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4 ways to Change Your Mindset From An Individual Contributor To A Leader

Anthony Vaughan from Baltimore, MaryLand. Director of Employee experience @Fit2go Personal training. A serial entrepreneur and start up consultant, is an avid speaker and podcast host. Anthony has a keen interest with helping brands and organizations in implementing thoughtful HR.

Moving from individual contributor to leader is like moving from being baby sat to being parent…. Yes I said being “baby sat to a parent”. Your entire perspective changes but not as much as you may think. For me, when I moved from being a employee i.e. individual contributor to a leader, I used a lot of my personal experiences and interactions with upper management during my time being an employee as an example of what to do and what not to do. Most leaders when they are given the power to lead use that opportunity to flex their emotions, force personnel perspectives/change and often times duplicate the poor examples/behaviors-their previous leaders showed them. I feel there are a few core mental perspectives an individual contributor must adopt in order to have success as a leader, a complete paradigm shift is needed!

Insight #1

“Individual contributors usually get promoted because they are amazing employees. But the skills the manager needs to be successful are completely different from the skills an individual contributor needs to flourish” – this is one fact/reality that an individual contributor must grasp. The skills, motivations and overall core perspectives that helped you become a top employee often times does not translate over to leadership. You must understand that the skills you posessed naturally and the skills that you developed will be vastly different from the skills of those you are leading. Thus you must possess patience, empathy, a desire to learn who these people are as employees and individual contributors so you can help navigate them and their overall development.

Insight #2

“You need great coaches and mentors thus it’s your job as a leader to think about the few leaders you remember who made you feel comfortable, helped you gain and retain skills, cared for you, respected your strengths and weaknesses” – for me this is the key to successfully making a transition. Find those leaders, grab a coffee, lunch, a long/slow steak dinner.. learn where their perspectives came from, learn what drives them today. Ask questions.. detailed questions that will unlock tips and insights that will help you duplicate the same level of empathy, kindness & overall emotional support that same leader once showed you. Keep this mentor close during any tough moments & setbacks. And always , seek feedback , real feedback that will break you down in the short run but build you up in the long term!

Insight #3

“Learn to trust and appreciate when you hire those that are smarter then you”. This might be the toughest pill for leaders to swallow yet this might be the most impactful in the overall success from a growth perspective. Give your secrets away! Help your individual contributor when it comes to teamwork, leadership, guiding and empathy , but always remember that they are in the position they are for a reason thus there intelligence is one to respect and allow to flourish.

Insight #4

“Feedback from your tribe is the best feedback you will ever receive”. Promotion means dealing with increased scrutiny and criticism. Therefore, it’s a good idea to re-examine your relationship with feedback.

  • Step 1 – go to your tribe with open arms and a open mind and ask them to give you direct feedback on your interpersonal skills, task selections, communication style, role as a leader … you want them to know that at any point they can come to you with an open mind and heart.
  • Step 2 – listen closely , take everything they say into consideration, believe that their advice has some truth and value in it. As a leader this feedback will give you insights into what’s important to them as a person and individual contributor. You have a lot to learn, so be open to the lessons that feedback can teach.
  • Step 3 – Act on anything you stated you would! If you said you would re-work their job title and structure do so… if you said you would re-design their bonus structure and incentives, do so. If you said you would change your communication and leadership style, do it! Your word is your bond!

The transition to manager entails changing your perspective on many things. At first, this shift will seem very difficult. Embracing a leadership mindset doesn’t necessarily get less difficult, however by following the above steps and with everyday practice, you will eventually emerge as a great leader.


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