I recently freaked out.
Typically, I’m a pretty laid back person. I do deal with anxiety on a certain level, but over the years I’ve learned how to temper that a bit. Sometimes, however, it gets the best of me.
There’s a new leadership role that I was tapped to take on. It took me a couple of weeks to even say yes because I knew it was fodder for an emotional moment of panic. When I finally accepted it, I felt the daunting weight quite immediately. Now, this is something important, to be sure, but I’m not guiding astronauts safely back to Earth, delivering babies, or making sure there’s enough Popeye’s chicken sandwiches for everyone – the stakes aren’t super high pressure – but I couldn’t seem to convince my feelings of this fact.
Even still, I felt the anticipation and anxiety of leading a team in a role that I’ve never held before. So I did what any adult would do, I called my mommy. I proceeded to tell her all the reasons I was not qualified or able while on the brink of tears and she reminded me of 5 very important things:
Be Upfront – part of what freaked me out was the fear of judgment. I have this weird idea when I take things on that I’m supposed to know everything already – how everything works, how to make it better immediately, how to be the best at all of it – that’s pretty impossible. Be upfront about what you don’t know, about being new, about the pieces of the puzzle you have and the ones you’re working to get. When everyone is working from the same page, it takes that undue pressure off.
Be A Leader – I’ve had to switch my thinking from “doing” to “leading”. The burden of knowing how to do every part of a task is heavy. Too heavy. And unnecessary. While you should have a working knowledge of all of the roles on your team and what they do, it’s good to remember that you don’t have to do it all. The people on your team are there for a reason. Be a leader by leaning on their expertise, let them teach you what they do & work together to make it easier for them to do their job. Your job is not to do, it’s to make it easy, enjoyable and efficient for the experts on the team to do the doing.
Be Yourself – The intimidation of taking on this role was real. Partly because I’m surrounded by such amazing leaders already – many of whom have been in this world for at least a few years. There was this weight I put on myself to measure up to how they do things. I am realizing that successful leadership means yes, learning from the great ones around you, but also using your unique personality & approach to enhance your team. You are there for a reason, bring your full self to the role. Your leadership will look different than other people’s – it’s supposed to.
Be Unqualified – I feel unqualified for this. Am I? Maybe. But that’s ok (she wrote trying to convince herself). A little uncertainty is a gift, I think. Uncertainty leaves room for creativity, for other voices, asking for help, for community, for God. If I was totally sure I could do every aspect of this thing that would probably spell trouble.You are intelligent and creative, capable. When those feelings of uncertainty come up, try viewing those them as a boon, an advantage. Something to work with instead of something to run from.
Be Strategic – Don’t feel like you have to come in like a wrecking ball. Take some time to get a vision for what you want to see. Figure out what’s going right & wrong as things are, what your team members would like to see – what are the challenges from their eyes, and what you’d like to see. This may take a week or two of intentional meetings or communication. Find out what’s expected of you as the leader. I’m someone who works better from details – once I know exactly what we are working with and towards, I can take & expand it from there. Don’t be afraid to ask for details and then solidify a game plan from there.
What advice do you have for leaders who are taking on new roles?