Transitioning Into Your First Leadership Role: Top Tips For Brand New Leaders With Michelle Harris

Your People Strategy Forum

Transitioning into your first leadership role can be daunting, especially as a woman. There are many times when people are promoted to a leadership position and they are just not yet ready. As a leader, you have a lot of responsibility on top of taking care of your team. So what should you do as a brand new leader? Listen to this episode to find out.

Join Sam Reeve, Char Miller, & Sumit Singla as they talk to the founder of BosstrackMichelle Harris. Learn how you can build trust with your team as a new leader. Understand why leadership can be difficult, especially for women. Know how to properly delegate and manage your team. Find out how you can learn from your mistakes and grow as a leader. Start transitioning into your new position as smoothly as you can today!

Listen to the full episode here!

To learn more about the People Strategy Forum or to find out more about the hosts, go to the CompTeam website!


We are a live forum on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. You can catch us on any of those channels there. What we are all about here on the show is ensuring we are elevating the industry overall. We want to ensure we are creating those workplaces where people are engaged and energized to be at the organization because we believe that happy people create great workplaces and also great products and services for their customers. That’s the reason why we are here on the show.

We are nearing the Thanksgiving holiday here in the US. We do have some absences for people out visiting family but hopefully, we will have some other hosts that will be joining shortly. We have Sumit Singla joining us from India. Sumit is a People Strategist. He comes with a wide breadth of experience from some large consulting firms that you’ve all heard about. We are fortunate to have him advise people here at CompTeam, and he also has his firm over in India.

We have Char Miller. She is a people expert as well. She has been a former and current Chief People Officer. She had summits at some large healthcare organizations and then quite a bit of an entrepreneur, so she has a lot of her own businesses. She has led her staff and understands what it means to be an owner. She’s our small business expert.

My name is Sam Reeve. I’m the Founder of CompTeam. We are primarily a talent and compensation consulting company. We help a lot of small to medium-sized companies develop that important infrastructure to help their people and create those happy workspaces that we are talking about. We are here to talk with Michelle Harris. She is the Founder of Bosstrack. It’s a fairly new approach to showing people how to become a manager and develop.

Michelle works with a lot of women in that space, and there are some unique issues with women’s leadership that we are going to be talking about and how to bring that to light. Also, other factors of leadership and some of the issues that are found, such as remote and hybrid work. Michelle comes from the financial and accounting industry. She’s got twenty years of experience in leadership herself, so she has been all through that time.

As we all are leaders, one of the main things that we need to concentrate on is developing people, so Michelle has a wide variety of techniques on how to coach and develop leaders. Michelle, as we go on through this conversation, can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself? How did you get into leadership, and what was your drive behind creating Bosstrack?

Thank you for having me on. I am a little in awe of being among the three of you. I’m looking forward to our conversation. Sam, as you mentioned, I have had a twenty-plus-year career in leadership. I went into leadership pretty early on outside of college. I had about six months of being not a leader and then went straight into leadership. I’ve got a lot of experience. My area was accounting and finance.

I worked primarily for mid-sized businesses, which were always in some transition, whether it would be a financial reorganization, forensic investigations or preparations for acquisitions. I have years of experience with teams with private equity-backed companies and high-growth modes, so I understand the challenges in that environment, which translates pretty well to the tech environment, surprisingly.

I have to say that while I was in finance and accounting, my expertise was always in building teams and developing people. I understand the challenges that women face in the workplace because, of course, I am a woman, and I’ve mentored a lot of women in their careers. I was a single mom throughout most of my career, so I understand the challenges that can come from that as well.

All this is to say. I started Bosstrack because I saw a gap in comprehensive development programs for new leaders. There was a lot available out there for executives. Executive programs, universities, accounting firms, and consulting firms have them but nothing that really prepared new leaders for their new role, from going from individual contributor to leader.

I could send my team to a 1 to 2-day course. They would come back after getting that data dump of information and be on their own trying to figure things out or I could hire a consultant to come in and develop the program specifically for us but it was outside of our budget and it takes the time. Neither of those was very feasible for long-term development.

With Bosstrack, we have a formal accelerator program. We take people through eight weeks of learning the essentials of moving from an individual contributor to a leader. We guide them through by providing a mentor/coach every week to talk through what the questions were, what the challenges were or even to talk through issues that they are having in their job. We help them through the process, and we are there for them after the program ends as well for a year, and then further along if they continue the membership.

My goal with Bosstrack was to provide a long-term solution and mentorship that was a little more formal, was available and accessible, and didn’t require that somebody had to identify that person or resource. They could come to our site and ask the questions they had. I’m excited to be on. I’m excited to talk about what I think are the top tips for becoming a leader. Thank you for having me.

Michelle, I have a question for you right off the bat. I’m curious. At what points should someone engage with your support and mentorship? Would it be a professional that is looking for a leadership opportunity in the next six months to a year or in the future? Would it be a freshly new leader that has just been promoted? Regretfully, people would know about your resources. One day they are pulled in, promoted, and wouldn’t know that you are there. What’s the best time to engage with your services?

There is a little bit of a varied answer there. I would say, ideally, it’s when you are first promoted, and you are new in the role and experiencing the challenges because then, you can take what you are learning, apply them immediately, get results, and get immediate feedback but that’s not to say. We also have had people that are preparing for a leadership roles and want to learn.

They are high performers and want to have an impact. They are ready to take on that role. Taking our program gives them the experience to say that they are ready for a leadership role. We’ve also had women that have been leaders for ten-plus years take our program. They have benefited from it and have asked me not to focus on new leaders because they never got the leadership training to begin with, so they think that it’s valuable for them. I would say it’s for the new leaders.

I mentioned when we first met that I was telling you that I always like to talk about a story. This brings back those flashbacks. When I was 25 years old, I was in my first HR coordination position. By the time I was 27, I was promoted to HR Manager for a grocery distribution facility of over 600 employees. Not only did I have the HR staff reporting to me but I had the entire security staff.

As a woman, it was very intimidating, not just because of my age but also leading two different, very separate functions with seasoned people and being promoted. The challenge was feeling a bit intimidated because of my age and also because it was in the logistics industry. If anyone understands what that means, it means trucking and distribution. Predominantly a male type of field. To top all that off, right before I was promoted, I found out I was pregnant. Here I am, standing in the back of a semi-truck, talking about employee benefits with truckers.

Anyway, the whole experience was pretty overwhelming. I had to beef up my self-confidence and feel that I was knowledgeable and could bring my talents to this. Using this program that you have would have been extremely helpful in those days. That’s why I can relate because I always say that I was on an island. I always felt like I was on my own to try to navigate those waters, and at times was not feeling in my comfort zone. Is that the type of person that you would find very helpful to assist?

Yes, definitely. I can relate. I was in distribution for a little bit myself and somehow got put on the safety. I was in charge of implementing our safety program and out there trying to tell truckers and distribution managers what they needed to be doing and what they shouldn’t be doing. It was a very fine line. That’s after years of experience myself. I completely understand.

Did you ever have to put a hazmat suit on and stand on top of a grocery distribution field facility?


Also, out there trying to train people on the safety of operating a forklift. I couldn’t even operate a forklift on my own. I was like, “Seriously, do you think I can solve world hunger here?” It’s interesting because people embrace your talent and think you can jump in and do all these things. Safety, hazmat, leadership development, being an HR manager, doing this whole gamut of things, which is great but also you feel like you are treading in that water because safety is important.

People wearing their safety helmets is important. It is important that people are trained appropriately to protect the workforce and also deliver to the customer. You are constantly on a fast track of trying to absorb as much information as you can absorb but also being a great leader in that same space. What you are offering is awesome. This is what many new leaders, up-and-coming leaders, would need for men, women, or anybody.

We are very women-centric. Our programs are designed to talk to women but we also have information in each of our courses about how men can be allies to women. The information is universal. There are certain challenges that women face with certain biases and historic things that they’ve faced. Other than that, moving to a leader is the same for everybody.

First Leadership Role: There are certain challenges and biases that women face when it comes to being a leader. But at the end of the day, moving to a leadership position is the same for everybody.

I like what you said about confidence because it does come down to confidence. Our program does have one module that is specifically confidence-focus, and we give everybody tools to move through times when they are not confident or situations that they are not confident with. The program and the information we provide are all to help them feel confident that they know the right things to do.

I know the gentlemen here want to inter interject but I have to say another female perspective on this. It’s interesting. In my professional career, I remember having former HR leaders that taught me the best way to shake a man’s hand. You got to shake your man’s hand with firmness or “Char, stop curling your hair,” I still do that. I don’t know if I ever got that figured out, but things like lowering my voice or tonality when I’m dealing with men. No offense, gentlemen here but having to become more man-like is the very political way of saying this.

To get to the point quicker, not be floating around on the subject matter all over the place as typical female feminine conversations go. Being given that feedback, even at one point, one of my HR leaders told me that I needed a power due. I needed to chop off my hair and look like a typical HR manager. He showed me the HR magazine and flipped through it.

He said, “Char, you do not have power due.” I said, “What the heck is a power due?” He says, “That’s man type of haircut.” I said, “That’s very sexist but thank you. I don’t think I’m going to cut my hair.” As a young professional, given all this strange, random feedback, I couldn’t have that feminine energy. I have this masculine energy. Both energies are definitely appreciated. Sumit has his mute off. Sumit, what do you think about feminine and masculine energy? I’m wondering what you think.

I’m a believer in gender as a spectrum, therefore, not in the binaries. The other thing that I would add to your point about the handshake brought up was that I was having a discussion with someone who’s neurodiverse and also had ADHD. Some of the conventional signs that we talk about, the person has a firm handshake versus somebody who’s got a limp handshake, don’t hold true in the modern world because somebody who is neurodiverse will probably not even want to shake a hand, so forget shaking a hand with firmness.

Therefore, we need to get away from some of these cognitive biases that we have like a salesperson has to be extroverted and bouncing all over the place to be effective. Somebody who doesn’t have a firm handshake is either trying to scam you or you are not to be trusted, and so forth. Especially when we are training first-time leaders, it’s important to get this message correct. Michelle, I would like your opinion on that in terms of how we cater to diverse populations, things such as gender, age, ethnicity, and various other factors as well. How do you still keep it consistent but catering to the diversity?

I don’t think I have the end-all answer for that. What we focus on are empathy and emotional intelligence. Those types of conversations come out in that section of our program. I want to say that the experience with Char saying that she got called out about the handshake, rambling, and even high-pitched voices it’s interesting because it’s not just a female thing.

I’ve had many men with who I’ve shaken their hands, and it has been a lengthy handshake. I have been in many meetings where men ramble. It’s not a gender-specific thing but somehow, women get called out for that. Leaders coming up need to understand empathy and put themselves in the other person’s shoes. We try to help them understand that and look from that perspective.New leaders need to understand empathy. They really need to start putting themselves in other people’s shoes. CLICK TO TWEET

My experience in corporate was quite similar to what Char experienced there. Of course, I’m not a woman but there are some of the people I interacted with that grew up and are basically advanced in their careers and went through a bit of a metamorphosis as female. They would come into the organization very feminine, with long hair, and unique in dress and so forth. As they were promoted, then they started buttoning down and wearing the suit, cutting back their hair, and being much more formalized in talk and appearance.

That was a period of time that we were going through several years ago where we were trying to figure out how to bring women into the workplace, try to be more equitable and advance the cause. That led to a lot of women trying to mimic male characteristics in the past 3 to 5 years. There has been a huge drive in coming to work as yourself, having more acceptance around our gender and that spectrum that Sumit was talking about, embracing our ethnicity and our culture. Smart leaders are embracing that and are shifting their perspective not to how you show up as much as what you produce and how you contribute to the organization. What you do and the behaviors that you bring, and the holistic approach that you might employ. What do you think, Michelle?

I want to say that I definitely agree with that. I am very heartened to hear more and more people talk about contribution versus putting in the hours or fitting a certain role, especially when it comes to remote work and the perception of what they are doing. We talk about that a lot with remote leadership in terms of, it’s about the work getting done. I don’t want to ramble off on that but I want to say something that might be a little controversial. I completely agree with you, Sam, that everybody should show up and be allowed to. If I want to have my hair pink, have my hair pink. If I want to have short hair, then I have short hair. If I want to have long hair, then I have long hair or pants or skirts.

First Leadership Role: Leaders need to allow everybody to show up. If someone wants pink hair and to wear a skirt, a leader has to find a balance where it doesn’t go too far.

I’ve seen instances where it can be taken a little too far, and people can start getting sloppy. There is still something to be said about looking somewhat put together. Especially if you are looking to climb the corporate ladder and move into more executive-level roles, it’s something to be aware of. Not to say you need to wear makeup but it’s feeling and looking put-together. What do you guys think about that? I think that’s still important.

Here we are. You’ve got Sam, Sumit, and Char. We are in our Thanksgiving wear, and you have more of the office approach. We are not the best example. I would definitely say that it’s funny because when I was doing more of a corporate role and I had all my fancy suits and every single color of the rainbow with my black slacks. I remember it was the diversity and inclusion director that pulled me aside and said, “You need to learn something about executive presence.”

Like what Sam was saying, remember that was the big cliché word back a decade or so ago. I was like, “What is the executive presence class?” It’s like those movies where the girl goes in and learns prim and proper manners. I don’t know what movie that is. One of you guys probably knows. It’s not tomato. It’s tomato.

My Fur Lady.

I knew you would know that. It was funny because I was given feedback about executive presence, and it was one of those kinds of conversations. You need to drive the right car. That was one because my PT Cruiser was not cool enough. I need to have the appropriate attire and also how I communicate. I found that fascinating, and this gentleman that actually gave me this feedback literally took a three-month very hardcore course on executive presence. I’m sure it was expensive.

I agree with Sumit and with the team here. There’s more awareness and softness to the fact that diversity is more valued. As long as we follow the lines of the dress code, which many of us have written, then yes, we might be okay with dreadlocks as long as it’s pulled back appropriately. It can be controversial and opinionated, and people can be offended if you don’t handle that with delicate gloves and appropriately introduce that executive presence into the organization.

One thing I must add to that is that I meet with executives all day long, every day of the week, in my role. There has been a huge shift in leadership and dress. A lot of the male leaders that I meet with are often very casually dressed. I’ve even had some that there were ball caps and so forth. That might be a bit of a backlash from the technology groups that I typically meet with. One thing that is clear, women leaders, even now, must over-compensate to be treated inequitably with men.

I also do equal pay studies. One thing that is found in that research is that for a woman to be treated at the same level of respect from an intellectual standpoint, the study shows that a man with an Associate degree is comparable with a woman with a Master’s degree, and how they are treated fairly. That’s still a bit shocking. There’s some work that needs to happen in our society there still that we are coming in the right direction.

You are right, Michelle. It’s definitely when we are thinking about how we present ourselves professionally. We first need to think about the people that we are meeting with and be adaptable on a daily basis. At times when we are casual, we can be more approachable for most of the staff, and then there are other times when we need to up our game, we are meeting with the Board of Directors or our customers and clients.

We want to make sure that we look a little bit more polished regardless of our gender because we are representing the brand. When we are put together, then people have an impression that the company and how we are managing things, and the way we treat our people are a little bit more refined as well. There is a time for everything.

I completely agree with that. I have to say, all of you look very professional and polished, even with what you are wearing. I didn’t at all mean that but it’s more of, at least, combing your hair. I like what you said, Sam, about it depending on the situation because I probably feel more comfortable meeting you for the first time when you are not in a business suit and informal. It gives a certain feeling. That’s something that we talked about.

I don’t know exactly if that’s going to take time to change because it’s insane some of the things I hear about. People being able to have their natural hair and that being professional or unprofessional. We talk about the responsibility of the person as a new leader that they need to accept or embrace diversity and not just in appearances but also in thought and background as well. That’s our approach to that. Hopefully, we will have somewhat of an impact.A new leader needs to embrace diversity, not just with other people’s appearance but in thought and background as well. CLICK TO TWEET

Talking about being professional, unfortunately, there’s no standard, clear definition of what is professional and what’s unprofessional. I don’t know if you’ve come across this scenario, Michelle. Very recently, there was somebody who posted on a social media forum that they were a new employee. They were on a Zoom call with a client, and the cat happened to jump into their lab. After the call, their boss called them back, saying that it was extremely unprofessional and making sure it didn’t get repeated in the future, and so forth.

The person hadn’t named the organization but imagine how much damage it could do to the way your culture is perceived. It’s absurd that somebody’s cat coming on screen requires to be reprimanded by the manager. Organizations need to move beyond the accepted norms of what was professional behavior or professional attire earlier and evolve a little, which is not to say that they turn up in beachwear for a client meeting but a little more flexibility and trust in the judgment of the professionals themselves, working with you or working for you would definitely go a long way.

That sounds like a bad manager, especially in this remote environment when people are working from home. It seems to be an accepted normal thing to happen and, hopefully, a one-off situation. It’s interesting being down here in Miami, where we go to professional events, and it’s hard to know whether I should dress in a suit or a dress in Miami casual. I have actually had that challenge here trying to fit in and have now relegated to myself. If it’s an event over in Miami Beach, I know what to wear. It’s a little more casual but if I’m in Brickell over here in the finance center, I will dress up a little more. It’s something to consider the situation.

Moving off the topic of dress code. We always gave our new leaders, The First 90 Days book. I know that’s an outdated book but it did give some practical advice about when you become a new leader with understanding the organizational strategies, organizational goals, return on investments, and focusing on what’s valuable as a new leader in the organization and making a major impact because that first 90 days is the first impression of your leadership in that organization.

Oftentimes, new leaders don’t take the time to ask questions, sit down with every employee, and understand what the needs are as their new leader in that group or that organization. I’ve often seen new leaders come in thinking they know everything. They have all the answers. I’m going to come in, communicate, delegate and say, “This is what I expect from you,” but never sit back and learn from their new employees what it takes to be a good new leader in the organization. I’m sure you are familiar with that book. What do you think of those resources to help new leaders be impactful when they first start?

I am all for any book that they can get ahold of, any information, and learning. It is their time to absorb as much information as they can about their new role. One of the tips that I did have to bring up during our conversation was exactly that. In your first few weeks, make sure that you are spending time with every single person on your team. Getting to know what they do, getting to know them personally and starting to build that trust, and also being careful not to make changes too quickly. Even with those early-on conversations, you only know part of the picture. Make sure that you take the time to understand the full picture and not feel like you need to come in and make a difference on day 1 or month 1.

First Leadership Role: As a leader, in your first few weeks, make sure that you are spending time with every single person on your team. Get to know them personally so you can build that trust.

With that said, there is something, too. Looking for little small wins, something that’s not so consequential. As a no-brainer, that should be changed and making those changes does help a lot with building that trust with your team and having them see that you are on their side. For sure, you definitely need to take the approach of getting to know your entire team and what they do before you start thinking you know anything about how to change things or take over.

One other story that I have. I was the Regional Talent Management and Organizational Effectiveness Director. That’s quite a title, isn’t it for a healthcare system? What happened was that with changes in the departmental structure, I ended up inheriting the learning and development department, the process improvement department, and various departments within that structure.

Unfortunately, a lesson that I learned is that the communication processes of that change did not occur correctly. For example, somebody was laid off or a particular leader was laid off in that organization, and next thing you know, the very next day, I’m magically their new leader. I remember I was in the conference room, and it was announced that I was going to be their new director. All of a sudden, this absolute anger came out. Not necessarily because they didn’t like me but because they were angry about what happened to their former leader, the rapid change and the lack of sensitivity to how they felt about this particular director’s position being eliminated. I learned a harsh lesson in that change management process.

Back to the confidence to be able to say, “I apologize for the fact that we did not handle this change very well. We communicated it abruptly. We didn’t get a chance to sit down and hear your side or perspective as inheriting a new leader.” I believe the change management process is absolutely critical because if you don’t really handle that well, that new leader, no matter what their gender, background or diversity is going to fail in that process. It’s something to be very sensitive to, which was one of the biggest lessons in my career.

I have many stories of that same situation. Change management is a whole other topic that I could spend hours talking about because part of my other passion besides team development is process improvement. In all of the projects that I have been involved in, change management, that is the first thing that you need to focus on having a good change management strategy.Replacing someone else’s position as a leader can be a touchy subject. That is why you need a good change management strategy. CLICK TO TWEET

It’s a touchy thing when somebody leaves. Especially if somebody is let go, there’s only so much advanced warning you can give to a team that something is going to change. It definitely is all about communication as much upfront as you can, and it goes back to empathy and understanding the team and where they are coming from and how to talk to them about the change.

Not only is it difficult to be promoted to that new leadership position but it’s also difficult to manage up and communicate with your superiors, your vice president levels or whatever levels they are to manage up and say, “I appreciate you promoted me to a new leadership position. I appreciate that I am getting all of these extra responsibilities being, whether I’m compensated or not.” Also, to manage up and say, “How do we handle this so it’s not disruptive? How do we communicate and hold our horses a bit about how we are planning for this?” Sadly, a lot of newly promoted leaders are blindsided. It’s one of those days you don’t know you are getting your promotion.

I have been there. Sitting in the president’s office with my cup of coffee, he goes, “By the way, you are our new HR Manager of XYZ organization.” I remember I was literally holding my coffee and totally forgot it was in my hand and went, “What?” My coffee threw everywhere. It’s embarrassing. I was as much surprised that I got this promotion as the employees that I was going to be the new leader of.

Also, part of what your topic is the whole dynamic of, “I was a colleague of all my new employees that now I’m the superior or the leader of.” I assume you also talk about the boundary aspect of, “I’m your friend at work but now I’m now your boss.” This dynamic of how we relate with one another is going to change. What are your thoughts on that, Michelle?

That is definitely something that we focus on in week one. What does it look like if suddenly you are promoted and now responsible for leaving people that were your friends or who you used to joke around with and share inappropriate stories with? Now that you are in this new role, how do you set those boundaries? What should those boundaries look like? Can you have a work friend that works for you? Honestly, we do try to discourage that. I know it’s hard when you have a friend that you are suddenly now in charge of but it’s a very delicate balance that you have to be more sensitive to the way you are treating them and be very aware.

We will definitely walk them through how to transition there. One of the things I was going to talk about was that it’s not only about how to communicate with your new team. It’s also if you are reporting to something new, how do you now communicate to your new boss? Even if it’s the same boss in your new role, it could switch completely. What does your boss expect? How often do they want information? What level of detail do they like to see? They like to see graphs. They want to hear high level. Make sure that is not a barrier to your succeeding as a leader. Making sure that you are communicating well with your own boss. It’s so essential to being a successful leader.A new leader doesn’t only need to know how to communicate with their new team but also with their new boss. CLICK TO TWEET

One of the challenges too is learning how to delegate. I’ve seen where employees are promoted very quickly, and they think they can do everything on their own and not rely on their team. I’ve had that challenge personally. You don’t want to bother your team with, “I need this PowerPoint done tonight. It’s Thanksgiving eve, and I need this PowerPoint by tomorrow.” You are spending all night doing that PowerPoint and not relying on your team to help you. Believe me, I have a zillion stories about that and changing my psychology about how you rely on your team’s talents.

One of the things that we talk about here at CompTeam, and we call it the TMA, is an assessment to identify the talents that drives the assets of your team and rely on that. Opening up the conversations so that you can truly embrace your new team and say, “What are your talents? What are your drives? What are your passions? What can I do to help you with your career goals and leverage those talents?”

It could be many tools but that tool is effective to open up the communication strategies and talk to the team and say, “We are here together. It’s not just me because I’m your Director. We are a team, and together we will make a difference if we leverage the talents of our team holistically.” Those are the things to open up the dialogue, which is critical for a new team. Do you ever talk about, Michelle, in your coaching that people take some form of assessment or some type of analysis to understand the talents of their teams? Do you recommend any of those types of tools or have you thought of those?

You are going right down my list, Char. As far as assessments go, we introduce the Myers-Briggs, Enneagram, and other types of DiSC, too, getting to know your team. Team building events. I try to be careful because I’m not an expert in those assessments. It’s more for information and should be used as a general guideline. It shouldn’t pigeonhole somebody into, “You are a high D, so that means I have to treat you like that.” We are going to talk about you being a high D all the time because people can change all the time. We use this as a little guideline but don’t pigeonhole people into their results.

I’m going to check out the assessment that you mentioned that you have because that sounds perfect. What I was going to talk about was delegation and understanding what your team’s strengths are, understanding what their workload is, and what they can handle are all very important to delegate. Delegating is one of the hardest things I see new leaders face.

PSF 49 | First Leadership Role

First Leadership Role: It’s important to understand your team’s strengths and the workload they have. Delegating is one of the hardest things new leaders face.

There are different reasons. One, they are time-crunched. “It’s easier to do it myself. I can do it better. I don’t think I have anybody on my team that can do this as well as I do.” It can be, “I don’t want to burden somebody on my team with this extra work.” You have to do it as a leader. You have to do it strategically and in a smart way and have a process in place to do it effectively.

You can’t dump something on somebody without telling them how to do it, giving feedback, and working through the process with them to make sure that they got the right resources to take on and work. One of the things we try to drive into our students is that if you don’t delegate, you are stealing opportunities from your team because there are people on your team that want to grow and develop.

The work that you are doing is probably something that will advance them in some way. It will give them something new to learn. It’s beneficial for both you and your team as long as you are focusing on it in the right way. In fact, we have a delegation toolkit that we give to our students but we also offer it for free to people visiting our site because it’s important to talk people through the benefits, how to do it, how to do it right, and a strategy to do it in a way that makes sense.

One other thing that I want to bring up, Michelle. That’s a great suggestion on delegation. Revisiting the concept of boundaries, one other thing that holds back women in certain situations is that a lot of people know that women can be very accommodating in taking on new tasks. Of course, as a new leader, you also want to show what you can do.

You want never to say no and so forth but there’s some power in saying no and maybe more constructively, respectively, respectfully declining an opportunity. There are some things that seem to fall on the shoulders of women more often that can be career-limiting, such as being the party planner. Arranging those types of things can actually damage one’s career. Could you tell us a little bit about that?

We talk exactly about that with not taking on the mom duties of the office and making sure that as a leader, you are being sensitive to who is doing that work underneath you as well. That is historically right, Sam, that women seem to take those responsibilities on. Sometimes, I’ve had women take on those responsibilities. They want to do it, and I have to have a conversation with them. What balance do you have when you are taking on everything you can’t?

We do talk about, from that perspective, as a leader, making sure that you are not allowing that to happen. Also, how to have conversations of no and how to have conversations of not just no. It’s like, “You want me to do this. I have this and this on my plate. Can you please help me reprioritize so that I can take that on?” Making sure that you have your boundaries set to begin with so you know when to have those conversations. We talk a lot about knowing what your boundaries are. What are your work hours going to be? How much are you willing to put in? When are you going to be available in the evenings? Are you going to be available in the evenings? Are you going to make yourself available on the weekends?

PSF 49 | First Leadership Role

First Leadership Role: As a woman leader, don’t take on the “mom duties” of the office. Know how to say “no” and how to manage what you have on your plate.

Knowing that all upfront so that when you are faced with things, you can empower yourself to be able to have the conversation. That’s not to say you can’t. There are times you are going to have to be flexible but you have that starting point that helps you have those conversations. We have whole responsibilities but we need to get women away from feeling or even being okay with other people in the office thinking that it’s okay to put the party planning, run the dishwasher, make the coffee or clean up. All of those things, the time adds up.

As we approach the top of the hour, Michelle, could you tell us a little bit more about how people could enroll in your class and/or maybe learn a little bit more about it?

Yes, of course. Our website is TheBosstrack.com. We are on Instagram @TheBosstrack. I am out on LinkedIn, @MeetMichelleHarris is my handle. Definitely, the best way is to go out to our website and explore. We have a membership that is free that you can join, and it gives you access too. We have book and podcast discussions. That’s where you are going to find a space where you can ask mentor questions that you have. We also have our Course Catalog and our Leadership Accelerator Program. Our next one will start in April of 2023. Those dates are out there as well, and tons of information on the programs.

I understand you also have a podcast as well, right?

I do. We started it a few months ago. We released episode thirteen. We talk about leading with empathy and the one that was released. We’ve had wide-ranging conversations about remote leadership, general leadership, and storytelling for leaders. It has been very interesting. I love the conversations. I leave everyone so energized. It’s called Her HypeSquad with Bosstrack. We want to be new leaders HypeSquad. That’s our goal.

I relate to that because I’m a very empathetic leader. I have always been. It was pretty fascinating to me when suddenly, we were offering certification courses on how to be an empathetic leader. I was like, “Why do people not know what that is?” That would be an interesting, provocative discussion about how to lead with more empathy. It has been great having you, Michelle. We appreciate everything you offer.

There were two things that I wanted to say that I didn’t mention. 1) As a leader, it’s not about you, so you need to make sure that you are thinking about your team. 2) Don’t be hard on yourself. You don’t need to come in and make changes. Don’t be upset if you make a wrong decision. This is your time to figure things out, make mistakes, and learn from them. You have time, so give yourself that. Be empathetic to yourself.Don’t be too hard on yourself as a new leader. This is your time to figure things out and learn from your mistakes. CLICK TO TWEET

Be empathetic to yourself and pick the right organization to work with. That is critical. As Sumit said, “HR with a heart.” That’s my little motto. Thank you, Sumit. It is critical when you are selecting an organization to work with. One that you are a good cultural fit, a good culture to work with, and your talent, skills and abilities align with the organizational values. That is also critical if you are looking to promote oneself and move up an organization. That’s interesting. Thank you.

Thank you.

Another wonderful session. Thank you for sharing your knowledge, Michelle. You have been a great guest. I appreciate that. Everyone else, thank you for joining us in the People Strategy Forum. We look forward to seeing you and hearing you next time. Thank you very much. Take care.

Thank you for having me.

Thank you. Bye.


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