On the path to my current position, I’ve been lucky enough to manage some amazing people. For awhile, it seemed like we were in the zone, and using the leadership skills I taught was second nature. It was easy to slip into “manager mode”, coach an employee or deal with a larger issue, and then move on.
Since that time, I’ve moved away from managing larger teams or not managing any direct reports at all, and I have found that it can be more difficult to slip into “manager mode”, requiring more forethought and even more follow-up (e.g., “what I should have said was…”). This apparent atrophying of my leadership muscle was a bit surprising – after all, I train this stuff! How hard can it be to get back on that bike?
It’s been eye-opening to be reminded that “training” is in no way the same as “doing”. So what are some ways to keep that leadership muscle toned?
- Seek out opportunities: If you haven’t been managing people for a while or if you aren’t managing a large team, find other ways to reach out and coach people. You can act as a mentor, coach a coworker or dotted line report who is looking for help, or act as a sounding board for people dealing with employee issues of their own.
- Keep up on the latest techniques: There are a lot of excellent articles, blogs, and books out there on the latest and greatest leadership techniques. (Here’s my reading list) Keep your skills current by learning from others.
- Admit you may be rusty: Sometimes you just have to remind yourself that it’s been awhile, so be more present in the moment and more mindful in your choices when you DO have a chance to manage again.
When all else fails, I remember how much I enjoy leading and developing others – it’s amazing how much that can recharge the batteries!
So what are your ideas for flexing the leadership muscle? Share below!