That point in time was when I received my first promotion to manager, a year and a half into my career. I was a sales representative at a wholesale distribution company in Virginia and earned the opportunity to relocate to an acquisition in Phoenix, Arizona to build their training department. This assignment involved the leadership task of creating the vision, but the management task of staffing the new team (Kotter, 2001). I was eager, impatient, and driven to produce results which my DiSC assessment still reflects today. I was focused on results and proving myself and that is how I was rewarded. I recruited my team, shared the vision, and then went back to getting the results. About nine months into my role, my boss asked me how I was grooming my replacement and changed how I was measured.
As Jack Welch calls out in his book Winning, “when you become a leader, success is all about growing others” (Welch, 2009). Growing others in a deliberate way had not come to me naturally, especially coming from a sales role were individual contributions were so heavily rewarded. I had to make adjustments. Fortunately, my mentor served as an incredible role model to learn from. Looking back, there are two of Jack Welch’s eight rules that I wish I would have known then.
Leaders relentlessly upgrade their team, using every encounter as an opportunity to evaluate, coach, and build self-confidence (Welch, 2009). Specifically the build confidence component. I needed to make more thoughtful decisions about stretch assignments and more deliberately recognize my team for their contributions. I was moving so fast that I was taking time to see who or what was in my wake. My mentor gave people a chance to fail and learn and that’s also what I needed to do. I structured the work differently to give my team greater exposure to senior leaders and more senior work. This change influenced the commitment and excitement levels on the team. People felt they had more ownership and opportunity. I’ve forced myself to do this in my subsequent roles despite the risk and time associated with this action.
Leaders probe and push with a curiosity that borders on skepticism, making sure their questions are answered with action (Welch, 2009). “When you are a leader, your job is to have all the questions” (Welch, 2009). When I first got promoted I thought I needed to have all of the answers and the pressure was extraordinary. I thought I would be perceived as weak if I didn’t have the answers. I had to learn…