Cultureinfusion.com is very happy to present our guest post of the month to you. This month Chris and Bill asked a new, recently promoted, leader to share his thoughts on the transition, what he thought before he got there, and what its like now that he is there. Bryan Hassel currently serves as Controller for an IT staffing and consulting firm (iMethods Inc.) based in Jacksonville, FL. Bryan reflects on his predecessor, his team, and himself as a new leader. Thank you so much Bryan for sharing your experience, you are on your way!
I have had the privilege of being around great leaders for the majority of my career and life leading back to my days in school. From playing for a high school football coach who ranks in the top 5 nationally in all time wins to working for executives who have turned down the opportunity to be in the inner circle of a billion dollar corporation in order to start something meaningful, I have observed all of these leaders from afar and done my best to draw from their examples.
This year was the first time the opportunity was given to me to step in to such a leadership role, and as the eloquent Mike Tyson once said, “everyone has a plan until they are punched in the mouth”.
After having some time to reflect on the year and my development of growing as a leader, I realized that I had a set of perceptions coming in to this whole leadership arena. Below are 3 that came to mind of what I believed then, and how the reality of leadership has changed those.
- Perception of your Predecessor – Almost all new leadership roles come about because of a departure of a former leader. As a high producing individual or budding leader, it is easy to sit back and identify a slew of areas where you will do things differently to make your unit outperform what they left behind. My perception was that I would find better ways to do things in order to outperform my predecessor.
- Reality – Your predecessor more than likely knew a little bit about what they were doing. You aren’t going to come in and light the world on fire in the first quarter. Take TIME. Be PATIENT. Identify the areas that are working well and the areas that need to be eliminated and move from there. The reality was that my predecessor had many weaknesses AND strengths, and it was now my job to build upon the areas with solid foundations.
- Perception of your Workers – The strength of every good leader is as strong as the team surrounding them, right? This was my perception coming in to the year and for the most part this is true. Sometimes it isn’t about the X’s and O’s it’s about the Jimmies and the Joe’s. It went deeper than this though. I felt as if my team should follow me because I was smart and could help identify better ways to make them more efficient. I never considered would they actually WANT to follow me.
- Reality – I learned that you have to EARN the right to be followed. Thinking that people should be following you because you are their boss is the thought process of a manager, not a leader, and over time you will end up with a disloyal team who will feel no effect if you were to depart. Leaders have to invest, they have to care and they have to go beyond the normal expectations to pour in to their workers. One of the divisions I have been managing will be closing at the end of this year. Having those difficult conversations with workers who were directly impacted was difficult, but would not have been nearly as fruitful if the groundwork wasn’t laid 12 months prior. The reality was that I was able to go the distance with those employees professionally and personally because they knew where my heart was and that I was for them and not against them.
- Perception of Yourself – Any time there is success, credit is typically given to the ones with the most responsibility and visibility. You look at the New England Patriots and it is because of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, or Microsoft and it is because of Bill Gates and Paul Allen. The perception I had was my success was based on what I did and how I achieved it because ultimately I was the face of the team.
- Reality – This could not be further from the truth. The success of any team is due to the sum of its parts. As a leader, I am called to sit down and intentionally plan out the paths of those parts. I was called in to a meeting a few months in to my new role and asked what my plans were for developing the careers of those working for me both professionally and personally. I didn’t have an answer. I had a plan for myself and how I was going to get where I wanted to go, but had never considered that in order for me to do that I had to invest in something other than myself. The reality was I should have spent more time laboring over the success of my team than the success of myself.
I have realized over the course of time that there really are very few leaders in the truest sense out there. There are plenty of CEO’s who run companies and hit financial targets and retire to a good life, but are their employees really committed to following them, even if it might cost them something? Sadly, the answer is no.
When I look back on my time as a leader and an influencer, I pray that I might be able to look at myself and say that I truly invested in those around me more than myself.
Bryan can be found on the web: