Acting like a winner will ensure you are

Company leaders often hire and promote people with whom they feel the most comfortable . Anyone wanting to get ahead should recognize this and act accordingly. In this blog, John M McKee provides several ideas about how to behave when you get a bigger role.

Coaching is all about moving ahead. Unlike therapy, which is very focused on "how did I get to this place?” coaching doesn't spend a lot of time on the why's. It's all about setting goals and attaining them.

I recalled this recently after a great discussion with one of my corporate clients.

Recently promoted he'd been experiencing difficulty moving from the last level to the next. After an excellent job of establishing a strong relationship with his team in his last role, he'd come to be highly regarded by them. Now, as the new boss of a larger department with several teams including his previous one, he was having difficulty with how he should behave:

- Should he change a style that has worked successfully so far or simply carry on

in the same way as he'd been doing?

- And what if the new style wasn't right for him?

My client wanted to be seen by his boss, his peers, and his former team members as someone who was effective, properly placed at his new level. He did not want to continue to be regarded as he'd been in his last role.

This is a common issue faced by the newly promoted. And in this case, he was also concerned appearing to be too full of himself. His coaching objectives were:

- to grow in this role, and succeed by all measurements

- to change some past perceptions about him

- to become an even better leader, capable of further advancement in the future

"I know what needs to be done, and I believe I'm capable of getting this department firing on all cylinders. But, to be honest, I wonder if people are looking at me like I'm a phony who doesn't really deserve to be a manager of a big department."

This fear is common: Many leaders tell me they are afraid of being "found out". They admit worrying if they really deserve to have their job or title. They admit that, often, they "really don't know" if they've got the right toolset to do the job as it needs to be done.

I recognize that my client faced an issue that some readers may have to deal with also. Here's a coaching anecdote I shared with him. It's about a very successful senior exec I've worked with:

We'll call him Rob (because that's his name). Rob has had an impressive track record with fast promotions over his career. He started in business directly out of college as a trainee and quickly moved into ever-expanding roles with better titles and compensation levels.

With each change of responsibility, he purposefully and immediately took on the behaviors and style of someone already working successfully at that level. Importantly, he recognized an important maxim of management - every person in a new role is only "new" for a brief period of time. After a brief period most people just treat them as if they've been doing that job for a longer time. Consequently, from Day 1 in the new job he was talking and behaving like he'd been in that role for a longer while. (Note - he always had made a point of dressing like he was already at the next level of job. So no immediate change of style was needed.)

As a consequence, his peers never treated him like the rooky. His boss, in every new situation, generally saw Rob as already at a place that was equal to others who'd been in their positions for years. He was dealt with in the same way (and compensated likewise). And his teams invariably treated him like they would someone new who'd just joined the operation.

With each new and larger responsibility, there was a little period of adjustment for a few of his former direct reports; but invariably, the length of that time was brief. They soon understood, with no hard feelings, that this guy was a star and they were lucky to work with him.

As long as I worked with him, at no time did Rob ever come across as someone who thought of himself as a star, somehow better than others at any level. He was generous with his feedback and tough on his challenges when required. Over a relatively brief period he became one of most successful, and youngest bosses of a large multinational and remained at the top as a well-regarded individual until he chose to leave.

In summary - Assess and modify your role with every change of responsibility. Keep some of what has worked for you and discard the rest which is no longer right for the "new you". Model the behavior of those above you who are successful and look the part. Act appropriately for the job you have.

Be aware that for some, it can feel uncomfortable to "act" like this. Even phony. But growth comes only to those who are capable of growing. Great leaders look, act, and talk the part. Do the same things.

You'll have a better and more satisfying career.


Leadership Coach