A wake up call for new leaders – and me!

I finally woke up the moment I pulled the toolbox down on my face, splitting my nose open, and giving myself concussion.

I decided to set up my own business in October, leaving my safe, secure and well-paid job, and to say I’ve been feeling overwhelmed is an understatement. It seemed like a no brainer, having spent years in a successful career, becoming a specialist in leadership development and behavioural change, and being well connected. I was ready to go it alone and make a bigger difference – I thought it would be a breeze.
The truth is, it’s been petrifying. I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants, with all the emotions that go with that particular mode of transport. It only dawned on me during the traumatic ‘toolbox gate’, whilst trying to move things around in the kitchen cupboard, totally preoccupied with all of the things I needed to get done for the business launch, that I was on the steepest learning curve of my life. I should have seen it coming – but I didn’t. Even if I had, I didn’t think I’d beat myself up so much for not knowing enough.
I naively thought that my 20 years of experience would have stood me in good stead for this journey. The fact is, it hasn’t. It’s given me the technical abilities.
I have a depth of experience in certain areas, I can coach and develop leaders well, but that doesn’t help you to build a great website, circumnavigate the minefield that is social media, or know how to win clients, never mind how to find likeminded clients.
I even thought that I’d have no problem writing about myself, my business, the thought leadership I’ve been so excited to get out there. I led internal communications for years, so it’s what I did. What I didn’t realise, is that I was completely conditioned to write in a certain way and breaking that habit has been harder than giving up chocolate – and that was pretty hard!
It’s petrifying, wildly exciting, and liberating all at the same time. The cold hard truth is, my new job is totally different to my old one and I need to adapt, quickly.
The funny thing is, it’s no different to becoming a leader really. How many leaders start the new job and try to crack on as they did before, just with different people sat around them? Going it alone has jolted me in to a whole new way of working and thinking, but how many leaders see their new roles as being completely new or even partially new?

So, for those new leaders, who have made the move, here’s a few tips you might find useful…

  1. Be ready to unlearn – you won’t know it all and so equip yourself with an open mind.
  2. You need to restructure the way you work – what should you start, stop and keep doing?
  3. Don’t beat yourself up for not knowing – ask for help and find people who already know how to do this stuff well.
  4. You need a new job description – don’t just bolt on the leadership stuff if you want to do this well.
Right, I’m off to write a marketing plan…sorry, how do you do that?