My leadership workshops are always filled with young leaders who may be new to an organization or new to an industry. They arrive excited to fill their leadership toolbox with skills or knowledge to help them grow in their careers and jobs. Being new to a career can be both filled with possibilities as well as fears of the unknown. Sometimes a young leader’s enthusiasm can be misinterpreted for a “need it now” attitude. But the truth is new leaders are eager to learn so they can make impactful contributions to their teams and companies.
So where is a young leader to begin? How can new leaders learn to be strong decision-makers and communicators so they will be heard and valued?
Five must-do strategies for young leaders:
1. LISTEN FIRST TO LEARN
As a young bank lending officer, I spent my first year studying and learning all the tricks of the trade. I needed to stay super focused on how to evaluate financial statements and what rules were critical for commercial lending. The most important part of a young leader’s job is listening to and observing how more experienced leaders work. Sometimes it is difficult just to listen, but it will pay off in dividends.
2. ASK THOUGHTFUL QUESTIONS
While new leaders are growing, they may also want to ask clarifying questions to understand a process or responsibility. The way questions are asked can impact how others perceive us.
3. SPEAK UP WITH PURPOSE
An important part of being a young leader is sharing one’s thoughts clearly and with purpose. New leaders are often nervous when they speak up during team meetings or with one-on-ones with a boss. It’s natural to feel a bit anxious but practicing what we want to say ahead of time can reduce those emotions. Write out your thoughts and ideas before a meeting and decide what words you want to use to convey your ideas. Then practice saying them.
4. BUILD RELATIONSHIPS
Essential to any new leader’s success is building connections with co-workers and bosses. Here are some helpful tips to cultivating relationships in the workplace:
5. FIND A MENTOR
Mentors can be magical for any new leader as they may be able to provide guidance in a supportive way. Many companies today assign mentors to new leaders. Those mentoring relationships should never be taken lightly or taken for granted. In fact, many seasoned leaders stay in contact with their mentors for most of their careers. If a young leader isn’t assigned a mentor, they should seek one out and the mentor could be in a different division or even a different company. Just don’t pass up this extraordinary opportunity. Mentors not only share their knowledge and institutional wisdom, but also can help make connections for a young leader.