By Alyssa Phillips, Chief Operating Officer, HCR Wealth Advisors
Over the years, I’ve worked in sports and entertainment, restaurant franchise management, consumer products manufacturing and distribution and wealth management. The companies have spanned from startup to growth and mature phases, and my experience has afforded me the perspective to glean some lessons that transcend a specific company or industry.
As a leader, I constantly seek out ways to improve, and in that quest, I particularly appreciate the opportunity to hear about the obstacles that others have faced. So, to that end, here are some hard won lessons in leadership that I hope will help you to avoid some bumps and bruises along the way.
#1 – Don’t Be Afraid of Change
We all know that change is inevitable, but how many of us actually embrace it? As leaders, it is imperative that we do, otherwise how else will our team/company survive in this constantly evolving world? Although sometimes difficult, change can be an agent for improvement in ways you may not even see initially. An all too relevant example in these days of the Great Resignation is receiving an abrupt notice that a team member is leaving. While this may cause a strain on the team until a replacement is found, it also creates the opportunity to assess the newly vacant role for any adjustments that may better serve the team/company and allow you the opportunity to find an even better fit, which will pay dividends in the long run. We can’t control what happens, but we can control how we respond, so when you are faced with unsolicited change, just focus on figuring out the silver lining and pushing ahead.
#2 – Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
This is not to say that there isn’t value in reviewing relevant benchmarks and studies to have appropriate context. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen good leaders get caught up in the comparison game with competitors, so much so that they’re blinded to what’s going on in their own company. This was a tough lesson for a competitive athlete like me to learn, but over the years I have seen the benefit in measuring against my yesterday, rather than my competitors, to find areas for improvement. My personal philosophy is kaizen, which essentially means continuous improvement and change for the better, and this is also my approach to business. The focus on looking inward for opportunity for growth has served me quite well and prevents me from getting caught in the comparison vortex.
#3 – Don’t Try to Do It All Yourself
Many leaders are control freaks. Your company is your baby, you care about it, so you seek to control everything you can, but it isn’t scalable for you to do everything forever. If you want to really grow, you’ll need to develop a team around you that complements (and challenges) what you bring to the table. Eventually we all learn this, but the key is when. If you ask others when they learned this, they will say that they wished they would have figured it out sooner. So here is your sign to consult the subject matter experts (SMEs) and surround yourself with people who have diverse knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs), ASAP.
#4 – Don’t Be Afraid to Look Within
Do you want people to follow you because they have to or because they want to? If it’s the latter, it’s important to realize that the most effective leaders are those who can (and frequently do) look within. You have to figure out ways to be introspective and get constructive feedback to continuously improve, because the way you conduct yourself will trickle down into the entire organization. There’s no “do as I say, not as I do” when you’re a leader. You have to walk the walk, and in order to do that, you need to take a hard look in the mirror and find ways to improve yourself, your approach, your energy, etc. Consult a business coach, ask your colleagues, take a personality assessment, whatever it takes to get the honest feedback you need to make sure you’re emanating the energy you want for your organization.
#5 – Don’t Expect Yourself from Your Staff
This was a tough one for me in my early professional career. I thought if I was setting the example and putting in my blood, sweat and tears, that everyone would approach the work with the same veracity. It took me a while to realize this wasn’t the case. As a leader, it’s important to recognize that your team members won’t have the same expectations, motivations, or commitment as you, and that’s ok. It’s ok for people to have an off switch, it doesn’t mean that they don’t care about you as a leader or the company. As long as they are fulfilling their job function and working towards their goals, that’s all you can ask of them, and trying to ask any more will just end in friction and frustration.
#6 – Don’t Take Up Too Much Space
As a leader, you are always in the spotlight, and it’s important to recognize how that affects the people around you. Take the Sunflower Bias for instance – which is when we are influenced by the “brightest” source (aka leader) in the room. Subordinate team members are naturally inclined to agree with what we say by virtue of our position; good leaders recognize this, but great leaders find ways to prevent this, and instead create space for team members to bring in their ideas so they can develop and grow.
Leadership isn’t easy, but it can be the most rewarding part of your professional journey if you do the hard work to truly embrace it.
Alyssa Phillips is the Chief Operating Officer of HCR Wealth Advisors based in Los Angeles. She joined HCR in 2018 and oversees company operations, technology, human capital and strategic planning. https://www.hcrwealth.com/