Be The Boss Everyone Wants To Work For By Maureen Metcalf

This blog is a companion to an interview with Bill Gentry on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on January 17, 2017 discussing Be the Boss Everyone Wants to Work For, his recent book for new managers. This interview is one of the interviews conducted at the International Leadership Association Annual Conference.

Do you remember the first car you ever had? Go back and think about it. Was it a 2-door or 4-door? A hand-me-down or brand new? A small car? A truck? I bet you still remember the feel of the steering wheel and how your body sat in the driver’s seat. The pre-set radio stations. The stories behind the dents or scratches it might have had. Maybe even the smell it had. All the intricacies that made it your own. My first car was a 1990 Chevy Blazer, 2-door, red. My high school and college buddies would pile into it. I named it “The Major General” and I loved that car.

It’s funny how “firsts” make such an indelible, unforgettable, deep-rooted impression on our lives. And for many of these “firsts” there is usually some sort of course or training to introduce you to it and get you accustomed to it. With that first car you had, I’m sure your Mom or Dad or some other licensed adult taught you, or maybe you went to a driving school or took er’s education course.

Being a leader for the first time in your life can make that same indelible, unforgettable, deep-rooted impression on your life too. It can set the course for your entire career and build a foundation and reputation for the type of leader you will be. And like driving a car, everyone gets training and development for such an important “first” in their working career, right?

Well, no. According to a CareerBuilder survey, nearly 60% (1) of new managers reported having never received any training on how to be a leader when they got that promotion into leadership. And those who actually get some sort of training or development get way less – two-to-five-times less in development resources – than mid- to senior-level executives (2) who are much more seasoned with much more experience.

That might not be that big of a deal. But think about who these new leaders are. So many of them are managing at the entry-levels of leadership. They are your frontline managers, supervisors, and directors. They lead a majority of the workforce, directly manage more people than any other level of the organization, and have the biggest impact on crucial HR metrics like employee engagement, team productivity, and customer satisfaction. They are your key indicators of how strong your leadership bench is for the future. And the statistics show that at least 60 percent of organizations reported increased turnover, and one in four organizations reported a profit loss due to poor frontline leadership (3). If these new leaders are not set up for success from the beginning, organizations suffer, as well as the morale and even health of the workers who directly report to them.

And that’s why I have become so passionate about helping new leaders (and those who have been leaders for a while, but never got the time, attention, training and development they should have gotten in the first place). Be the Boss Everyone Wants to Work For: A Guide for New Leaders is a way to help people go from superstar individual contributors to rock star leaders.

The one key theme throughout the entire book that all leaders should know: “flip your script.” The “script” that made you successful as an individual contributor is all about “me, myself, and I” – my talents, my skills, my abilities, my technical savvy, my smarts, my motivation. All of that brought raises, bonuses, promotions, and there was nothing wrong with that script. It even got us promoted into leadership. But so often, new leaders fail to recognize that the “all about me” script does not work when we become leaders. You must “flip your script” and understand “It’s not about me anymore.”

Based on my research of nearly 300 new leaders, my time spent training new leaders, and being one myself, I detail in the book 6 ways for all new leaders to flip their script:
1. Flip Your Mindset. Successful new leaders have a different motivation for learning and development. It’s not about drawing attention to ourselves anymore. Now, it’s about learning because it’s fun, engaging, and intrinsically pleasing. Even the way successful new leaders talked to themselves – their “mindchatter” – was different.
2. Flip Your Skill Set. New leaders can no longer rely on the technical skills that made them great individual contributors. They must develop key skills like communication (particularly the ability to read, interpret, and display the right nonverbal communication) and influence.
3. Flip Your Relationships. Peers one day, direct reports the next. And new leaders aren’t just a member of the team anymore; they now lead the team.
4. Flip Your “Do-It-All” Attitude. Leaders can’t do all the work anymore. They must now define, think about, and conduct work differently by delegating, developing (i.e., coaching and mentoring) others, supporting others, creating goals, and providing feedback.
5. Flip Your Perspective. Leaders must look beyond their work and the team they lead, and now understand how it all fits within the organization. Become politically savvy, manage up and manage in a matrix organization.
6. Flip Your Focus. Realize the importance of integrity, character, trust, and doing the “right” thing.

Leadership isn’t easy. It’s frustrating, confusing, and at times thankless. But leaders can have such a huge impact on the engagement, health, and well-being of every individual they lead and serve, and the bottom lines of organizations. So let’s support new leaders to flip their scripts and be the boss everyone wants to work for.

About the Author
William A. (Bill) Gentry Ph.D. is currently the Director of Leadership Insights and Analytics, and a Senior Research Scientist at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL). He trains CCL’s Maximizing your Leadership Potential and Assessment Certification Workshop programs. In addition, Bill is an adjunct professor at several colleges and universities. His research interests are in multisource (360) research, first-time managers and new leaders, leader character and integrity, mentoring, derailment, organizational politics and political skill, communication, and empathy.

[1] CareerBuilder Survey, March 2011. Retrieved from: http://www.careerbuilder.com/share/aboutus/pressreleasesdetail.aspx?id=pr626&sd=3%2F28%2F2011&ed=12%2F31%2F2011
2 O’Leonard, K., & Loew, L. (2012, July). Leadership development factbook® 2012: Benchmarks and trends in U. S. leadership development. BERSIN & ASSOCIATES FACTBOOK REPORT.
3 Wellins, R. S., Selkovits, A., & McGrath, D. (2013). Be better than average: A study on the state of frontline leadership. Development Dimensions International

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