The Trouble With Saying 'I Got This'
Designated successors generally have a vision of what one day being "the leader" is; I will do this better, this differently, and these changes will be made immediately. As one works toward this role of leader or owner, one key component to understand is the practice of humility. In addition, and probably most important but hardest to understand, is the idea of patience. As you take the stage, natural inclination may be to get overly excited with the mantra "I got this" and work full steam ahead towards your agenda and showing everyone how capable and competent you are.
A hiking analogy comes to mind. When tackling a big hill, I look ahead and find the highest peak; mentally take note of it and then put my head down and go for the top. I push my body through any sort of pain or exhaustion. Very rarely, will I peek up to see how far I have gone, only for a quick second, and then back to pushing forward. When I have reached the summit, I eventually look back, but realize I missed so much scenery along the way because I had my head down proving to myself and those around me "I got this." In addition, I sometimes see a much simpler path that I had not realized could have shortened the hike. In both cases, my head down blinded me from the journey.
Taking over leadership or ownership of a multi-unit franchisee business can be very similar to tackling the mountain. You may have been training for this for many years, waiting in the wings to take on the challenge. You feel you have what it takes. Perhaps you have concerns about your own ability to succeed because who really knows what the future holds - can you manage all the responsibilities on your shoulders? The business, employees, your family, your personal life. As a result, competitive drive sets in and you revert back to focusing on the finish line with your head down. But with your head down, you may be missing the relationships with managers and experiences vital to making you the most capable and affective successor you can be.
Instead of blindly pushing forward, keep your head up and take note of the scenery. Once you have accomplished your goal of assuming leadership, take a minute and assess your surroundings before you charge forward to impact change. You may now be leading the same managers or employees who were your peers and will need to rely on the relationships you have built with them. You also may run into problems that you have previously experienced and can use what you have learned to navigate through them. Avoid reverting back to your potential first inclination to say - "I got this"; I already know how to do it and what I need to know. Just like a light switch, once you have taken "the throne" everything changes. So first, humbly observe, ask questions, see people in action and how they are interacting with you and others from the "ownership" seat before rushing into change.
Practically, ask questions to gain understanding versus accusation. Seek to understand the dynamics of situations and how the organization's managers and teams are impacted by each other. As you interact with your leadership team - many of them the peers you have been working alongside - restrain from jumping to conclusions and use this simple but often forgotten saying - "think before you speak." Tone and choice of words can drastically change the perception of the intended message - for example:
Why don’t we do X? – sounds accusational
Can you share with me the thought process behind the proposed strategy and the impact it could have? – sounds collaborative and seeking to find understanding
- Build your own leadership team and bench strength
- Key managers of existing/previous ownership will more than likely be loyal to their leader. They may like and respect you, but to them you will always be compared to what was done.
- Build strong mentoring relationships with existing leadership; they provide invaluable experience and expertise and begin to recruit your own leadership bench based upon skills/expertise needed to compliment your leadership style and strengths.
- Make hard but right decisions
- o Leadership sometimes means you aren’t “liked” by everyone. It is impossible to lead from a perspective of wanting to be everyone’s friend, especially now that you are the ultimate decision maker and provide leadership to managers and employees who used to be your peers.
- o Leading the business in the direction of the strategic plan means you may have to make decisions that aren’t popular with your peers but are right for the business.
- Delegate and trust
- o Because you have studied and trained for the leadership role, you legitimately may have the skill set and ability to manage and drive all departments; however, as a leader you won’t be as effective as you can be if you have to do everything yourself.
- o Question and verify until you can trust. But once, that trust has been developed, empower management and leaders around you to get the job done. Trust the expertise, skill set and experience of your team, while providing them strategic leadership.
- Find a third party mentor
- Ownership and leadership can be lonely and confusing; especially when you are working through a diversity of different opinions and options to get the job done
- Gain an independent perspective to be able to bounce ideas off, implement the change needed for growth, and problem solve at higher levels. Look to third party perspectives to ensure you are staying cutting edge and flexible enough for economic and cultural changes that impact growth.
Every successor should remember that a successful ownership mentality amongst your people is bred from empowerment and trust. Building a talented team that you can trust will be essential to fulfilling your leadership capital. Instilling in them the feeling that the business could not run without them, fuels good people to do great things. Recognize that if you have people who care about the business and show a strong work ethic they are doing everything in their power to make you and the business successful. With that mindset, work to interact with your people from a place of collaborative partnership versus the mentality of “I’m on the top – Ownership.”
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