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3 Secrets That Help Young Leaders Soar At Work

young leaders

We’ve had a lot of young leaders join our team over the last few years, some straight out of college.

Despite all the stereotypes about young leaders, I actually love working with young leaders and have seen them do amazing work.

But as their boss, one of the key challenges I’ve faced is helping them acclimatize to working in a team setting with others.

Over the last few years, I’ve discovered a few key practices (call them secrets if you like)  that can help create traction fast and even soar at work.

When I’ve coached young leaders (some as young as 19) in these three areas, I’ve seen their performance move from good to great in months.

The best thing about these practices is that anyone can learn them quickly. Frankly, they’ve served as great reminders to me as well,  regardless of the fact that I’ve been leading for a few decades now. The more I exhibit these traits (and everyone does), the better things go.

These secrets work especially well with young leaders because it seems to be a skill set they’re lacking as they enter the workplace.

So if you’re a young leader, try embracing these. If you coach young leaders like I do, try coaching them in these three areas.

So what are the secrets? Here you go:

1.  Be ProActive

So many problems emerge when people fail to take action.

Inactivity, uncertainly and hesitation create all kinds of confusion in organizations, and sadly, it’s way more normal than you’d expect.

Things fall behind schedule, issues never get dealt with and frustration rises.

As a result, uncertainty plagues leaders who are starting out because they’re trying to figure out whether they’re allowed to act or not.

Proactivity solves so much of that.

My advice to young leaders is this: don’t wait for someone to ask you to solve a problem, start tackling it.

My advice to young leaders is this: don't wait for someone to ask you to solve a problem, start tackling it. Click To Tweet

If you’re really uncertain whether that’s a good idea or not, then ask.  My guess is your boss will be grateful you saw the problem and might give you full permission to handle it. I tend to do that.

On the other hand, if the problem is clearly in your area,  solve it.  A good rule of thumb: if you see it, solve it.

If you just sit there wondering, stop wondering, and do something.  It will solve a host of potential problems.

It might even get you promoted.

if you see it, solve it. Being proactive might even get you promoted. Click To Tweet

2. Take Responsibility

Often in a team setting, responsibility for tasks is unclear.

As a result, it’s a good idea to take responsibility for moving a project from inception to completion.

Even if you are engaging lots of other people to get it done, a project well executed from start to finish creates a great track record for young leaders.  Just assume responsibility.

Another situation in which responsibility comes into play is when clarity is lacking.

Say your team generates an idea, but no one is clear about follow-through.  Or an email lands in several inboxes but no one is sure about next steps.

This is a young leader’s chance to do two things.

First, clarify responsibility. Ask “what would you like me to do?

And second, offer to assume responsibility.

Seasoned team members tend to love young team members who take initiative. I know I do.

A project well executed from start to finish creates a great track record for young leaders. Just assume responsibility. Click To Tweet

3. Over-Communicate

I am convinced you can almost never over-communicate.

Marriages and families collapse because of poor communication, and so do teams and organizations.

A good rule of thumb in leadership is when in doubt, communicate.

You can almost never over-communicate. Marriages and families collapse because of poor communication, and so do teams and organizations. Click To Tweet

For emerging leaders, this takes at least three forms.

Where there is a lack of clarity, ask for clarity.

When you have completed something, tell your boss (I love progress reports from my team).

When a project you’re working on is falling behind, tell your boss before your boss discovers it on his or her own.

If your supervisor has to ask you a list of questions about where projects stand, it’s a sure sign you could communicate more.

For years now I’ve said to my team “Communicate, communicate, communicate.  If you’re over-communicating, I’ll let you know.”

I have yet to tell a team member to stop overcommunicating.

If your supervisor has to ask you a list of questions about where projects stand, it's a sure sign you could communicate more. Click To Tweet

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Teaching these three skills to young leaders has been so fun, and seeing young leaders embrace them is often the difference between them stumbling out of the gate and seeing them thrive.

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There’s a talent war going on for the best leaders, a generational divide at work, and, according to Gallup, 70% of all workers are disengaged at work (meaning that they show up and only do the bare minimum.) 

The High Impact Workplace will give you the edge you need to create the best team you can to move forward in an age where 8-4 doesn’t work anymore (just ask any young leader about that).

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What have you learned?

I’ve seen young leaders move from green to great in just a few months using these three practices as a go-to recipe for developing skills in the workplace.

In the meantime, what have you learned about proactivity, responsibility and communication?  How has working on these three skills helped you?

7 Comments

  1. Leslee R Altrock on November 15, 2019 at 11:27 am

    Having three sons who are entering the workforce – I find the things you mention here to be so true. I love working with people younger than me when they do theses! I have shared this post with my boys! Thank you for your creative thinking and writing down things that is helping me practically in my area of influence!

  2. Danielle M. on November 14, 2019 at 2:04 pm

    As a young woman leader here and someone who has sought these skills out- and been equipped by many of your posts- this post is helpful and rich in reminders. It also gives me the opportunity to say that these three “skills” are surprisingly a struggle when working around seasoned people in healthcare and in multi-generational, highly collaborative environments. So much so, that I began to feel like I am being unnecessary and doing “too much.” Also makes me quiet and introspective while working which results are also counterintuitive. This helps me to keep speaking and voicing my hunches and areas I find confusing for clarity.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 14, 2019 at 2:07 pm

      Danielle…there’s definitely a culture to every workplace and for sure, you have to be sensitive to that. But I applaud your efforts and I love how you’re trying to go the extra mile. Long term, that really pays off. Keep going.

  3. Ebenezer Osei Poku on November 14, 2019 at 11:27 am

    Powerful​ and helpful

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 14, 2019 at 2:06 pm

      Thanks!

  4. Mike S. on November 14, 2019 at 10:03 am

    Carey,

    “Despite all the stereotypes about young leaders, I actually love working with young leaders and have seen them do amazing work.”

    Your 3 points (in obverse) are the stereotypes of young leaders.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 14, 2019 at 2:06 pm

      That’s kind of the point of the post. 🙂

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