Early in my career I complained about not getting enough leadership experience because I wasn't getting promoted and managing a team. I had aspirations to make a difference, and felt frustrated that "no one was giving me chance" to show what I could do.
Sound familiar? It's a common complaint among overacheiving young professionals who are desperate to grow and learn and be the best.
Getting caught up in this mindset isn't effective.
It's limiting. Makes you believe that the only way to show off skills is to be promoted. That to be seen, you have to be heard too. That success is dependent on what others think and the opportunities they provide.
Teammates don't need to report to you in order to know you care, and you don't need the highest title in the room in order to make a difference. In your current role, no matter what it is, you can coach others. Mentor. Share your opinion and know that people are learning from you. Delegate work to help someone else develop.
If you have influence, you're a leader.
It's really that easy. Who listens to you? Follows your lead? Comes to you for advice? Those are people and situations where you can practice leadership skills and over time, get noticed as someone who has what it takes to grow to the next level.
But how? By showing up, getting dirty, sharing appreciation, and making others feel empowered to do more and be more. It sounds like this:
1. How can I help? Great leaders who don't actually lead teams are always offering support to others, even if it's grunt work, like filing papers or filling in a spreadsheet. People are more likely to view someone who rolls their up sleeves and gets dirty with them as a leader, instead of the one who says "that's not in my job description" and walks away. (We view those folks as jerks)
2. I am thankful for you and here's why. Feeling appreciated is a core value that every human on the planet has, even if they won't admit it. Great leaders tell others often that they are appreciated, but then take it a step further and explain why, so it's known exactly what they did that was valued. Yes, high fives and thank yous go a long way, but great leaders kick it up a notch. Just yesterday I told a colleague,"Thank you for always keeping me on track with the new tech process. You are so reliable! I am juggling a lot and knowing you have my back helps me stress less about missing new tickets that come through." It took three seconds.
3. Tell me more about that. Listening, instead of hearing-what-someone-is-saying-but-thinking-about-what-you-want-to-say-and-then-trying-to-wait-for-your-chance doesn't take you far (I know because it took me years to overcome this habit). It comes across as insensitive and egocentric if done enough, and can be a career staller if the right people take notice. Instead, start incoporating this phrase into conversations. Instead of giving your opinion or trying to problem solve, say "tell me more about that" and see what happens next. Bonus points if you can keep your mouth shut and not say anything at all.
Starting today, notice how others interact with and respond to you. Find opportunities for incorporating these phrases into your daily routine and over time, you'll notice a difference in not only your mindset, but in how much others trust in and rely on you. All along you'll be practicing your leadership skills, and what everyone will get in return is a new and improved teammate.
CLT Leads, LLC, a virtual leadership development company that transforms overachieving young professionals into confident, self-aware leaders and turns small business owners into talent development gurus. Check it out at www.cltleads.com.