You are a mid-20s professional, you have gone through the early test of entry-level roles and now you find yourself taking that next crucial step in your career progression. Nurturing managers spot your potential and begin giving you more ownership and responsibility in your new role. It’s a leap you want to make and it feels scary. Sound familiar?
Here are 6 tips to help young professionals learn to lead:
- Learn how to learn (and re-learn): Self-awareness is the foundation stone of development. Learning how to learn is becoming a crucial capability to navigate your way through personal and professional change. Know your preferences for how you like to learn both face-to-face and online.
- Recognise your learning: You will experience two overlapping learning journeys whenever you start a new role or job.
- The first is getting to grips with new knowledge (technical, functional and organisational), new ways of working (‘how we do things round here’) and new people (relationship building).
- Once you get your proverbial feet under the table and all the above starts becoming internalised, then the focus is much more about maximising or exploiting that new understanding to make things happen. The quicker you can go through the first journey, the quicker you can hit the ground running and begin leading. This can be an uncomfortable transition.
- Develop your T-shape: Moving beyond a good understanding in one area to familiarity with a broader range of disciplines or functions within your organisation. It means looking up and across to make sense of how things are inter-dependent and the implications for today and for the future.
- Test your risk-taking: It’s tempting to play it safe when you begin a new role or job. You don’t know how people respond to things and what’s acceptable or unacceptable. The danger is extending this natural caution for too long until it becomes the default. A way to learn to lead is to take some risks and test out your vision, ideas and beliefs. Be curious, interested and pose reflective questions.
- “I’ve noticed that ‘X’ is done in a particular way. What’s the thinking behind that?”
- “I want to test out an idea of mine now that I understand our strategy. What if we…?”
- “I’ve spent time getting to know what and how we do things. I’d like to start adding my view of the world to improve things or shape the future direction.”
- Have confidence in yourself: You would not have got the role or job if other people did not have confidence and faith in your ability and potential. Good managers want you to succeed. They want you to step up and show your talents. They will provide you with support, guidance and opportunity. Challenge yourself, shape things, and be prepared to both fail and succeed.
- Continue to reflect on your learning: Develop an effective relationship with your manager from the outset. Share where you feel confident, vulnerable, interested and indifferent. Meet regularly to discuss your progress and leave the to-do list at the door. Know when to seek help and when to swim in the deep end. Seek feedback, write a blog, keep a learning diary and get a mentor.
Learning to lead involves learning to leap. Which of these tips resonates with you the most?