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Like a boss! Or, how to handle being a leader


The move into a leadership role can be a harrowing experience for anyone. Especially if you find your self in a role that puts you constantly interfacing with the boss (or bosses), subordinates, and customers.

It is easy to feel like you are being pulled in a million different directions in a new management role, so I thought I’d share with you the most awesome advice I’ve got on the subject.

The Challenges

The move to a new role is a challenge for anyone, including your team, and there is often the temptation to continue doing the work you used to do as well as take on the new role. As much as you feel you want to follow what your boss is expecting from you it is your skill in managing yourself, as well as both up and down here that will set you free.

I feel the best place to start is to first consider our own part in any challenge we face. Often we think we have ‘reasons’ why we can’t manage our load when in fact they’re simply excuses dressed up. The real challenge is to determine the difference between your emotions or something that is simply a new process to get embedded within.

1. Is there emotion involved?

A simple way to tell the difference is to firstly be aware if there is an emotion behind your thinking. Are you feeling that you deserve the promotion? Do you feel capable and competent? Do you feel overwhelmed by the role? Tapping back into that emotion and asking yourself where that could have come from and be objective about the actions as if the emotion was not a factor to drive you. Ask yourself ‘If the emotion wasn’t there what would I do?

2. Is it closest to ‘the money?’

Excuse the expression, it simply says to me what is going to get you closest to the result you need right now. Sometimes it is urgent and sometimes it is important. Helping know where you need to go in the bigger picture helps you prioritise even when others make an awful lot of noise.

3. Are there beliefs in the way?

A hint that a belief is involved is when the words ‘have to’, ‘always’, ‘can’t’, ‘wont’, ‘must’, ‘never’ and other definitive descriptors. Defining others or situations as if they are a certain way is another clue. The way we see the world is in reality only the way we have experienced it and not a fact.

We’re getting into esoteric territory here, I know, but the question is whether what we believe is influencing us is working well for us or limiting us. I can have a belief that ‘hard work pays off’ however that’s not actually true in reality, it’s just enough of my experience to allow me to make the generalisation that this is so.

The situation for someone else is that life is easy and they do not have to work hard to achieve. If the belief that hard work pays off actually pays off for me then it is a healthy belief to keep. If it doesn’t a nd I just end up working harder and harder with no return for it at the cost of other important factors in my life then it is unresourceful and time to let that go.

So, ask yourself where you came to believe that the ‘reason’ at play became real. For many of us it is engrained beliefs handed down to us by our parents and we have never actually re-qualified them for ourselves.

4. Are we overwhelmed?

Overwhelm can be a procrastination strategy in itself for some however sometimes we just need to step back, take stock of what has to be done and clear the way to get the tasks done.

I call it ‘re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic’ because essentially it is not useful to the final outcome however sometimes it helps us clear the emotional path to something else. Basic productivity, technology review and other time management tasks are worthwhile doing here to see you and the team are being the most efficient you can be. Ask your staff for input here.

5. What are your strategies?

Strategies are actions that we take in certain circumstances on a recurring basis. In fact a lot of people with depression get depressed because of their choices in actions that create a strategy of depression. They do one thing that leads to another, that leads to another, that finally leads to feeling depressed.

Look closely at what you do before you decide to become overwhelmed – is it to pile up the work in a messy pile on your desk? If so, then do something else. Is it to do something unimportant first just because it is urgent or do we leave our office door open?

Does your staff bring a problem to you and rather than asking them for solutions do you feel you need to solve it for them? Do you take over the project yourself to solve the problem rather than coaching your staff how to get to the standard you want? If so, then do something else in that moment. It can be a very simple step.

6. Is it on brand for you?

We all have a brand as individuals. Is it aligned with our values and guiding principles that steer you in the right direction? Stepping back and taking check of where our brand sits in relation to the tasks at hand helps us determine if the hesitation is warranted or not. If the staff are not performing to brand then perhaps they need to have clarity on brand standards.

7. Staff capacity could be the obvious place to start.

There may be a genuine need for additional staff or retraining or culling staff that are not performing. Good old fashioned time sheets are going to be your best indicator of how people are spending their time. One simple strategy that I have often used is to sit in the same office as junior staff to help train them up more quickly and to supervise their work more attentively. This means you catch problems earlier; before they are actioned.

8. See the boss as needed

By coming to your boss with the data and facts around the workload you can make recommendations for change. You can prepare a case to redistribute the tasks, you can propose a training schedule (whether that is internal or external), and identify staff who need a performance improvement plan.

Realistically you can only ever manage your team with the authority that your boss gives you and work within the boundaries in place that you can negotiate.

If you can rule out your own issues in the first place then you will know that you are doing the best you can. If, at the end of the day, you can’t get the structure and support you need, you can escalate the issue through HR or quietly decide to move on when the time is right.

Anne Miles is Executive Producer/Buyer of International Creative Services and manages and mediates the creative and production process for the marketing and advertising industry.