Being a new leader is hard. Whether you’ve founded your own business or recently been welcomed into the C-suite, chances are you’re feeling pulled in a million different directions. As a leadership coach, I’ve seen my high-performing clients struggle with everything from navigating the transition from peer to manager, identifying poor performance, providing critical feedback and balancing conflicting demands on their time. Being a leader is tough, and even if you’re passionate about leading a team you can hit unexpected obstacles.
Having someone to turn to, to bounce ideas off of and act as an accountability partner can be a lifesaver. Whether you hire an expert or cultivate a mentor-mentee relationship (or both) partnering with a coach who will dedicate their time to your needs can help you focus on developing the tools and behaviors you’ll need to be successful.
When you’re in a leadership role, it can start to feel like everyone wants something from you (usually answers, money or time) but your coach can provide you with a little refuge. Their only agenda is to help you be the best leader you can be. And no, they’re not therapists, and they aren’t consultants. A coach is a peer or mentor whose top priority is to help you work on your opportunities for improvement and goals as a leader.
Here are seven valuable lessons my clients have learned from working with a leadership coach.
1. Consistency is Key
“You know you’re on the right track when you get sick of hearing yourself talk about your mission and values.” - Nick Huzar, CEO of OfferUp at a recent Talonn, LLC CEO Forum
Repeating your values and talking about your vision for the organization - even if you feel like a broken record - is essential to making your values stick. Don’t be shy about driving your points home with consistency. Remember, just because you’ve heard yourself share the same story about the company mission for what feels like a million times doesn’t mean every one your employees have.
[Related: Employee Engagement Checklist]
2. Making Hard Choices Now Will Pay Off Later
The tough decisions you face early on will be the foundation for building a long-term decision-making framework. For example, working through how to manage an underperforming employee can help you clarify your overall performance philosophy. Lean into those hard choices and they’ll pay off in the long run.
3. All Roads Lead Back to Your Mission, Vision, and Values
When in doubt, circle back to your core values. Looking at a problem from 30,000 feet can help you see more clearly. Remember that overarching performance philosophy you developed early on? That’ll come in handy the next time you’re faced with a tricky performance issue.
As sticky situations crop up (and they inevitably will) ask yourself: “How can my company’s mission, vision and values guide my decision?”
4. Never Underestimate the Power of Delegation
If you want something done right, do it yourself. But if you want many things done right, delegate. Look, you can’t (and shouldn’t) do it all. That’s what your team is for. Learning to check your micromanaging tendencies, and implementing mechanisms to help you relinquish control will pay off in the end. Business reviews, metrics decks, roadmaps and progress reports will be your best friends.
5. You’re Only as Good as the People Around You
“As a manager, you wake up every day with a problem. If you don’t have the best people, you need to find them. If you already have them, you need to retain them.” - Brian Valentine, CEO WISErg Corp.
As an executive, managing your team should be a top priority. And in order to become more comfortable with delegating, you’ll need to have confidence in your team. Learning to surround yourself with the right people, manage performance and retain top performers is critical to your long-term success.
6. Your Executive Presence Matters
“When a leader says something, it’s amplified. It’s like they’re using a megaphone.” - Max Mankin, Co-Founder & CTO, Modern Electron
You may not realize it, but as a leader, you’re always speaking through a megaphone. All eyes and ears are on you, so you’ll want to be aware of the messages you’re sending and the behavior you’re modeling. Demonstrating honesty and integrity - both in all-hands meetings and at the proverbial water cooler - is essential.
7. Use Your Resources
“You don’t have to know all the right answers, but you do need to ask the right questions.” - Jerry Hunter, Senior Vice President of Engineering, Snap Inc.
Accept what you don’t know. You can’t be an expert on everything. Learn to trust your resources - both internal and external - because you won’t succeed on your own. Your HR, finance, and operations teams, along with your peers, mentors and coaches can all play an instrumental role in the success of you and your team. Lean on them.
Being a leader can be the most rewarding and thrilling role you’ll ever have. But it can also be incredibly challenging and sometimes lonely. There’s no silver bullet that will prepare you for every difficult decision you’ll need to make. Remember that it’s normal to feel overwhelmed, perplexed or downright stumped. And more importantly, know that it’s OK to ask for help. Establishing a relationship with a leadership coach who can serve as a trusted advisor and a safe space to grow your skills can be incredibly rewarding.
Mikaela Kiner is the founder and CEO of uniquelyHR, providing fast-growth companies including startups and scale-ups with flexible HR services from consulting to leadership development and executive coaching. Prior to founding her company, Mikaela was an HR leader with several iconic Northwest brands including Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks, PopCap Games and Redfin. Mikaela continues to work as an executive coach specializing in CEO and leadership development and working with high potential women leaders. Find her on Twitter @uniquelyHR or LinkedIn.