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107. New Leaders! Reduce Overwhelm by Doing This First

With the joy and potential of a new leadership role comes the overwhelming task of motivating and inspiring others while navigating the unknown; a journey made easier with the guidance of Stronger to Serve's two steps for establishing trust and crafting your unique leadership voice.

"Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily, even if you had no title or position." -Brian Tracy

In this episode, you will learn the following:

1. How can you build trust as a leader in your first 90 days?

2. What techniques can you use to manage stress during a "terrible first time" in a new role?

3. What are the benefits of exploring your strengths, values, and passions to create your leadership voice?


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While it's not perfect, we offer this transcription by Capsho for those who prefer to read or who are hearing impaired.

Congratulations. You've landed a new leadership role. You're so excited about the impact you can make. Maybe you're still in the celebratory phase, having just signed that offer letter. That's probably the best place to be for this episode.

00:00:16 Or maybe you're in the thick of that messy and stressful introductory phase where you feel like you're drinking from three fire hoses. One, learning the tactical pieces of your new job, improving time cards, accessing management level systems, another one that has the content knowledge, particularly if you haven't worked on this team before. And the third one, perhaps the hardest, motivating other humans to get work done while tending to the team culture, your personal network, and the organizational goals that you're now even more responsible for, even if you're in that phase, today's episode is for you. My goal through the episodes of this podcast and through the leadership coaching that Stronger to Serve does, is to get you through the overwhelm to a place where you can make the impact you crave and ultimately create a more just and compassionate workplace through your leadership. So let's get to it.

00:01:17 I'm Teri Schmidt, founder of Stronger to Serve Coaching and Teambuilding and this is the Strong Leaders Serve Podcast.

00:01:40 The joy of doing something new, the variety that it brings, the potential for putting into practice solutions that you've thought about for a long time, and the confidence that you gain when you take a risk and it works out, but, oh, the stress that comes with it too. All the new experiences that are fertile ground for overwhelm, fertile ground for that little or loud voice of imposter syndrome that keeps saying, who are you to be making these decisions? And fertile ground for that feeling like you were naive to think that you'd be able to change things once you got into a leadership role. All of this as you try to keep your head above water. So I know you're not in an easy position.

00:02:22 Yes, it's exciting. Yes, you're proud to be there, but you have so much going on. So I have just two steps for you today. One's quick to say, but maybe a little bit more challenging to implement. And the other one has a few more substeps that seem simple but can perhaps be the most important steps you take as a leader.

00:02:44 Giving some time, even an hour, to these steps now will lay the groundwork for your leadership journey for years to come. And as we've talked about in past episodes, as you go through our leadership development model of ground grow give, remember, it's like a spiral staircase. So you'll be revisiting these grounding activities many times throughout your career. But if you choose to skip over them now, you'll lose out on clarity and positive impact and instead you'll be gifted with more stress and confusion. So let's get started.

00:03:18 The first of the two steps is to acknowledge the situation you're in and all of the emotion that's likely to come with it. This comes from Brene Brown. In the very first episode of her Unlocking US podcast, she talked about FFTs. Now, since I marked this episode clean, I won't say what the first F stands for, but you can probably guess the second F and the T stand for First Time. Or if you want an acronym without the profanity that maybe you can use with your kids.

00:03:51 She talks about changing it around to be a TFT a Terrible First Time. Basically, it's about recognizing that your first time at anything is going to be rough. She suggests these steps anytime you're in an FFT or a TFT, first acknowledge what it is. Acknowledge that it is a terrible first time. Develop some perspective.

00:04:17 Recognize that this feels hard, this feels new, it feels uncomfortable, but it's not going to last forever. And then, reality check the expectations you have. When you're in an FFT or a TFT, you have to acknowledge that things may not go perfectly, that things aren't going to be easy, and that it's not going to be fast. It's not going to be fun. And whatever you're working on is probably not going to turn out the first time like you hope it will turn out after three or four iterations.

00:04:49 She also talks about building in some rest and recovery time. So when you're in this period where you may be overwhelmed by all the new things, you have to learn how can you build in that time to reenergize yourself? How can you make sure that you're taking care of your own energy and including time in your day for those things that build you up and get you excited again? So I wanted to share a story about a recent FFT that I had this holiday season. We were up in BAMF, Canada, which is beautiful, by the way, but it was my first time snowboarding ever.

00:05:27 Now, granted, I had skied growing up, but I don't know if you can really even call it skiing because it was in the Midwest and there aren't very big hills there. But regardless, this was my first time on a snowboard. I had watched all the YouTube videos I could to try to prepare myself for this day, but I also recognized the fact that the day was probably not going to be that much fun in terms of the skills that I was able to gain on my snowboard. Everyone, when asked advice for first time snowboarders on some of those videos, said, just tell them that it gets better after the first day. So I went in knowing that I wasn't going to be great.

00:06:10 In fact, it was probably going to be a very frustrating affair. And I won't say that I didn't get frustrated during the day, but just having that perspective and recognizing the situation I was in helped me to be able to move forward and helped me to be able to get through that day with a positive attitude at the end of the day. So although that's not the exact same as a leadership story, it does illustrate the value in just calling out that you're in the middle of an FFT and setting realistic expectations. The second step is more of a journey. It's to take time to reflect on who you want to be as a leader, what you want your leadership voice to be.

00:06:54 Now, I know, I know you're thinking, Teri, you just acknowledged that I was drinking from three fire hoses, and now you want me to take time to reflect? Yes. Believe me, putting time in even an hour will save you time later. I didn't do this when I was a new leader, and as I look back at some of the decisions I made early in my leadership journey, I realized that I had spent a lot of time questioning myself and relying on the reactions or the anticipated reactions of others to drive my decisions. I felt kind of like a feather floating in the wind instead of a tree grounded with strong roots.

00:07:37 So to know who you want to be as a leader, there are three areas that I suggest you explore. And if you've been listening for a while, you've heard them before your strengths, your values, and your passion. To make this easier, I'm giving you a gift. I've created a short workbook with exercises that you can dig into to answer some of the questions around strengths, values, and passion. And you can get that in the show notes or

00:08:14 So let's talk about them briefly here. Your strengths what do you do naturally with ease and excellence, and what brings you enjoyment and energy? For me, I know one of my strengths is being a lifelong learner. And I also know that if I am stuck all day in a Tedious project or working on the finances of the business, for example, I need to put some time in my day to just learn whether that be listening to a 20 minutes podcast episode, watching an inspiring video that helps me to come up with new ideas, or reading a chapter of a book. Anytime I have control of my schedule, I like to put a little bit of learning time right in the middle of my day, right before that afternoon.

00:09:04 Tiredness just sucks all the energy out of me. Why should you care about your strengths? Well, knowing your strengths can help you maximize both your energy and your performance, and it can also help you to understand those areas that may not be your strengths, where it's really important for you to find complementary partners who you can work together with to get things done. For example, if one of your strengths is being very strategic and looking at the big picture, maybe you need to find a partner who is just really good at and really loves to get things done. So there are two exercises included in the workbook for you to look into what your strengths are.

00:09:46 So, on to values. What do you hold to be most important, stronger, deserves values, which we have been refining over the past few months. Our compassionate leadership, wellbeing, conflict, transformation, and justice. You can read more about those on our about page. But I will note the one that is most personal to me is justice.

00:10:09 I previously called that respect, but really it has to do with the fact that every human should have the opportunity to thrive and rise to their fullest potential in both work and life. That is something that I feel very strongly about, and it's also something that I get very bothered by when I see people not living up to that value, when I see people left out, or when there are barriers put in front of them, being able to reach their fullest potential. That's how I know it's one of my core values. So why should you care about that? Well, like I mentioned early in my leadership journey, when I kind of felt like a feather blowing in the wind, my decisions weren't necessarily based on anything solid.

00:10:53 But when you have your values to go by, you can base your decisions not just on the feedback of others, but more on what you hold to be most important. And that's what we need from you as a leader. It gives your team a sense of stability, which is one of Gallop's four needs of followers, by the way. They know what they can expect from you, even in the midst of new challenges and situations. And that helps them to feel comfortable, safe and motivated to do their best.

00:11:24 So we've talked about the strengths, we've talked about values. Now, onto passion. What do you get most excited about? And what problems in our world do you think are most important to solve? Thankfully, the answer to that question is different for all of us.

00:11:39 That means that we all have a unique contribution to making our workplaces and our communities better. Now, your passion, when you are writing it down, it doesn't have to be on a grand level. I coached a woman who was passionate about people having the information they needed to make informed decisions. She was very focused and excited about finding data that they could use and presenting it in a way that spoke to them and was useful. Maybe her passion is something larger than that, but whatever it is, you need to pay attention to it for a couple of reasons.

00:12:13 First of all, passion is infectious. It's motivating for those who are working around you and those who are working on your team. Most of us, when we see someone excited about something, we want to follow them, we want to support them. Another reason that passion is important and knowing what your passion is is even more important is it can keep you focused on the impact you want to make in your career. You're here listening to this episode because you're a leader who cares about making your workplace more compassionate.

00:12:44 And just reflecting on your passion can help keep you focused on that when all the daily fires you have to face as part of being a leader swirl around you. Maybe like we talked about in the last episode, you're passionate about innovation and so you're really focused on creating the conditions on your team for psychological safety to emerge. Remembering your passion for that can keep you consistent in your actions and keep you headed in that direction. And when you do set up those conditions, you may inspire other teams to do the same. So check out that workbook and let the questions inspire your reflection.

00:13:22 Spend as long as you want with them, but I promise, even if you just give an hour to this reflection, it will be worth it. But if you need more convincing that it's worth putting any time to this, one more thing I want to cover and this is probably the most important, so maybe I should have covered it first. But anyway, knowing who you are as a leader and forming your leadership voice is key to what I would say is the single most to what I would say is the single most important task for your 1st 90 days in a leadership role. Establishing trust in his book The Speed of Trust. Stephen mr.

00:14:00 Covey talks about how trust is the one factor that can most quickly reduce friction in your and your team's work. When trust goes up, speed of performance goes up and costs go down. And if you're a leader who cares about leading a high performing team, the road to your goals will be a lot easier if you have trust on your team. So how do you build trust? Well, we talked about this way back in episode six, but two of the foundational elements you need to establish to have people trust you are integrity and intent.

00:14:34 For integrity, people need to know that you will act in a way that's congruent with your values. But how can you do that if you haven't thought about what your values are for intent? They also want to know what your agenda is, what's driving you. That's where the strength and passion that shape your leadership voice come in. Now, what happens when you don't do this work and you're trying to establish your competence and credibility as a leader?

00:14:59 In other words, you're trying to show people that you belong in this role. Well, if you haven't had much leadership experience, often you'll try to mimic others. You'll act in ways that are not authentic to who you are and that will have the opposite effect of creating trust on your team as people may see you as unreliable, fickle, or worse, fake. So again, access that workbook at and take some time reflecting on your strengths, your values and your passion. And if you want to dig in deeper, I do work with leaders one to one on just these elements in our leadership voice coaching package.

00:15:41 You can check that

I hope you can take this time to do the reflection, and I wish you much success and less overwhelmed as you begin this exciting next step on your professional journey.

Until next time, lead with this quote by Brian Tracy in mind; "Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily, even if you had no title or position."


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