will give you a major advantage, the road map for success.
Your job is to tap your contacts and see if they can direct you to those who have held similar roles and taken on similar responsibilities. Meet these people face-to-face. Find out if there are meetings or gatherings for others in similar positions. Be proactive and have coffee or lunch with those who are farther down the path than you are. Ask them these seven questions:
1. In this similar role, what are the challenges you faced?
2. How did you move from doing your current duties, to delegating and motivating others instead?
3. What information is valuable to you and how did you find it?
4. When building a team (which many managers are asked to do), what qualities do you look for?
5. How do you assess and develop your current team?
6. What systems or processes are helpful to you?
7. What advice do you have for me ask I start this new role?
Kendra asked Derrick, one of her well-connected contacts for help. Derrick reached out to a couple of people he knew who had suggestions. Derrick’s contacts’ contacts, (so these are third degree connections) were willing to talk to Kendra because the person who asked them the favor was someone they knew first hand. This is how it works best.
Kendra met one individual who held the same role she was just given but who now had had that role for many years. He knew exactly what she was facing and feeling. He answered the questions she had and offered concrete suggestions. Moreover, he knew of a group of like-minded individuals who got together monthly to answers exactly the kinds of questions Kendra would have. In meeting one key person face-to-face, Kendra struck gold. She left the meeting with an increased sense of confidence that she could learn and grow into her new role. She didn’t feel so alone and knew others could be her resources. She was ready to meet a few others as she knew this was the best way to gain the knowledge that she needed.
So when given a new opportunity, seek others in similar situations. Approach them for a face-to-face meeting. Be honest about the situation you are in and the issues you will be facing. People are willing to help you, but you are the one who needs to ask.