Ep045: How to Be the Boss Everyone Wants to Work For with William Gentry

Being a new manager is hard. William Gentry and Halelly Azulay have both experienced it personally, and in this episode, they discuss the insights from that hard hands-on experience as well as lots of research from Bill’s work with new leaders and the data from his organization, The Center for Creative Leadership, as well as his new book, Be the Boss Everyone Wants to Work For. You’ll discover the areas you should focus your leadership development efforts to make the biggest impact on your ability to succeed in your role and be the boss everyone wants to work for. Learn specific tips for how to manage your former BFFs, how to get your former ‘promotion competitors’ to support you, the important types of conversations you need to be having with your new staff, pronto, and more. Check it out, subscribe, and share! What you’ll learn: What humbling failure changed the course of Bill’s career and helped him move from a would-be ‘dream job’ to a true ‘dream job’? What triple perspective does Bill bring to leadership development that uniquely positions him to add value? Staggering statistics about the poor state of new leader success… yikes! What does Bill mean by suggesting new leaders “flip their script”? And what does it have to do with the ‘break up line’, “it’s not about you, it’s me”? What are the six key areas you should flip your script in (based on research)? What are the four ‘make-or-break’ skills that Bill suggests everybody says are the essential skills for success, that new leaders should focus on? (Hint: they have nothing to do with knowledge and technical savvy) What makes leadership development stick, specifically for new leaders? What’s the “BFF to Boss” relationship flip and how does Bill suggest you handle this top challenge for all new leaders around leading former peers? What are the three things that the most effective leaders do, that CCL’s research shows and that they call D.A.C.? “You’re not meant to be a mind-reader. Ask!” Why does Halelly mention her blog and podcast about the 10 most important conversations? What are the types of conversations all new leaders need to have so that everybody is on the same page? What should you do when you learn that somebody else really wanted the promotion that you ended up getting? (Plus a caution about how long it might take to succeed) What is exciting at the end of each chapter that is Bill’s attempt to get around the terrible statistic of 60% of new leaders getting no training at all? What else is Bill developing to help you in ‘snackable bites’ to give you more opportunities to develop your leadership skills and really shine? What is one action Bill suggests you take to increase your leadership effectiveness based on a true story about “Jack”? It will be impactful when you follow this advice! Resources Bill’s site, book, CCL Williamgentryleads.com ccl.org @lead_better on Twitter Halelly’s 10 Convos Leader Member Exchange Theory His professor/mentor: Kuhnert Steve Nowicki About William Gentry, PhD 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 is also an adjunct assistant professor in the Psychology department at Guilford College and an associate member of the graduate faculty in the Organizational Sciences doctoral program at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. Bill has also taught in the Leadership Studies doctoral program at North Carolina A&T State University and in the Business School at Wake Forest University. In 2013, Bill was Elon University’s “Isabella Cannon Leadership Visiting Scholar” providing lectures and talks about leadership to classes and campus groups. Bill graduated summa cum laude from Emory University in 2000 and received his M.S. in 2002 and his Ph.D. in 2005 in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from the University of Georgia. Before joining to CCL, Bill was an organizational effectiveness specialist at United Parcel Service. In applying his research into practice, Bill’s current focus is on helping new leaders who are managing for the first time in their lives, particularly those on the frontlines in entry- and first-level positions in organizations. His research interests are in multisource (360) research, survey development and analysis, leadership and leadership development across cultures, leader character and integrity, mentoring, managerial derailment, multilevel measurement, and in the area of organizational politics and political skill in the workplace. He also studies nonverbal behavior and its application to effective leadership and communication, particularly in political debates. Bill has more than 70 academic presentations and has published more than 40 articles in such journals as the Journal of Applied Psychology, Journal of Organizational Behavior, Journal of Vocational Behavior, Personnel Psychology, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, The Leadership Quarterly, Journal of Leadership Studies, and the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology. He serves on the editorial review boards of the Journal of Business and Psychology, the Journal of Organizational Behavior and The Leadership Quarterly. Bill has been a contributor to businessweek.com on the nonverbal behaviors of candidates in the 2008 presidential and vice presidential debates and of President Obama’s inaugural address. In addition, his research in the areas of political skill and derailment in the workplace, leader character and integrity, and first-time managers have been featured in more than 50 internet and newspaper outlets including Chief Learning Officer, ChiefExecutive.Net, TrainingIndustry.Com, Forbes.com, Harvard Business Review, the Wall Street Journal online At Work, and CNN.com. Aside from his research, Bill also trains CCL’s Assessment Certification Workshop and Maximizing your Leadership Potential programs. In 2011, Bill was inducted into the inaugural class of the University of Georgia’s 40 under 40, as one of the top 40 graduates of the University of Georgia under the age of 40 to have made an impact in business, leadership, community, educational and/or philanthropic endeavors, demonstrating dedication to the University of Georgia and its mission of teaching, research and service; and representing the very best of UGA graduates. In 2016, Bill’s first book, Be the Boss Everyone Wants to Work For: A Guide for New Leaders, was published by Berrett-Koehler Publishers #BeTheBossBook

Being a new manager is hard. Both my guest, William (Bill) Gentry, and I have experienced it personally. In this episode, we discuss the insights from that hard hands-on experience as well as lots of research from Bill’s work with new leaders and the data from his organization, The Center for Creative Leadership, as well as his new book, Be the Boss Everyone Wants to Work For. There are a gazillion leadership skills you could develop, but Bill cuts through the noise to the six areas and four skills you should focus your leadership development efforts to make the biggest impact on your ability to succeed in your role and be the boss everyone wants to work for. Learn specific tips for how to manage your former BFFs, how to get your former ‘promotion competitors’ to support you, the important types of conversations you need to be having with your new staff, pronto, and more. Check it out, subscribe, and share!

What you’ll learn:

Listen to Stitcher
  • What humbling failure changed the course of Bill’s career and helped him move from a would-be ‘dream job’ to a true ‘dream job’?
  • What triple perspective does Bill bring to leadership development that uniquely positions him to add value?
  • Staggering statistics about the poor state of new leader success… yikes!
  • What does Bill mean by suggesting new leaders “flip their script”? And what does it have to do with the ‘break up line’, “it’s not about you, it’s me”?
  • What are the six key areas you should flip your script in (based on research)?
  • What are the four ‘make-or-break’ skills that Bill suggests everybody says are the essential skills for success, that new leaders should focus on? (Hint: they have nothing to do with knowledge and technical savvy)
  • What makes leadership development stick, specifically for new leaders?
  • What’s the “BFF to Boss” relationship flip and how does Bill suggest you handle this top challenge for all new leaders around leading former peers?
  • What are the three things that the most effective leaders do, that CCL’s research shows and that they call D.A.C.?
  • “You’re not meant to be a mind-reader. Ask!”
  • Why does Halelly mention her blog and podcast about the 10 most important conversations?
  • What are the types of conversations all new leaders need to have so that everybody is on the same page?
  • What should you do when you learn that somebody else really wanted the promotion that you ended up getting? (Plus a caution about how long it might take to succeed)
  • What is exciting at the end of each chapter that is Bill’s attempt to get around the terrible statistic of 60% of new leaders getting no training at all? What else is Bill developing to help you in ‘snackable bites’ to give you more opportunities to develop your leadership skills and really shine?
  • What is one action Bill suggests you take to increase your leadership effectiveness based on a true story about “Jack”? It will be impactful when you follow this advice!

LEAVE A COMMENT: What have been your experiences with being a new manager?  What are your reactions about this podcast episode? We’d love to know! Please leave a comment below.

Resources

About William Gentry, Ph.D.

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 is also an adjunct assistant professor in the Psychology department at Guilford College and an associate member of the graduate faculty in the Organizational Sciences doctoral program at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. Bill has also taught in the Leadership Studies doctoral program at North Carolina A&T State University and in the Business School at Wake Forest University. In 2013, Bill was Elon University’s “Isabella Cannon Leadership Visiting Scholar” providing lectures and talks about leadership to classes and campus groups. Bill graduated summa cum laude from Emory University in 2000 and received his M.S. in 2002 and his Ph.D. in 2005 in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from the University of Georgia. Before joining to CCL, Bill was an organizational effectiveness specialist at United Parcel Service.

In applying his research into practice, Bill’s current focus is on helping new leaders who are managing for the first time in their lives, particularly those on the frontlines in entry- and first-level positions in organizations. His research interests are in multisource (360) research, survey development and analysis, leadership and leadership development across cultures, leader character and integrity, mentoring, managerial derailment, multilevel measurement, and in the area of organizational politics and political skill in the workplace. He also studies nonverbal behavior and its application to effective leadership and communication, particularly in political debates. Bill has more than 70 academic presentations and has published more than 40 articles in such journals as the Journal of Applied Psychology, Journal of Organizational Behavior, Journal of Vocational Behavior, Personnel Psychology, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, The Leadership Quarterly, Journal of Leadership Studies, and the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology. He serves on the editorial review boards of the Journal of Business and Psychology, the Journal of Organizational Behavior and The Leadership Quarterly. Bill has been a contributor to businessweek.com on the nonverbal behaviors of candidates in the 2008 presidential and vice presidential debates and of President Obama’s inaugural address. In addition, his research in the areas of political skill and derailment in the workplace, leader character and integrity, and first-time managers have been featured in more than 50 internet and newspaper outlets including Chief Learning Officer, ChiefExecutive.Net, TrainingIndustry.Com, Forbes.com, Harvard Business Review, the Wall Street Journal online At Work, and CNN.com. Aside from his research, Bill also trains CCL’s Assessment Certification Workshop and Maximizing your Leadership Potential programs.

In 2011, Bill was inducted into the inaugural class of the University of Georgia’s 40 under 40, as one of the top 40 graduates of the University of Georgia under the age of 40 to have made an impact in business, leadership, community, educational and/or philanthropic endeavors, demonstrating dedication to the University of Georgia and its mission of teaching, research and service; and representing the very best of UGA graduates.

In 2016, Bill’s first book, Be the Boss Everyone Wants to Work For: A Guide for New Leaders, was published by Berrett-Koehler Publishers #BeTheBossBook

Transcript:

Announcer: Welcome to the TalentGrow Show, where you can get actionable results-oriented insight and advice on how to take your leadership, communication and people skills to the next level and become the kind of leader people want to follow. And now, your host and leadership development strategist, Halelly Azulay.

Halelly: Welcome back to the TalentGrow Show. This is Halelly Azulay, I’m your leadership development strategist and I’m excited for you to listen to this episode, which focuses all about how to make the transition into being a new leader. Now, whether you are currently a leader, a new leader or you are preparing yourself for the day when you get that promotion and you become a leader, or maybe this is something that’s already in your past and you didn’t really think about it when you became a new leader, but you know the struggle very well. I think this episode can help you no matter where you sit, in any of those piles, which I think probably covers everybody in this listening audience. My expert this episode is Dr. William Gentry who is a senior research scientist and director at the Center for Creative Leadership. This is one of the top places for leadership development in the world, and so he is one of the people who is there not only helping lead the way with research, but also in terms of training new leaders, and he also wrote a great new book that we discussed at length in this episode – Be the Boss Everyone Wants to Work For. As you know, I describe this podcast as a podcast for leaders who want to be the kind of leader people actually want to follow, so Bill – as he’s known – and I are completely aligned. You know, challenges like, “Okay, now you’re promoted. Now what do you do? How do you talk to people? What do you do with the people you used to be friends with who are on your team now and now they report to you?” The unique challenges of having to change your mindset and your skillset and your interactions with people, this is the kind of stuff that we’re covering in this episode and I know that it’s going to be super actionable and useful for you. So thank you for tuning in and here we go.

So excited to be back with you today on the TalentGrow Show. And my guest is Dr. William Gentry. He is the author of a new book called Be the Boss Everyone Wants to Work For, a guide for new leaders. He’s a senior research scientist and a director at the Center for Creative Leadership, a top-ranked global provider of executive education, that serves more than 20,000 individuals and 2,000 organizations across the public, private, nonprofit and education sectors, including more than 80 of the Fortune 100 companies. Bill, welcome to the TalentGrow Show.

William: This is great. I really appreciate you having me on here and talking about my passion, which is about helping new leaders.

Halelly: Yes, and we share that passion, so I’m really excited to talk with you and get some nuggets of wisdom from your perspective and your experience. Before we get into the meat of our conversation, I would love to have you just briefly describe your professional journey. Where did you get started, where have you been until today?

William: I went to college at Emory University down in Atlanta, Georgia, and then found my way into industrial organizational psychology. Didn’t even know what that was until my senior year and there was this great program at the University of Georgia and there was a major emphasis, one of the professors there Carl Kuner who, mentor of mine, friend of mine, he studies leadership. So I’ve always been interested in leadership and I went there for my graduate school years and it was funny. The final year of my graduate school, I was in an organization as an intern that I thought, “This would be like a dream job.” I thought this would be wonderful. Unfortunately it didn’t pan out that I could stay there after my internship. In fact – and I write about it in the book and the people who know me – I actually failed the, I guess kind of like the supervisor’s test. Like you have to pass certain amounts of tests or like an assessment center to be a supervisor there, and I failed it. Which is very humbling to me, and anybody else who would be in that position too.

As one door closes, another one opens, and right around that time there was what they called a post doc here at the Center for Creative Leadership, and I was able to get that position and about a year and a half into the two-year stint, they had a research position open and I applied for it and I got it. And I haven’t looked back. I’ve been here and what I thought was my dream job before, at that organization, doesn’t even compare to the dream job that I have and have had for I guess 11 and a half years now. I started here in 2005. It’s been a wonderful journey and as you talked about before, not only am I a researcher here, I’m also a director of a team called Leadership Insights and Analytics, where we use our data to help people understand how they can better serve their leaders. I also train a couple of programs here as well, particularly ones for new leaders and those individual contributors who get promoted into leadership and those entry-level supervisors and managers out there.

Halelly: Wow. Great. I love that you bring sort of that triple perspective. You are immersed in the research and the science of it, and you also talk to a lot of new leaders in the course of your work, and then you said you lead a team. I know you yourself are also an organizational leader, manager, supervisor, so it’s that combined perspective that help you really understand the challenges that are involved with being a new leader.

William: I’ve really tied to concentrate my research on this new leader population since about 2010 I think? So it’s been a few years and I’ve started training them and doing the research is great. Being able to turn that research into practical, actionable content for leaders in the classroom, talking about this is what you can do and you can do it is great, but right around the time I signed the contract to start writing this book, I became a new leader myself and what I found out in my research and what I talk about in front of the class is totally different, sometimes, than actually living it and breathing it. And it is so difficult and as I say it, it’s the most difficult transition in many leader’s careers to go from that superstar individual contributor, that rock star who gets everything done, and is really good at it, and now they have to be a leader which is totally different. Many of us struggle and I struggle and I detail in the book times that I’ve struggled and I still struggle at certain things. So I really wanted something like this book to help people understand that they’re not alone. That there are people out there just like them that are doing great, but there are some things that they also fall short in, especially with leadership, and here are some things you can do to improve, because everybody can do this.

Halelly: Yeah, and I experienced the same thing when I became the manager of the training department where I was working, and boy, that just launches you into a whole slew of...[laughter]. It’s really hard, I agree with you. It’s humbling and it really helps you understand the plight of the people you’re trying to help. In your book, you say that new leaders get a raw deal or maybe no deal at all, and you quote some pretty staggering statistics, like that 82 percent of frontline leaders are not rated as excellent in skills and capabilities as leaders. I’m reading from your book here. 80 percent of frontline leaders are dissatisfied with the job they’re doing as leaders, and 70 percent of their senior managers agree. 40 percent of newly promoted leaders fail within the first 18 months and 50 percent of managers are labeled as incompetent, a disappointment, a wrong hire or a complete failure by their coworkers. Oh my God, right? That is just so scary.

So, thank you for doing the work that you’re doing to help these people out, and I know that your book is going to be an excellent guide, and I hope that everyone gets it. We’re going to link to it in the show notes, but we’re going to try and get some juicy nuggets within this 30-minute podcast to help people get started. One of the things that you suggest that people do, right away as a new leader, is to flip their script. Can you give us an overview of what you mean by that?

William: Yes. That’s kind of the red thread that runs throughout all the research and the stuff I talk about in the book. You remember in your individual contributor days as well, probably before you got promoted in the first leadership position you did in your training department, I had the same sort of thing too as a researcher. As individual contributors, we have, I call it a script. Just like a script in a TV show, a movie, a play, whatever – it kind of tells us what we’re supposed to be doing and it kind of describes how we’re supposed to act at work and for many of us individual contributors who were rock star, golden child type people who get the job done, that script is really, I tell people, it’s like that old breakup line, “It’s not you, it’s me.” And when you think about that old breakup like, “It’s not you, it’s me,” the spotlight and the focus is on me. As workers, as employees, as individual contributors in organizations, that’s the same sort of script that we have. It’s not about you, it’s about me. It’s about my success. Everything about me – my talents, my technical skill, my knowledge, my go-get-em attitude, my motivation, me being able to come in early and stay in late and over deliver on everything. That makes me successful and it’s worked for us even since we were kids. It helped us get great grades, helped us get into school, helps us get our first job, helps us get raises and bonuses and promotions and all those things. There’s nothing wrong with that script. Not at all. And that’s the script that gets us promoted into leadership. If I’m really good at my job as an individual contributor, that’s how we pick leaders. And in that leadership role, if you stick with that script, you are probably on the likely path to derailment. Meaning you had all the talents to be this great leader, but your career will derail. It will plateau. You’ll get demoted, get fired early, because you haven’t flipped your script.

When I tell people, when they step up in this new leadership position, that “It’s not you, it’s me,” script that got you there won’t work. You have to flip your script. And you flip your script in terms of it’s not about me anymore. It’s focusing less on me and focusing more on others. It’s flipping your script from me to we, and that we can be how I interact with each of my direct reports, how I interact with our team, how our team interacts with the organization. It’s a totally different thing that you have to think about, but if you’re able to flip your script – and through the research I named six key areas for leaders to flip their script in – you’re going to be much better off.

Halelly: And in your book you describe each of those in much greater detail, with tons of stories and examples and templates and all of that, so I hope people will check that out. What are those six right now?

William: Your mindset, your skillset, your relationships, your do-it-all attitude, your perspective and your focus. Again, it’s all research-based. The foundation for the book is based on almost 300 new leaders that I was able to research and it looks at what are their skill gaps? What are their challenges? What are some things that I’ve done in my research, and the field has done in leadership research, to help leaders be better?

Halelly: Excellent. One of those six that I wanted to focus on here is the skillset one. And you say that to flip the skillsets, there are actually four important skills. I love that you acknowledge that if you look up leadership literature – and this is one of the challenges I have in my work developing leaders – you can enumerate skills that leaders need and never end. They’ll never, ever end the list. It’s actually very overwhelming, so I love that you reduce it to four key ones. I know that comes out of the research that are the make or break skills. Which ones and why?

William: Just like you said, tons of them are out there. What I wanted to do was to see which skill does everybody – and by everybody, I mean not just these almost 300 new leaders – but what do their bosses say? What do their peers say? What do their own direct reports say? These are the essential skills you need to be successful in our organization. And, at the same time, are they even good or bad at those skills? So for me, if something is important, but a lot of people are very good at it, why are we focusing attention on that? What you need to be focusing on is the skills that you need to be successful where you are lacking. That’s the skill gap that you can really focus on. Those skills have nothing to do with knowledge or technical savvy, and that’s part of flipping your skillset. Again, what got you into this leadership position is knowledge, technical savvy, knowing all the bits and pieces. For me, for instance, it’s being a researcher, doing all the research.

As a leader, there are four skills that stand out that all these leaders need to do to be successful. Everybody says you need to do them, and particularly if I look across all these leaders, they were pretty lacking or ineffective in these four. Two of them I talk about specifically in the skillset chapter, and that’s communication and influence. A third is leading teams, which I talk about in flipping your relationships and a fourth is coaching and developing others, which I talk about in the flipping your do-it-all attitude.

Halelly: Great. It makes it more manageable – even though those are not easy, actually.

William: They’re definitely not easy. And from what we’ve found in our research at CCL as well, one of my colleagues Cindy McCauley who is just renowned in terms of leadership research and in the field, for leadership development to stick, for anything you learn about leadership development, it has to be really tied to what your challenges are and it has to be tied to the exact skill gaps that you are facing. These skill gaps, they might be for middle level managers or senior level executives. We haven’t really found that. This is specifically for new leaders, and that’s what, for it to stick for these new leaders, that’s exactly what they’re going through. So it really speaks to the fact that as you said, there are dozens and dozens and dozens of different things to think about, but where are new leaders really lacking? Focus on these four.

Halelly: Cool. And one of the challenges I know that you also describe in your book is this whole new challenge that a lot of leaders have when they need to flip their relationships and how they’re actually now leading people who used to be their coworkers. Some of them maybe were friends, so that’s very awkward. And some of them, maybe you just sort of dealt with them because you had to but you didn’t really like them and now you’re responsible for their performance too. Those are two very different challenges, but overall, you call it the BFF to boss relationship flip. And I know that you shared an interesting story in the book. I’d love for you to share it here for our listeners because I think stories are always a great way to learn new lessons that apply to everyone.

William: What I found in the research was one of the top challenges these new leaders had, before they came to the programs here at CCL, they had to fill out all sorts of assessments. That’s where I got those skillsets from their 360s. We also asked them, “What are your top challenges that you’re facing right now as a leader? What are your top three, actually?” And almost 60 percent of these new leaders said that displaying authority and going from being a peer to now being a boss, that was one of my major challenges I’m facing right now. Almost 60 percent. So it is something that is inevitable. As you said, some of these people, you've worked alongside with them as peers. Some of them you might have even had a barbecue with them that weekend, your kids play soccer, all those things. Now you have to manage them. And it’s something I had to go through as well and it’s thinking about, as I talked about in the book, I was working alongside with them the week before and then they started kind of pointing the finger, as soon as they found out I’m a leader and I want to try to set the vision and say what our group is about. They started pointing the finger at me going, “You don’t know what we’re going through,” and I went, “Yes, I do know. I was with you, alongside you, just a few days ago!” But when you make that shift from being part of the team to now leading a team, all eyes are on you all the time. And it’s a different sort of thing.

For me, one of my most difficult things was how am I able to display my authority and not say, “Hey, do this, I’m the boss.” That kind of authority or power, I’m not talking about that. What I’m talking about is how am I able to do things that leaders do effectively? One of the key pieces of research we’ve done here at CCL is anytime you’ve had an effective leader, three things happen. Those leaders have provided, we call it our DAC model and I talk about it in the book as well. They’ve provided direction, which is the D, A is alignment and C is commitment. So for me, I really, really tried really hard, and as I said, I’m going through this and it’s tough for me. Even though I know all about the research it’s like how do you actually implement this stuff? In terms of direction, it’s, “Here’s my vision. Here’s where I want the team to go,” but actually getting their buy-in as well, and helping and having them be participative in coming up with that direction, so that everybody has bought into that direction, so that everybody knows where we’re going. That’s the direction part.

The A part is alignment, and that’s really about role clarity. It’s about, “Here is your job and here’s what I need you to do. Here are your responsibilities. Here are your roles, and here is everybody else’s roles and responsibilities,” so that everybody knows what’s going on and they know what everybody else’s role is. And the C is commitment – how can I get people motivated everyday, stay motivated everyday? And one of the things I’ve done to do that is what I encourage all new leaders to do. Be proactive. Do it right at the beginning, as soon as you’re promoted into leadership, have these one-on-one meetings and ask each of your direct reports, “Hey, where would you like to see our group going?” So that they can get bought into the direction. Tell them exactly what you think their role is and how important their role is to fulfill the mission of the organization, to fulfill the goals that we have. Get them bought in to see how, exactly, their role is important. And then C, commitment, you know, a lot of people when I talk to them, they said, “How do I know what motivates people?” There’s a couple things. One, you can kind of look and see when they’re actually kind of in the zone, in the flow, when they’re loving life – the type of work they’re in probably clues you in on the motivation they have and what they like to do. But if you don’t know, don’t be afraid to ask. That’s one of the things I really want leaders to understand. You’re not meant to be a mind reader. So ask. If you don’t have an answer to how are you showing commitment and what makes you motivated? What makes you come to work everyday? What do you like about your job or don’t like about your job? Ask. Such a simple thing, but it’s something that we leaders need to do more often.

Halelly: Totally. I have written and actually done a podcast and a vlog about this, the 10 important conversations every leader should have with every person, and this is one of those 10. A lot of people just take it for granted. And I want to focus a little bit further into this whole challenge, because I know that it’s one that I hear about a lot. “Okay, I just went to a barbecue at this person’s house, like you said, and now Monday morning I’ve just been promoted. Now those people suddenly see me as not trustworthy, maybe, or they’re suspicious of my intentions.” Everybody sort of is unsure how to act. So let’s take the example of the person that you were very friendly with. Should you change how you behave with them? What should a person do?

William: I have yet to find anything in any organization in their HR rules to say that once you become a boss you can no longer be that person’s friend. I haven’t seen that. Now, there are other things that you probably can or can’t do in that supervisory position, but I’m just talking about still being friends. You were friends before. We’re at work 40, 50, 60, 70 hours a week. We’re bound to make friends. And for some of us, we’re going to be promoted into leadership. So for those people who are our friends – for me for instance – I had to have that conversation up front with that person really early on. Again, as leader, we can’t be reactive. We have to be proactive. We have to be the ones courageous enough to start out the day and say, “Hey, these are some things that I had to do.” It’s going to be a difficult conversation, but hopefully it’s going to be one that’s going to pay off in the end. So for me, I’ve had to go to several people that I’ve been friends with before and say, “I’m now leading this team. I know we’re friends. I know we have a history. However, in this leadership role that I have, I may have to treat you differently as a direct report/reporting relationship as a did before in a peer-to-peer friend relationship.” And if your friend is open enough to understand that, it’s going to be … it will hopefully turn out well in the end.

Here’s the thing too. If you don’t have that conversation, and people see you as maybe playing favorites, if you give your friend who you used to be peers, used to be friends – maybe you still are – and you give that person a higher raise, you give that person more of a spotlight on things, you give that person more projects, you might be seen as playing favorites. And when you play favorites, that’s when things kind of derail in your career. So being very open and having that proactive conversation first to say, “Hey, this is how this reporting relationship has to be. What are your thoughts?” Get their buy in. And then also, go to people who you might not have as strong a relationship with. Maybe again you were peers, but you didn’t really know them. Have that conversation too, and again, ask those same questions. “What do you like about your job? What do you not like about your job? What motivates you? What sort of leader are you really looking for, for this team to help us move forward?” Those are the types of conversations that all new leaders need to have so that everybody is on the same page.

Halelly: Did anything come up in your research about what to do when it’s maybe a couple of other people were hoping to get that promotion and now they didn’t and you did? Or do you have any suggestions of how you can handle those relationships?

William: That’s tough. I’ve had that sort of feeling as well, and it’s a very difficult subject to talk about, because it’s just a bad feeling to have sometimes, that maybe you took a job that somebody else really wanted. However, those people can either make or break you with your team. So, again, having that proactive conversation, I probably would not recommend saying, “Hey, I heard you wanted this job. I got it.” But just talking about, “As the leader of this team, I have sort of a vision of where I want the team to go, but I know that you’ve been here a while, people respect you. What are some thoughts that you have?” Getting their buy in, getting their thoughts and actually implementing them, that can get you on your side so that the whole team wins. Because the last thing you want to do is ostracize anybody. As I talk about in the book, there’s kind of our in groups and our out groups, and as leaders, based on leader member exchange theory which has been around for decades in the leadership research and theory, you need to get as many people in your out group in as possible. And we’re humans, so we all have people who are in our in groups that we treat differently than people in our out groups. But as leaders, it’s different. We need to try to get people in our out groups and bring them in as much as possible. By having those conversations up front – again, it’s not directly just saying, “I want to have a conversation between you and me to see why you didn’t get the job and all that sort of stuff.” I wouldn’t talk at it from that perspective. But really trying to understand that person’s perspective about what his or her strengths are, weaknesses are, what they’d like to do to improve, and how you can use what they have thought in terms of where the team is going, in terms of commitment and all those things, to bring them in. It’s really about bringing those people in.

Halelly: One of the things that I talk to folks about who are in this kind of a challenge, is that you need to also be prepared that it might not be resolved fully with that one conversation. Because if that one person is not sure about your motives or is distrustful, or maybe even resentful or disappointed, it might take a while and it might take multiple proactive attempts on your behalf until they start either believing you or being able to hear it or just sort of baby steps beginning to trust you enough to give you information or to go along with you. So don’t give up if after doing what you just described as a suggestion it doesn’t magically transform them.

William: I totally agree, and trust, like Rome, isn’t built in a day. You’ve got to do things over and over and over again to help build that trust for that person to say, “Hey, that person really is in it for me, not for himself or herself,” or, “Hey, that person really does care about what I am trying to do.” So as leaders, we need to build that reputation and it’s going to take time and it’s going to take many conversations and many actions. One of the things I talk about in the book too, one of my mentors from Emory University, his name is Steve Nowicki, he said, “There’s a cycle in relationships. There’s choice, beginning, deepening and ending.” And when you’re peer-to-peer and you get promoted into that leadership position, that relationship as you knew it has ended, and you need to be prepared to have that relationship. It might be different. It could be for the better, but it could be for the worse. So that relationship might end, period. You need to be prepared for whatever is going to happen, both with your friends and your frenemies as well.

Halelly: Great advice. Thank you so much Bill, and I really enjoy talking with you and I always get disappointed that time is almost running out. So before you give us how to get in touch with you and once specific action, what’s new and exciting on your horizon these days?

William: One of the things I love about this book is at the end of each of these six flips – mindset, skill set, relationships, do-it-all attitude, perspective and focus – because new leaders, many times as I said in the book, almost 60 percent of us get no training or development at all. And those that do get way less than senior level executives who have much more years experience being a leader. So at the end of the chapter, there’s what I call a coach’s corner where it asks two questions for you to kind of dig deeper into what you learned, to really try and implement it and understand it, and then two key actions for you to do. Like in the next 90 days, make sure you do this. In the next team meeting, make sure you do this. So to really put what you learned into action, and so to kind of continue on that, one of the things I’m really wanting to do over the next year or two is to come up with new products or new ways for people who don’t get the attention, the development dollars, these new leaders, these people on the front lines. What can I do in a very snackable – the whole thing is like snackable, bite-sized, in five, 10, 20 minute type things – whether it’s a course or a podcast like this, a just-in-time online tool kit, anything like that.

That’s what I’m wanting to do is to turn this book content and broaden in out to all sorts of different ways that leaders can digest it, put it into their leadership careers and really shine forth. Because like I said, we don’t get enough time and attention. We don’t get enough development dollars, and we really do deserve it. Because we’re the biggest population of leaders out there and we’re the future of any sort of success any sort of organization has in their leadership pipeline. So trying to turn this into other ways for leaders to get at it in the palm of their hands, in a very cheap, effective, high-quality way, that’s what I’m going to be doing for the next couple of years.

Halelly: That sounds like an awesome idea. Cool. I can’t wait to hear more about what you’ve created. That sounds very, very useful and super needed. Before we wrap up, I always want to leave our listeners with something really actionable that they can do, right away, this afternoon, today, this week, that can start to ratchet up their skills to the next level. What would you suggest?

William: I end the book with a story about Jack, and Jack is a good friend of mine here. His real name is Jack, so I didn’t make his name up! What he said to me was something that really hit home to me. He didn’t just say it to me, he said it to everybody here at work. Every year, right around this time – this December time, year end, we have these anniversaries that come to fruition and we have kind of a party to celebrate those milestone anniversaries that happen throughout that previous year. So last year, I had my 10 year anniversary, so I got to shake the president’s hand and they said something really small about me. But Jack, he’s been at CCL for 30 years, so if you’ve been here that long, you get to make a speech, in front of everybody. So Jack made a speech and in his speech, it really hit home to me – and that’s why I end the book with it and this is what I want to try and encourage all leaders to do. In the speech, Jack said – he works in our distribution center – so if for instance you order the book, he’s the one that pulls the book off the shelf, puts in in a box and ships it off. If you order anything from CCL, he pulls whatever is needed and puts it and packages it up. If we have a program in Mobile, Alabama, he will get all the materials ready, package it up to make sure the program materials are sent to the program.

So he said, “I will never be able to write a book or stand in front of a classroom and train a program. But if I don’t do my job, I’m not helping the leaders out there who need our help.” So as leaders, what we need to do is to figure out what exactly do our direct reports on our team, what do they do to know that they make an impact? What I leave new leaders with is make sure you tell everybody that you work with how much of an impact they have on your team, on your organization, the impact they have in the world. Have them know that if they don’t do their job, something is missing, and if they don’t do their job, people are not going to be better at X, Y or Z. Whatever you’re making. So as new leaders, what I want them to do for the next week or so is to figure out what is it that each of their direct reports do that makes them indispensible? That makes them special? That makes them know that they make an impact in the world, and have that conversation. Tell them the reason why we’re so successful is because of what you do, and do you actually see the impact you’re making beyond our walls? Do you see what you do actually impacts others, our team, our society outside of our walls? If you’re able to do that, you’re going to be a really great leader and people are going to look at you like, “Wow, that is the boss I want to work for.” That’s what I want to leave everybody with. Have that conversation with each of the people who report to you and ask them, “How do you see yourself making an impact on the world for the better?” And really have that open conversation.

Halelly: All right. Well, Bill, thank you so much for spending time with us on the TalentGrow Show. We appreciate you. How can people get in touch with you, learn more from you or about you? What would you suggest they do?

William: My website is WilliamGentryleads.com. My friends call me Bill but my full name is William, so WilliamGentryleads.com. I work for the Center for Creative Leadership, so CCL.org. On Twitter you can find me @lead_better.

Halelly: Okay, excellent. Well, thank you for sharing your insights. I know everyone will be a better leader as a result and you are making the world better. So Dr. Gentry, I do appreciate you. Thank you.

William: Thank you, and good luck to everybody out there.

Halelly: All right, well you know that if you take action, then you can see results. And if you just go on and do everything the way that you used to, you will not. So make sure you take action based on Dr. Gentry’s suggestion, and doesn’t it always seem to come down to conversations? I think there is a theme here.

Happy New Year, by the way. This is the first episode of 2017 and I hope that all of us will experience health, happiness and fulfillment in the New Year and beyond. I do have a weekly newsletter and I send out to people who ask to join, and I hope that you’re already on that list. But if not, if you grab that free tool that I have on my website for listeners of the podcast called “The 10 mistakes that leaders make and how to avoid them,” automatically that’ll place you on the list and you’ll get those tips and link to my latest blog, link to the latest podcast and other helpful information. It’s super fun and short to read, and I hope that it’s useful. So please get on that list so we can stay in touch very regularly. I appreciate you listening. Thank you so much for tuning in. Don’t forget to send me feedback about how I can make this podcast even better for you, and until the next time, make today great.

Announcer: Thanks for listening to the TalentGrow Show, where we help you develop your talent to become the kind of leader that people want to follow. For more information, visit TalentGrow.com.


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