Who Promoted the Kid?! #LDbravery

Business, Leadership, Management

Welcome to my first blog. I’ve been meaning to set this up for a while now, but I’ve been nervous about it, to be honest.

My inspiration for finally getting going was reading Tony Jackson’s #LDbravery article on courageous L&D.

Firstly, a caveat, this blog and I, we’re not an oracle; for me, this blog is meant to share some of my stories about being a leader, a young manager, and later, an L&D professional. Hopefully you’ll learn from some of my mistakes, hopefully you’ll relate to some of my topics.

Back to my story. Tony’s blog post made me remember a time, way back when (about 2 years ago), when I was a senior manager in a global clinical trials company, and I was also the youngest senior manager in the company and ALL of my staff were older than me. Tony talks about receiving resistance (quite extreme resistance) from one of his participants. I can relate. Probably all of you reading can too.

I first experienced this type of resistance at my first team meeting as the European Lab’s Sample Processing Manager. I was 23. Looking into the faces of my team, all of whom had been at the company longer, were more experienced, and were (to be frank) much older than me, was daunting to say the least. Crossed arms and skeptical glances.

This department was struggling. They had just lost their manager (fired), who had been extremely ineffectual, the wider company had lost respect for this underperforming group, and they had lost their confidence in a big way. Rapid expansion and a company buy-out had blown-up this department’s workload and they were under the types of pressure they never experienced before.

I’m not saying my methods were ideal, nor even that my new and scary ideas were right. But I went for it. I stepped up and shielded my team from criticism, criticism that really should have been levied at outdated processes, but instead was hurled at individuals. I encouraged trialing new approaches, what we were doing wasn’t working! I opened up lines of communication between processors and project managers, and ultimately I helped the team believe in themselves again. They were a GOOD team, but their processes were no longer fit for purpose, and they had been let down by their previous manager.

In my experience, people stop resisting, stop doubting and criticizing when it turns out you were right. When your ideas start paying off, when processes start improving, when morale is lifted. Stick it out. You can do it, and it will get better.

I’m sure you won’t find any of this advice in leadership books, or the blogs of infamous business experts. Nevertheless, it worked for me. To all young leaders out there, I say, be courageous, believe in your ability, be respectful but don’t, ever, let that respect disable you from sticking to your vision.