Learning to Lead from the Middle

in PODCAST

Learning to lead from the middle is much different than frontline leadership. Get tips for dealing with the increased pressures of middle management and the key skills you need to excel.

two business professionals high-fiving in the background with a large headshot of Andrew Gill, the guest on this episode of DDI's Leadership 480 podcast on learning to lead from the middle

A 480 PODCAST

Learning to Lead from the Middle

37 minutes | September 6, 2022

00:00:00 00:00

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In this episode of the Leadership 480 podcast, industrial organizational psychologist, leadership coach, and mid-level leadership expert, Andrew Gill, joins DDI to discuss tips for learning to lead from the middle. Learn what you need to know before you step into middle management, including what you might not see coming as a new middle manager. Additionally, figure out how to shift your mindset from managing a group of doers at the frontline to having leaders who are reporting to you.

Beth Almes:                        

Hi leaders, and welcome back to The Leadership 480 Podcast. I'm your host, Beth Almes, and today, we're talking about one of the biggest changes in a leader's career, becoming a mid-level leader. The promotion from managing at the frontline to becoming a leader of other leaders can be a profound difference for a lot of folks, as they move from getting work done at the frontline and start to really feel the pressure as they lead teams of leaders, take on bigger responsibilities to the business, influence across larger networks.

And through all of that, you've got to manage yourself under all that increased pressure. So my guest here today is Andrew Gill, an industrial organizational psychologist who has worked for more than 30 years in executive and leadership coaching and has worked to design specialized leadership programs for mid-level leaders here at DDI. Andrew, welcome to The Leadership 480 podcast.

Andrew Gill:                       

Thanks, Beth. And I would actually add to the profile. I was a mid-senior level leader for 20-something years as well. So, while I have the technical expertise, if you like, on the background as an organizational industrial psychologist, I also have the practical experience of actually being a mid-level leader.

Beth Almes:                        

So not just on the outside looking in, you've got your own personal stories behind the scenes. So, both in your experience and as you've coached and worked with so many mid-level leaders in your career, what's the big surprise for leaders who are newly stepping into these roles? Like what don't they see coming?

Andrew Gill:                       

Yeah, that's a great question. It gets back to that old adage really of what got you here won't take you there. The challenge is that they step into the mid-level and continue to try functioning as a frontline leader. And that poses probably three major issues for them. 

One, they keep trying to really still do too many things themselves rather than more broadly leveraging the skills of their team. Secondly, mid-level is much more about influence. As a frontline leader, you have direct control over your people, but as a mid-level leader, you've now got to influence a range of people to get things done.

And a lot of them miss that part of it. So you've got to have much better relationships, particularly with your peers. The third thing and most critically is they need to better balance the short term with the longer-term strategy and transformation. You've still got to deliver short-term results, but you've got to put time aside to make sure you're making the changes that you need to respond to customers, respond to the marketplace, technology, the environment, and often really just making sure that you're embracing the agendas set down by senior managers or the organization in terms of where they want to take the business.

Beth Almes:                        

So you touched on this a little bit, but as you get to mid-level leadership, there's a big difference in who's on your team. You go from managing and coaching a group of doers at the frontline to having leaders who are reporting to you. And you mentioned how much influence starts to get to become your way of becoming successful. So as you make the shift from a small group of people who are focused on doing to leading other leaders, what's really significant in that in how you have to shift your own mindset?

Andrew Gill:                       

Yeah. It really is quite a big shift. I don't want to sell this short. As a frontline leader, you can stay very involved in little things, extremely close to things. If you try to do that as a mid-level leader, you will drown under the weight of responsibility. 

You've really got to learn how to leverage; leverage your people, leverage your partners. It's much more critical to make sure that you are reaching out to your capability, which is the capability of the people around you. And how well you leverage them is going to determine how effective you are as a mid-level leader.

Beth Almes:                        

It's so interesting because I think, at least what I've seen in my career, is a lot of times leaders at the frontline, the idea of leading a team also means you step in to pitch in for anybody who's out. I can help you out. I can take on the extra work and things like that. And then being a team player at the mid-level though, that's going to be a disaster if you do that.

Andrew Gill:                       

You can do a bit of that. And you actually, you should do a bit of that, because you don't want to lose contact with your customers, certainly. And you need to... It helps you gain perspective of the people working for you in terms of how they're seeing issues. But if that's your predominant leadership style, you cannot sustain that. 

The other problem is that these people below you, you're trying to motivate and inspire them and move them forward. If you're jumping in at every moment to do their things or solve their problems or rescue them, they're not going to grow, they're not going to prove, they're not going to feel empowered. And so you're really deescalating the value of them if you do that.

This is much more about... If you work in a frontline mid-level leadership and you're thinking about what I can do to make this work, that's the wrong focus. You don't work in mid-level leadership and think about, what does my team need to do to make this work? The success of the team is your success. If they shine, you shine. And so you're much more focused on trying to create an environment that enables your team to be successful as well as some of your partners, because they have a big impact on you or you have a big impact on them. So your success is also dependent on those around you.

Beth Almes:                        

I'm glad you brought up the creation of the environment because I think this is an area a lot of mid-level leaders miss out on. So, we've talked at DDI often about mid-level leaders having a tremendous impact on the culture of the team and really setting the environment and the situation they're in, and they're leading whole departments and big projects now. And a lot of leaders don't realize how their habits and style dramatically shift the tone for others. So as you step into these mid-level roles, how does your role in setting the culture change?

Andrew Gill:                       

Oh, it's much greater. The fact that you no longer have that day-to-day involvement with everybody at your one step, the tone you set becomes even more critical. So, for example, and if you're going to say, I want to encourage people's ideas. I want feedback. I want criticism. You can't just say that to people and think that it's suddenly going to happen. You've got to act in a certain way. You've got to set that up. 

So, you've got to put in mechanisms that enable you to get that information back. And so at a tactical level, that can be for example, at a meeting, rather than just throwing a question out, sending questions prior to the meeting. That can be when somebody comes to you with what is a completely stupid idea, you don't call it a completely stupid idea, but you need to at least talk it through, ask questions, and try to understand it.

Because as much as it might appear to be a stupid idea, there could be a kernel of something in there that you can use. And also if you shut down ideas and start dismissing ideas, then you'll stop getting them. This has to be conscious. If you're deciding, that you want to create an environment where people can generate ideas and really run with ideas, you have to consciously think about all the things you need to do to reinforce that environment. If you don't, it's not going to happen.

Beth Almes:                        

And what does the role of inspiration play here? So as you're asking people to generate ideas, they're getting excited, they're getting bought in. You're setting the tone for inspiration of them getting engaged about their work.

Andrew Gill:                       

Yeah, inspiration is... I always say that leadership is a contact sport. It's a day-to-day thing. A lot of leaders confuse inspiration with some great email that goes out that jazzes everybody up or turning up at the quarterly meeting and saying what a great bunch of folks we have here sort of working with us. And I'm not saying that doesn't have a role, but you've got to figure that out on a day-to-day basis. So inspiration becomes... Think of every conversation you have.

So when you're meeting with people, you've got to listen to them. You've got to empathize to show you understand. Recognizing the ideas that come from people. They have a good idea, calling that out. Taking the opportunity to step out and thank people for something or for putting the additional effort in. When you are trying to position things, think about what's in it for the people on your team, not just what's in it for the business or the customers.

What are they going to get out of it? And then supporting them. It's one thing. If you want them to stretch and step in a new direction, what are you doing as a leader to provide the support? Where are the resources they need? Where is the guidance they need? They're going to fail. How are you going to let them take risks? How are they going to learn from that failure? What's going to be your reaction to it? 

All these things motivate and inspire. At the end of the day, most people want to do a good job. Our job as a leader is to till the soil to enable them to do that. And when they run into those times where it's tough or it's hard to be there, to listen to, to understand, and to remind them of the things that they are doing well to help pick themselves up, so they can move forward.

Beth Almes:                        

I love the simplicity in your response of where inspiration comes from on that day-to-day level. There's not a pressure to have. I've got to create quotable quotes that belong on the wall here. It's really just those everyday conversations. Thanking people is an easy way to inspire. I just love that simplicity, that it's not as tough as you realize, but it's a lot more regular and consistent.

Andrew Gill:                       

And when you thank them, it's not just the atta-boy or atta-girl or good luck or great job. It's thanking them specifically. I think this is what DDI teaches is to be specific. I really appreciate your idea around the customers. I think it's enabled us to look at this problem from a different perspective. Yeah. It shows that you've listened. It shows that you've been taking an effort, that you're really acknowledging the specific thing they do. These are people. You treat them like people that treat them like you want to be treated yourself. 

It's not that you can't be demanding. It's not that you shouldn't be demanding. It's not that you shouldn't address performance issues. But look for those opportunities to acknowledge what people are doing and show them that the work they're doing is appreciated.

Beth Almes:                        

And I think sharing back that impact, as you mentioned, and how it has affected the business and metrics is such a powerful way to make people feel proud. They don't want lip service. They want to show they made a difference. And that's the big scary thing is about, I think, mid-level leadership is that you have responsibility for these big, significant metrics, and you need to know how you're going to drive those. 

So as mid-level leaders take on this mantle, whether it's profit and loss responsibility or other key business metrics that they're responsible for, how do you see that pressure to achieve play out in their roles?

Andrew Gill:                       

Yeah. I think they're surprised when they first move in. It's just how big the spotlight is on the result. Often it's a frontline leader, your results are quite well defined. And you can sort of manage to that. And you're also personally involved in them. At a mid-level, it gets way more complex, because you've not just got the short-term delivery results, you've got the transformational goals as well. 

You have to worry about the goals of your boss, and how they're being measured, because I tell you what, if they're worried about it, they're going to be focused on it. And if you don't understand that, if you're not taking that into account, you're going to be in trouble. And the challenge becomes is because the spotlight is greater, you're more exposed, not just for what you're doing, but you're also then exposed personally. So then the fear of failure. I've now been given this opportunity. I'm not worthy.

Can I really do this? I've never done this before. And so that drives... You get this survival instinct takeover in some leaders. And so you either get this flight response where they become super cautious and quiet and try to get their head down and not notice. And so they don't take the risks or chances they need to, or then you get these other mid-level leaders that become animals. They defend their position. They argue their position. They become less open to feedback and input. They feel they have to have all the answers and do everything themselves, and that's when you then start to see the problems of them putting themselves out there and, and starting to make a lot of mistakes because they're not reaching out, they're not taking input and they're not seeking feedback and advice from others. 

So I think it's tough. I think metrics are tough. For a leader, it's really when you step into this role and you've got these metrics. It's stepping back and thinking about the reality of what that means. And not just the big yearly goals, but how do you break that down?

How do you drop that into quarterly goals? How do you break those quarterly goals down into activities that people can see and feel? How do you get alignment with your people around what needs to be done, making sure you get their input to add to the reality of what can be done within that three-month period? And then basically, you check in on that, you monitor, you track that, you have conversations around that. You've got to break these goals into things that people can see, things that people can feel, things that people can measure. 

For me at this level, lead indicator is way more important than the lag indicator. And my best analogy is if you've ever watched a sports coach, they don't sit there saying to their team, you need to go score more goals. You need to go score more goals. What they do is they say, you need to take these actions. You need to defend here. You need to attack here. That's the lead indicators. Those are the things that mid-level leaders really need to focus on.

Beth Almes:                        

That's a great analogy. I think your point around the fear of failure is such a powerful one here. A lot of times when you're sitting in the frontline role, you're an individual contributor, or even up to a manager, you're sitting there like, how come nobody higher up takes my ideas? I've got such great things. And then if you're lucky enough to get in that role, you suddenly find yourself on the other side and saying, I can't be taking all of those. I'd really be sticking my neck out for those. 

So as they're tempted by this weight of responsibility, they're tempted to be more conservative. They're afraid of failing. How do you break through that to essentially manage upwards? So manage the people above you to say, hey, we're going to take these risks. How do you get to that level that you can maybe take some smart risks then without putting your own career on the line?

Andrew Gill:                       

Yeah, it's the hamburger level. You're stuck between these expectations from above, from below, and from peers and partners, and often as well as customers. Yeah, one thing I'll talk about, because I think one big mistake the mid-level leaders make is they forget to do enough with the relationship with their manager. 

One of the best bosses I had, probably the best boss I ever had, and she would always tell me the story that when she would go to her manager, the first thing she would say to her manager is, when they were doing their weekly meeting is, what's on your agenda? What's important to you? What's happening with you? Because her intention was to really understand what was critical, what was worrying them. So then in the conversation, she had an understanding of the context of what was going on. But it also showed that she cared about her manager.

So it really helped strengthen the relationship. And sometimes because of that over time, this manager would start asking her questions or, hey, I'm glad we're here. I've got some stuff to talk about, but I'd love your ideas on this. Building this relationship with your boss is really critical because at some point your boss is going to come down and ask you to do things that you know, or your people know won't work. 

You've got to be able to push back. You've got to be able to have that conversation to be an effective mid-level leader. And I will tell you now, the single bit of criticism that mid-level leaders get from their people is that they'd feel their boss doesn't push back hard enough. And the reason their boss doesn't push back hard enough is they don't have a good enough relationship with their boss. That's why. Can I have one more thing?

It's funny when I coach leaders, because this comes up quite a bit, this boss relationship, and some of them, they're annoyed with their boss. Their boss says this and their boss says that. And what I find they do is that they then try to go around their boss or avoid their boss. That is completely the wrong thing to do. You have to move towards your boss. You have to move towards the issues. 

So, if your boss is complaining they're not getting enough information from you, ask them, what do you need? What are you looking for? If you're sending through reports and they're still saying, I'm not getting enough, talk about that. Maybe they want more interpretation. Maybe they want to understand some of the actions that you are taking. Don't take the criticism or the issues from your boss at face value. Step towards them, ask questions, and get to understand where your boss is coming from. It will make your life so much easier.

Beth Almes:                        

So as you talk about pushing back a little bit with your boss, who's probably a more senior level executive at the company, it takes some courage to do that. And there's a temptation to always say yes and say what your boss wants to hear. Yes, we can take that on. My team will get that done. And it's so, so tempting, especially because a lot of executives are very persuasive and very insistent on their strategy. What's your, if you don't do that correctly and you mentioned, this is the big mistake most mid-level leaders make, what happens if you fail to do this well and push back?

Andrew Gill:                       

What happens if you fail to do this? Or if you do it well?

Beth Almes:                        

If you fail to do it. So if you don't push back against your executive, what's going to happen to your team?

Andrew Gill:                       

Yeah. I'm going to take another angle there because I think it's how you push back is just as important as the pushback. If your boss is going to ask you to do something, you're going, no I can't, I got this and this and this, that's not going to work. So if you're going to push back, questions are your friend. 

So you should always start by clarifying. Help me understand that, et cetera, et cetera. If you feel your team can't handle the load, you can say to them things like, we can take it on, my concern is the workload. We have these priorities. Can we talk about which ones are most critical? So you get a sense of, that's a way of educating your boss to really understand what's on your plate because they don't always know.

The other thing I think you can say to your boss is, we can do this. To do this, these are the things that we would need. This is some of the resources. This is some of the support. Can we discuss what that looks like? This is a dialogue. So it's not just a matter of saying, no we can't. It's how you push back. 

And part of that is promoting mutual understanding between your boss and yourself as to what are the implications of picking up this particular thing. If you do that, nine times out of 10, your boss will relate to you. If you've got a highly political boss, okay, that may be a little bit different. You may have to adopt another strategy, but most bosses know that your success is their success. They want you to succeed. So most of them will be open to having that conversation the right way.

Beth Almes:                        

That's such a powerful lesson in influencing. And at the same time, one of the things that I have heard from some mid-level leaders is that, one of the things that has surprised them is that as they moved up the ranks, they got more influence over what gets done. And that was great, but they were actually a little surprised that you lose some independence to some degree as they have so many more stakeholders. 

You think early on like, once I'm in a higher level leadership position, I can say yes or no, but then you realize that whatever my team does affects that other department over there, and the team we're depending on isn't getting their things done. So there's this huge network of people that's now connected and surprising how little independence you have.

Andrew Gill:                       

Yeah. I couldn't agree more. The biggest areas I coached were around networking. And I always say to people that in networking, you've got to think about it as a mid-level leader. It's not what you need from your network. It's the value you bring. 

So the first thing you've got to figure out is what is the value I would bring to a network? The second thing you've got to think about is who are my key stakeholders? Who do I need in my network? Who do I need operationally, and who do I need strategically? Who do I need personally with regard to my career? 

The next thing is to proactively connect with these folks. And a lot of that is actually a lot easier than you think, if you've got a peer or a partner who's dependent on you or you are dependent on them, you reach out with a get-to-know or a check-in meeting.

You talk about their agenda. You talk about your agenda. You discuss, how can we resolve conflicts between our two groups and have those check-in meetings. So a good to do formula at least a couple of times a year. The other thing you can do is, use these partners as part of your kitchen cabinet, your cabinet advisors. 

So when you have an idea or a strategy or something you're thinking about, you take it to these folks and you float it past them. And you ask boy, I'd love to get your perspective. You have such a strong sales perspective or a commercial perspective. I'm thinking about doing this with a team. What do you think? Here's what it is. What do you like about it? What don't you like about it? If we were going to implement it, what resources and support would we need?

And by the way, any thoughts you'd add to that? The third thing you can do is pressure test your strategy with these folks. So once you get a little bit further down the track and you have the strategy formed, you go to them and you say to them, I want you to pressure test this for me. I want you to challenge me from every different angle that you can on this. 

And this not only helps broaden your strategic thinking skills, but it also strengthens your relationship as you're giving permission for these people to criticize you and work with you, and then you can offer the same thing back to them. Partnerships are phenomenally critical at this level. If you don't have the right peer relationships and I mean relationships established it can be very, very hard to get things done and even harder to resolve issues in the middle of a crisis.

Beth Almes:                        

That's such powerful advice though on, getting their feedback before you're ready to implement the strategy. So they're not getting hit with it fresh and from all sides and you've got their buy-in before this thing really launches so that you know, hey, they're going to be bought in. They've weighed in on this. They've helped to shape it and they might be more receptive to whatever it is you're working on.

Andrew Gill:                       

Yeah. That approach of floating the idea is not mine. I got this from a guy I coached and he was a mid to senior-level leader in an organization, it was utility actually. And he was charged with changing the safety culture of this company when the people in the company thought they had a great safety culture. And so he was going to be told to go out there and convince these people that thought they were good at something that they weren't and need to do something better. 

And he told me about this approach, just float the idea. The advantage was he would connect with people at different parts of the organization, but in doing so, he also started to build allies. So by the time he developed the strategy, he incorporated a lot of ideas that he'd heard. And so he actually had people on his side as well.

And to your point, the other thing was what you said, they weren't surprised when this thing came out. And I thought it was a great approach and I've used it now with a number of people I've coached, and I've got the same feedback, they've found it very useful. Useful, not only just to progress things, but also to know when to stop doing things. When they've had ideas and they go and talk to a few people and they find out that thing's never going to fly. So this is failing fast, understanding it's not going to work. It's just as valuable as finding that it will.

Beth Almes:                        

So we've talked a lot about the pressures coming in from your boss, your team, your people, and the networks around you, but amid all of that, you have yourself and the classic depiction I've always thought of like that middle manager as someone who's getting crushed from expectations from above, the pressure from the people who rely on them below. 

And sometimes being in that middle spot, it's not very glamorous. It doesn't always have the best reputation. So when you're working in this role, how do you try to save yourself from getting crushed, that burnout, and find the joy in the job? Not that you're just in this role till something better comes along, but really find success here as a middle manager.

Andrew Gill:                       

Yeah, boy, that's a very broad question. It's an incredibly broad question. I'll speak for me personally, because I think every middle manager finds joy in other ways. At the end of the day, when you finish your day of work, you ask yourself, did I do what I could do today? 

So I think that, acknowledging yourself is definitely one thing, acknowledging your own skills, acknowledging your own capabilities, acknowledging your own effort. Keeping some reality on that a little bit, I think is definitely part of it. I think that's one. 

The second thing gets down to the team itself, is for me, I always took a lot of satisfaction from the success of my team, and a lot of mid-level leaders do. And so if that's something that motivates you, what's been the success either with individuals you work with or with the team as a whole? You've got to look again for the successes. It's easy to get buried in the problems of all the successes. 

I think thirdly... progress. A lot of goals you'll set may be unrealistic or you won't have the resources, but are you progressing? Can you look at the progress you're making? Can you celebrate that progress you're making? Can you recognize that? I think those are the three big things. 

So look at yourself and acknowledge the things that you're doing well. Look at your team and get rewards from the efforts and the changes that you see there. And thirdly, what's the progress you're making? And if you do that, and I always found if I did that, I would feel at least some sense of satisfaction. 

Did I achieve everything I wanted to? No. Did I achieve it as fast as the organization wanted me to? Probably not. But I was always progressing and I always felt there was improvement and there was growth going on.

Beth Almes:                        

And priorities play a role there. Right? In terms of, did you move the needle on the right things?

Andrew Gill:                       

Yeah, actually that's a really good point. Checking in that you are focusing your time. DDI has a thing called a radar chart and you sit down and you look at where you're spending your time and are you spending on things that link to the strategy of the organization, as well as the day-to-day operational things. I like that exercise. I like that exercise of stepping back from the day-to-day and thinking about your priorities, am I focusing energy where I need to focus it? 

And again, it gets back to that relationship with your manager, checking in with them, talking through your priorities with them on a regular basis, to make sure that you are aligned on the effort and where you are spending your time. I had this conversation yesterday with somebody and it was fascinating, but the boss said to the senior leader, you've got to start working with your team to highlight to them what they need to be not doing, not just what they're doing.

And I thought that was great guidance to her, because she wasn't doing that with them. And so she's piling stuff onto them and they are literally burning out. And the big problem she's got is she's not keeping them focused on the right things. She's letting them run with what they want to do, but then she's adding all the expectations of the organization and they're saying we can't do it. So understanding your priorities, understanding where you add value in short term and certainly longer term is absolutely critical.

Beth Almes:                        

That's such a great way to think about, at the end of the day where you found joy as a middle manager, where you were able to accomplish something big, because it's not going to be the same as at the front line where you said I got 10 tasks done today. Check, check, check. It's a much bigger picture. 

So the last question I have for you is one that I ask all of our guests on the show. Can you share with me a moment of leadership that changed your life and the way you thought about leadership?

Andrew Gill:                       

Yeah, I've had a number of moments of leadership that have changed my life. I would say failure is probably the biggest place that I learned from, when I was at DDI and I took over a senior leadership role of consulting. It absolutely went to my head and I stopped connecting with people. I stopped talking to people. I stopped spending time with them. I still spend time with clients while I wasn't spending time with people. And I failed badly. I got disconnected from my team. 

Things were just not occurring and really I just was not doing the job. I wasn't growing people. We started getting turnover and I remember I got taken out of the role at the time. And I remember it hit me really, really hard and I realized I had two options.

I could either wallow in self-pity or figure out what was wrong. So I went the other way and that was probably one of the biggest lessons I had, that just if you can take that time to learn from the failure and understand what you do well and what you didn't do and try to do that differently, then that can be a sea change in how you act. 

I think the second thing was just taking risks with my career, stepping into things either with clients or into leadership roles. I moved from Australia to the US, one of the best things I ever did. And I encourage the leaders, if you're offered some position and it's a stretch and its assignments are large, I really encourage you to step into that. You'll be surprised what you can and can't do. The third lesson a little bit for me relates actually to the first one, it's humility.

It's very easy to get caught up in your head about your own capability and success. And I remember I was an officer in the Australian army and I'd got my promotion, the first lieutenant, and I'm walking down the road and people are looking at me and I'm feeling super good. I was fit. And I felt, I looked really good and I was just confident in myself. And I remember getting back to my car and I sat down and my zipper was undone. And not only was my zipper undone, but my shirt tail was hanging out. And that was for me, just a lesson in leadership around humility is that, be careful to get caught up in your own propaganda and your own success. And you'll get a lot of that and you'll get a lot of nice people saying things, but take a step back, take a step of reality.

And on both sides, don't get overly critical. Don't get overly confident, but be self-aware. And I always, now when I coach people and particularly around self-awareness, it's those three things with self-awareness. 

One, as a mid-level leader, really know who you are, like, what are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? In your personality, what enables you? What derails your work against you? 

Secondly, ask yourself, how can I be okay with that? And a lot of mid-level leaders, a lot of leaders for that matter, if they're not comfortable with who they are, they get quite defensive about it and they won't change it. Be okay with that. How can you be okay with your weaknesses? I'm a procrastinator. I know that's who I am. I've had to figure out how not to be a procrastinator, but I had to accept that was part of my personality.

Once I did that, I could then do something about it. And that leads to the third question, figure out what you're going to do with what you know about yourself. So once you accept it, what are you going to do? How are you going to leverage your strengths? How are you going to manage your limitations and your weaknesses? Where are you going to gravitate to in terms of your career? If you're going to take risks, what does that mean for you? What do you need to do? If you can answer those three questions, who am I, and how can I be okay with it? What do I do with it? It'll make your life a lot easier as a leader at any level, particularly as a mid-level leader.

Beth Almes:                        

And one of the great things there is when you know what your weaknesses are. A lot of times, there's somebody on your team who can help you and fill in as backup. You say I'm bad at this. Help me out.

Andrew Gill:                       

Yeah. You're absolutely right. And also there are people on your team if you give them permission to, will let you know that, because you can't see everything else in yourself. I'm going to call out one of my leaders, I worked with people on the board. He might know, but a guy called Scott Wolf. And I always remember he came to me at the end of a meeting and he said to me, Andrew, you're not being clear about what you want. 

And I said, what do you mean? He said, you talked about… and we talked it through, and I always appreciated him coming in and giving me the feedback because it's not easy to walk into your boss, and say how you're doing this wrong. And after that, he would do that.

I'd often check in with how'd that go? What did that happen? And I was always grateful for that. And I was grateful for anybody who would have the courage to come in and say, that was awful. I think that could be better or whatever it was. And I think as a leader, if your people can do that and do that in private and you can listen to that and you don't have to agree with it, you may disagree with it, but if you get something out of it, you can do something with it. So I think that for me probably is the other lesson as a mid-level leader.

Beth Almes:                        

Oh, those are such great stories, Andrew. Maybe my favorite story of, every leader may be walking around with their zipper down. That might be my favorite takeaway from this, so-

Andrew Gill:                       

I knew you’d remember that.

Beth Almes:                        

... don’t be too hard on yourself.

Andrew Gill:                       

I knew you’d remember that. Yeah. It is the greatest experience of my life, in my work-life about being a leader, but it's also the hardest. It really is. And I think the final thing I would say to you is, I think as a leader and I had a direct reporter of mine who had the potential to be a great leader, the problem was he thought he was a good one. He thought he was a great one already. And that always was getting in his way. 

And if he could step back and that sense of humility is there are still things to learn, still things I could do better, then I think he could have potentially been a great leader. So don't get caught up in your hype. Don't get caught up in your own head too much, but keep that sense of reality.

Beth Almes:                        

That is the perfect way to finish. So thank you so much, Andrew, for being here on the Leadership 480 podcast today.

Andrew Gill:                       

My pleasure.

Beth Almes:                        

And thank you to our listeners who all took part of their 480 minutes to be with us and remember to make every moment of leadership count.