Friday, October 30, 2015

3 Scary-Easy Tips to Present Yourself as a Serious Leader

Halloween is right around the corner and while developing the theme for my next Connect2 blog post I thought, “what is the scariest thing that could happen to me professionally?” Losing my job is of course at the top of my list, but a close second is not being taken seriously. The thought of it makes my skin crawl! I know I work hard and put a lot of thought into (most) everything I do, so how could someone not see that I am a valuable resource to my team? Chills my bones.

In reality, I can probably count on one hand the number of times someone has made me feel underappreciated or insignificant to a team. I am lucky to work for a firm that always finds value in its employees. We also promote professional development with consistent constructive feedback to ensure our team members present themselves as confident PR leaders.

I’d like to share with you some of the constructive tips I was given in my career, as well as the most common feedback I give to young professionals. Following these tips will help ensure you present yourself as a mature team player from day one at your new job. Not following these tips could lead to some seriously scary consequences.

1. Unless zombies are chasing you, don’t use an exclamation point in that e-mail.  This form of punctuation was created to express excitement, surprise, astonishment or any other strong emotion. Are you strongly emotional about the fact that you attached an excel sheet to your e-mail? Are you surprised that you figured out how to attach it? If so, then feel free to type, “The excel sheet is attached!!!” But also realize we may have to talk about your qualifications for this job if you didn’t know how to do that yet.

I find that many college or grade school students (myself included) make this punctuation mistake because exclamation points are informally used to emphasize happiness, kindness, good moods, etc. In a professional environment, though, it emphasizes inexperience.

2    2. You might have to find your way out of the Haunted House alone. Many young professionals expect to learn a lot in their first few years starting a career. What many don’t expect is that they will often have to act as their own teacher.

Your superiors at work aren’t there to show you how to load the printer correctly or fix a faulty Outlook calendar. If something isn't going quite like you expected, not go to the CEO hoping she will tell you what to do next. Instead, problem solve. I bet some simple Googling would suggest what might be wrong and get you on your way to a solution. This may sound harsh, but I honestly don’t care that your Outlook calendar isn’t working. I just need you to send out that meeting invite.

The point is that there are many resources at your disposal to help you be self-sufficient. We want to see you use those tools and demonstrate you can think for yourself and think on your feet. Your superiors aren’t there to be your mama, your babysitter or your teacher. They are there to guide the best teams to deliver the best results for customers.When you gain independence, you'll also gain respect.

3    3. Blame the Werewolf, not the Moon. Learning to become accountable for your actions is one of the most crucial steps in demonstrating maturity and leadership. This is a lesson that many people struggle with because it is natural for humans to deflect blame. However, having an excuse every time you underperform is childish and not a behavior you want to practice at work.

If you’re at fault, own your mistake and point it out! (Yes, I got excited there so an exclamation mark is appropriate.) I have much more respect for team members that can point out what went wrong and how to avoid it in the future. That second element is key: when something goes wrong, demonstrate you understand the mistake, why it is an issue and what changes you can make moving forward.

As you move into a role where you are managing others, the ability to own your mistakes is critical in leading your teams. You will be responsible for their work, so you will be held accountable when something goes wrong. I doubt blaming Intern Jane for missing the team’s presentation deadline will go over well the next time you need Jane’s help on a project.

While leadership isn’t a scary concept, getting there can sometimes be intimidating. Luckily, there are many professionals out there willing to offer their insight on how to best navigate the road to success -- I know some good resources right here on the Connect2 blog (wink wink)!

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