July 5, 2023

5 Mistakes Good Leaders Make

I'm Melissa
I'm a Career and Leadership Coach for Women in Pharma/Biotech. I've been where you are, and I help you create the career you want without working more hours or settling for good enough.
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I was talking to a leader in my old Corporate job and she was sharing with me that even with her doing all the right things she still wasn’t being seen as a leader. ​

She did the trainings. Was nominated to be the lead on important projects. Her team loved her. ​

But there were was still a problem. ​

Her leadership didn’t see her as someone who could go any farther. Middle management was as far as she could go. ​

So she did what a lot of us do, she started looking at what other people were doing to see what she was missing. ​

Here’s the thing. She was a good leader…maybe even great. ​

But she made some key mistakes. ​

Common mistakes that I see a lot of my clients make too. ​

Today on the podcast I’m sharing the 5 mistakes I see good leaders make and what to do instead.

Regardless of level, this episode will help you be more successful in your career.

Mentioned in this episode:

What you’ll learn:

  • The 5 mistakes I see good leaders make
  • How to avoid common pitfalls in leadership and stand out as the best

Work with Melissa:

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Welcome to Your Worthy Career, a podcast with me, Melissa Lawrence. I’m a career and life coach with all the corporate credit and talent development and organizational psychology. I help women like you get extraordinary results by being more you, not less. I won’t just help you have a career experience worthy of you, but I will help you build your self worth to shift what you think is possible and take the action that will create the career you’ve always wanted. Whether it’s more meaningful work you’re passionate about, making more money, getting to your next level, or being more effective as a leader, we are shattering the glass ceiling here, the one that exists for women at work and the one we put on ourselves with our doubt and inner critic. Each week you will get practical teachings grounded in neuroscience and effective career development strategies. You’ll experience deep mindset shifts and the perfect amount of rule so you can run your career with ease rather than your career running you. You were born for more and I’m going to help you get there with maybe a few dance parties along the way. Your up level begins now.

Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of the podcast. How did you like last week’s episode? Ellen turning the tables around and taking over my podcast was actually really fun. It also felt really vulnerable, but that is what I’m here for. That is the work that we are doing. We can be ourselves, we can say hard things, we can have real conversations, and it’s only going to make us better. So if you haven’t listened, go check it out and let me know what you think. Now, today we’re going to talk about a really important topic, and that is some mistakes I see really good leaders make that stifle their career or keep them stuck at a certain level. Now, this episode is actually a condensed version of a training that I hosted a few weeks ago. So if you missed that training, you’re in luck. And if this topic sounds familiar, that is why. Now, this training was really good, and people reached out to me afterwards to tell me how it really opened up new ideas for them and how they can be more inclusive, how they can be more effective and connect with their team on a deeper level.

So I wanted this to live outside of that one training and have it here on the podcast for you all to listen to and come back to as often as you need. Now, the mistakes I’m going to talk about today, they impact particularly female leaders that work in male dominated industries like pharma and biotech, the industry that I serve. Now, whether you’re an aspiring manager or an experienced one, this episode is going to help you know what to avoid, and it will probably help you feel a little seen. So you’re going to leave here today knowing what those five mistakes are that I see people make on a regular basis as a people manager or leader, as well as some insight as to what to do instead. With what we’re going to talk about today, I want to just mention that I know what it’s like to be a leader in the industry. If you’re new to my podcast, if you’re new to me, you don’t know much about me, I know the pain points of being a woman leader in a male dominated space. I not only was one and have led teams directly and indirectly for several years, but I also developed leaders when I worked in the industry and I studied leadership in graduate school.

So my experience and expertise on this topic is both from the perspective of being in your shoes but also being an expert in the development space. So let’s just dive right in. Now, I want to note that this leadership conversation applies to you regardless of the level that you’re at. So if you’re like, I don’t know if this is for me, maybe I want to turn this off. I want you to stick with it, because these mistakes can apply to you, regardless of level and really regardless of role in some situations. It’s also going to give you some perspective ahead of time on what to avoid. So just letting this sink in and let this comprehend and sit in your subconscious when you get to that point, you’re going to already have this information and it’s going to help you be more effective from the beginning. So if you want to be seen as an exceptional leader that stands out as great, to be the leader that your team loves working for, to increase opportunities for advancement and visibility, to feel validated or confident at the leadership table, if you want any or all of those things, then this conversation is for you.

So let’s go ahead and start with our first mistake. So the number one mistake that I see good leaders make is they compare themselves to the broskies at the table. Now, hear me out. Our brain is designed to compare ourselves to others. It’s a survival instinct to be part of the herd. We’re taught from a young age that there is a right and a wrong way to do something, whether it be standardized testing, what clothing is acceptable, or what behaviors will get you to the next level. So of course, at the leadership level, you’re going to look around for queues on how to behave, on what to do, and what is going to get you ahead. When you’re trying to get promoted, you’ll look at what other people are doing. But here’s the thing. That is just going to create more of the same, which we don’t need. It creates a herd mentality and leadership. It creates clicks. It also prevents innovation and the best ideas from coming forward. It silences you because you’re too busy looking around at everyone else, and that’s just creating more doubt. If you’re muting yourself and you’re trying to be like those broskies, then you’re doing a disservice to yourself.

We don’t need more of the same. We need to diversify. We need to amplify your voice, and that starts with you. And what will actually help you get further in your career and help you be the leader that you want to be for yourself and your team is to identify your unique leadership style and build the confidence to stand out in your own way. And you can do this right now, whether you have direct reports or not. So let me illustrate this a little bit. I was working with a client who had fallen trap to this very thing. She was looking to mute her personality. She felt like she was a little too mousey or soft spoken and too nice to be seen as someone that really had potential to be a high level leader and to really be taken seriously. She was comparing herself to other people that were her peers and maybe at a higher level than her. And she noticed that her male colleagues were getting more opportunities. She thought she needed to do what they were doing. So she started toning herself down, trying to then overwork. Not on purpose. She didn’t approach her work like, I’m going to start overworking now.

But it was really like, I’m going to say yes to everything. I’m going to show everyone what I’m capable of. I’m going to do a really great job. I’m going to put my head down and I’m just going to work, work, work. She thought that that performance and that commitment to her team, filling in for her team, and all of this that she was doing was going to show her value. But here’s the thing. She also had a very different perspective on how teams should be run, which in my opinion was a very good perspective. She had a different view on how the department was motivating and engaging employees, and she saw her difference in perspective because it went against the grain of everyone else, that it was a weakness, that she needed to not ruffle any feathers and just stay the course and do what the political landscape within the culture was telling her to do. But ultimately, she was very unhappy. And so she was trying to mold herself into something that she wasn’t telling herself that her ideas weren’t good. If she had this idea and it was different from everyone else, then maybe she’s wrong.

But she wasn’t getting ahead either. So once we established what she really wanted from being a leader, the impact she wanted to have her unique view on things, she started to see how her own ideas and way of being was really what was going to set her apart, including her being nice, including her having a more quiet or tone down personality. We got clear on her positioning, on who and how she made strategic partnerships to influence and build trust within her leadership team. And then guess what? She was promoted to a higher level leadership role and given greater scope of responsibility beyond those male colleagues that she was comparing herself to. So whether it’s being an effective leader or knowing what you want out of your career, you have to know the who before you know the how. But this is counterintuitive because we want to belong and we want approval and validation, and we’re taught to look to others for that. So to take this approach, you need to have courage to stand out. That is the first mistake. Mistake number two is letting difficult employees, stakeholders, and bosses hold you back. Another common mistake I see is people will let difficult colleagues hold them back from going after what they really want or from saying their truth, saying the hard thing.

It’s common to think that your boss just won’t get it or this other person just won’t get it, that your coworker who puts up a fight about everything is just the way it’s going to be. They’re never going to stop, or that your employee is going to be offended if you give them critical feedback. I see leaders who shy away from speaking up in meetings, from holding their colleagues accountable, and really developing their employees by saying those hard things, by giving them that feedback, by advocating for themselves because they have a deep down fear that they won’t be liked, that it’s somehow going to hurt them. And what this does is it just creates more stress for you. It’s also a really sneaky form of people-pleasing because you’re not sharing your ideas, going after that big project, or helping your employees grow because you’re staying in your comfort zone and you don’t want to ruffle any feathers. But instead, when you not only have the confidence to do those hard things, to say that feedback, to advocate for yourself and your team, and you have the skill to navigate these tough situations, you’re going to be able to achieve more for yourself and your team.

You don’t want to let the discomfort of what could happen when you push back stop you from being empowered and doing the right thing for you in your role. I had a client who was a new leader in her role, and she wanted to make a really good impression, as we all do. And she saw some issues with one of her employees’ performance early on. It was relatively minor, but she didn’t want to say anything because she was worried that it would set them off on the wrong foot, like a new leader coming in. She didn’t want to start giving any critical feedback. And so she didn’t. She kept the feedback to herself. And a few months went by. And to compensate for the issue she saw this employee have, she was doing his work for him to make sure that it was accurate for the deliverable, for their internal client. And in the long run, this isn’t a good solution. Think about it. It’s not good for you or them because the employee never learns and improves and you are overworking to compensate. You’re also not learning how to have difficult conversations, how to develop your employee, and this is holding you back.

You’re going to have difficult conversations at every stage of your career. You will always be meeting new people. And when you do, there is a risk for disagreement or conflict. We are humans, right? Not everything is going to be a walk down the candy land boardwalk. So learning how to have conversations that are hard, knowing when and how to push back is a skill that will help you now and in the long run. Because if you don’t learn that skill, it’s going to make your career stagnate at some point if it hasn’t already. It’s really only hurting you not to learn how to have those conversations. Okay, here’s mistake number three, underestimating the power of situational communication. So this is really a segue to the last mistake. Now, you might be familiar with situational leadership, where you lead an employee based on their needs for their skill set and experience for a particular project. Situational Communication is the ability to adapt your communication is the ability to adapt your communication skills for each environment and person to get the best outcome. I see leaders using good communication techniques, but the same communication techniques. The thing is, people have different preferences, though, like love languages for how they like to receive information.

And on top of that, there is the situational context. So let’s say your boss is a straight shooter, a get to the point person. If you go in with a lot of detail and justification for your request because you did your homework, it likely won’t land well because your boss is a high level person who wants you to just get to the point. So your ask will get lost and it won’t be compelling. Now, there’s also the situational context to consider. Even if you know your boss is a straight shooter and you leave the details at the door, there’s also the right time and place for conversations. Being exceptional in communication is about personalized and situational strategy, not just some generic communication tip that you apply to everyone in every situation. Now, I had to learn this the hard way. I have a Bachelor’s in Communications and I have a Master’s in Organizational Psychology. And when I got my Bachelor’s in Communications, I pursued that route because I was like, I want to master communication so I never have to deal with a difficult person or situation again. But like I’ve said, that actually doesn’t happen.

You can’t control other people. People are not robots. There will be difficult people, but you can learn the skills and the tools to navigate those situations without them stressing you out. When you can learn to read people and adjust your approach for the ask, you will be able to get what you need for yourself and your team. It’s really a great way to influence others. You will get your ideas heard, and you’re just going to be more effective more frequently. And who doesn’t want that? I want you to imagine walking into your boss’s office and asking for a new headcount and getting it, or being able to get your employee a higher rating, or even negotiating your own responsibilities. Communication strategies are key, not just hard work, but it does take skill, it takes strategy, and it takes emotional intelligence and self awareness. All right, number 4, mistake number 4, delegating your team’s development to HR programs. Now, this is a big one. When I worked in corporate, managers often relied on the HR group to provide development and training for their employees. Now, don’t get me wrong, HR and training groups, they do have a role in this.

This is actually, I built my career in these groups. But when you completely outsource development, your employees suffer. Here’s why. The very best programs are not always applicable or useful for your employees. I’ve worked for great companies with really good development programs. Where they tend to fall short is the accessibility in the application. Not all programs are available and accessible to every employee for their schedule when they need it. But also, even when you go to a really good program, just like a training or a book you read or a conference, you can have these aha moments. But if you don’t change your behavior or apply what you learn with consistent action and then have a way to navigate when discomfort of change comes up, usually presenting itself with a really logical excuse like you’re too busy, then you avoid the discomfort and the development doesn’t actually happen. And as a good leader, you want to have employees who are growing and engaged, who want to stay with your team and feel challenged. So instead of relying on a catalog of learning opportunities that are available or a curriculum that is set up by your training group, I want you to develop yourself to be able to develop your team.

You can do this by continuing to learn and grow yourself in sharing your knowledge with your team. You can develop the skill to coach and provide coaching to your team. Keep your team’s development in mind and be skillful in having development conversations, meaningful development planning discussions, looking at opportunities to grow and expand your group individually and collectively. Think about it. Think about your greatest learning moments, shifts that you’ve had in your own development journey when something new you learned just really stuck with you. It probably wasn’t in a formal training program. I’m sure it wasn’t by reading an SOP. I don’t think anyone has big aha moments reading SOPs. It was likely from experience, from a one on one conversation, from something that you did, an error that you made, from doing something that shifted your understanding when it applied to a real world context. In the corporate world, we get stuck on formal development, but the real development happens with coaching conversations, with introspection, with support, with mentorship, with coaching. This is probably why you’re here today. You’re here to develop, to learn something new, to have a shift of perspective because those internal programs aren’t enough, right?

So don’t expect them to be enough for your employees. Help your employees by developing by learning how to do that effectively so that you can set them up for success. That’s really going to set you apart. Now, mistake number five is letting DEI efforts stay on your to do list. Let’s talk about DEI, diversity, equity, and inclusion. Most companies have a strategy around having an inclusive culture. But here’s the thing. A lot of great people, good leaders, don’t intentionally spend time growing their capacity to be more inclusive. And being inclusive requires you to be intentional because our brains have bias. So you can’t just think, Oh, I’m not racist, or, Oh, I’m inclusive, and then be that way. That’s not the way it works. We’re wired to be around people like us to trust people like us. And even if we have a diverse inner circle, unless you’re having conversations at a really micro level to understand other people’s experiences, then you’re not combating your implicit and unconscious bias. You’re not really understanding what it’s like to be someone else. To be a standout leader, one who is really great, you have to challenge yourself and be uncomfortable because discomfort is where the growth is.

And this is going to allow you to be a better leader, to have a higher performing team, and to just all around be a good human. I know it’s hard. It can feel like one more thing to do. And I know it can also be uncomfortable to challenge your beliefs, to discover that maybe you have more bias than you think, or maybe you think it doesn’t matter that much. But it does, because your team is unique and different just like you are. The more you can be intentional about your DEI efforts, the more sustainable and productive your team will be. So don’t leave it on your to-do list or something that you engage with only for compliance reasons or because it’s International Potluck Day at work. Really think about the type of leader you want to be. Think about who you are and what it would be like if you didn’t feel heard or seen or accepted. As a woman, I’m sure you’ve had this experience at least once in your life. We have people around us that feel this way on a greater level every day. It is our duty to approach DEI from a human perspective.

It isn’t just one more thing to learn or do. It’s about being a good human and ensuring everyone around you feels safe with you. If you want to be a leader, regardless of level, this work is really important. It’s going to set you apart, and that is going to take intention. It takes looking bigger, looking outside of yourself. And when you do, you’re going to be the leader that everyone wants to work for. Okay, so let’s recap these five mistakes. The five mistakes that good leaders make, compare yourself to broskeys at the table, let difficult stakeholders, employees, bosses hold you back, underestimate the power of situational communication, delegate your team’s development to HR or the training department, and let DEI efforts stay on your to do list. Now, what do you think the impact is of avoiding these mistakes? I shared some of this already, but at a high level, when you avoid these mistakes, you have a high performing team, one that has each other’s back, that goes the extra mile to do a good job and is easy to work with, which means you’re not checking your phone on vacation or working late at night or worried about deliverables because you can’t trust your team.

You feel confident in yourself as a leader. You speak up, you share ideas, you advocate for yourself and your team, so you get the resources you need. You are seen as the expert you are and you take your career further. Your team loves working for you. You actually look forward to one on ones. Work is easy and your team is happy to do a little extra. You don’t have to pull them along. You have more opportunities for advancement and growth. When you’re standing out in the best way, influencing with ease, developing your team, your team is known for its high performance. You are confident in your presence at every table. You 100 % will grow your career faster and get more growth opportunities. Investing in yourself and in your skills and being a leader is what is going to set you apart. This is what you want. This is who you want to be. So avoid these five mistakes and you will be the leader that you want to be. Now, before we end the episode today, it would be a miss if I did not let you know that enrollment for the standout leader incubator is opening tomorrow, July sixth.

Now, the Standout Leader Incubator is a six month leadership development program exclusively for women in pharma and biotech. This space is unlike anything you’ve experienced in other training or development environments. This episode probably gave you a little bit of a taste of that. It’s nothing like what you experience in a work training or academic setting. The current members, because I launched this earlier this year, so I’ve had a group of people go through this already, the current members tell me that this is bite sized and digestible and actionable, and it really has made a difference in just a matter of weeks. Now, one of the members from the first round, Stacy, she actually came on my podcast a couple of weeks ago to share her experience in the incubator and why she joined, even with over a decade of leadership experience. She’s already enrolled to continue in this next round that opens tomorrow because of the results that she got the first time. So definitely check out that episode if you want to hear more about her experience. Now, here’s why this coaching program is different. I know what works and what doesn’t because of my experience developing leaders and specifically women when I worked in the industry.

This is my area of expertise. I’ve dedicated my business to helping women advance at work and build the confidence to be authentic and shatter the glass ceiling that exists in the workplace and within ourselves that causes us to doubt ourselves and play small. Plus, I know that a lot of training is awareness level, and that when you get back to your office, even your best intentions don’t work. What you learn falls to the side because you get busy and there isn’t any accountability to apply what you’ve learned. Plus the leadership development out there is so generic and not applicable to you and your brain and your team, right? So I’ve solved that. Over the six months that you’re a member of this community, you’re going to learn and apply practical and proven leadership development skills and strategies that are going to build your confidence, advance your career, and enable you to be the very best leader for your team. Each month, you’re going to learn a new skill or tool that you can immediately apply at work. Now, some sample topics include creating trust with stakeholders, inclusive leadership, building confidence to advocate for yourself and speak up at the leadership table, how to coach your team, how to provide feedback, team building, like when to do a team intervention, like what to do to build cohesion with your team.

But then also when things are going awry or stagnant or the team is not getting along, specific things you can do to help bring the team together. Now, each month you’re going to improve your leadership skills, and each month you’re going to get coaching from me. Every month we’re going to come together as a group, or you can get coaching on anything you want related to your role as a leader, not just whatever that theme or training was that month. You get real time support that’s specific and personalized to you and what’s happening with your leadership journey. Now, if you’re wondering how the open coaching works, some of the topics that current members have gotten coached on just in the last few weeks of the program are building trust with a new employee that was from another country, getting your boss to see that your team is beyond capacity when she doesn’t see it, working with a boss who you disagree with on strategy and how to handle that, getting your expertise used in a new leadership team that doesn’t see your value yet, what to do when your boss is overstepping and you want more responsibility.

Time management and how to create more time in your schedule. How to get your employees to tell you what they really think and not just give you surface level responses. So these are all real experiences that the members in the group have been going through that they raised their hand for coaching on and got coached on a path forward and what to do. So they weren’t stuck at all. They didn’t have to Google an answer. They knew exactly what they needed to do moving forward. So there are three calls a month. One week you’re workshopping and I’m teaching you something, and it’s a new tool, it’s a framework, and it’s something that you can apply right away. It’s very digestible. And then the next week, we’re going to have an open coaching call where you’re going to get coached by me, either by hearing me coach other people or raising your hand to get coaching yourself. The third week of the month is our Think Tank sessions, and this is really the secret sauce. You have other women like you who work in the industry, and they are your curated leadership team that have gone through a filtering process to be in this group and have been selected to be your peer.

Now, the members in this group are from different departments, different levels. Some are aspiring to be a manager, some are very experienced, and some are in the middle. But they are all women in pharma and biotech. So once a month, you’re going to come together with these other members of the group to collaborate, problem solve, celebrate, and reinforce what you’ve learned and what you’re working on. There are prompts to get the conversation going that you can use, or you can use that time in these think tank sessions to work through something of your choice. So this is like your support squad, your leadership team, your peer mentors, when you take what you’re learning even deeper. And it’s so important because leadership can be very lonely. There aren’t a lot of people to talk to without sacrificing your integrity and ethics as a leader. And HR or your boss aren’t always a good space because then they know what you’re struggling with and you might not want them to know that. So then the fourth week of the month or the final week of the month, there’s no call. This is an integration week where you’re still applying what you’re learning, you’re practicing, you’re engaging in the private community on challenges you’re having, you’re getting coaching that’s written or verbal in our community, and it’s available to you on your schedule.

So that community is open 24/7. You can post a question in there or ask for coaching, post an evaluation of something you tried, and you will get real time support. So this program is so different than anything else I’ve ever seen, and I did that intentionally. It’s meant to be practical, relevant, personalized to you, while also giving you something that is so needed and missing. A community of other women in the industry, a safe space outside of your workplace where you can focus on you. Because being your best, being the leader you want to be, this is an ongoing journey. As you get to your next level, there’s going to be another level after that. It’s continuous growth. This isn’t reading a book, checking the box, and being done with it. This is your new home where you can continue to grow and develop. And to do it with the expert guidance and proven methods I provide, along with your curated leadership team. So you never have to go to Google, worry about self sabotage, get stuck with your own blind spots, to know what to focus on because it’s all thought of for you here, which is going to save you so much time.

So enrollment opens tomorrow. Now is the perfect time to join. It’s mid-year. You probably had some development goals that fell to the wayside at the beginning of the year. You can pick them back up now. You may have mid-year reviews happening. Performance reviews are going to be around the corner. It is the perfect time. Our first call is Tuesday, August 8th at 11 AM Eastern Time. So even if you have vacation planned, don’t worry, it is the perfect time because you will have some space to think, right? To ponder on where you want to be better. Plus, all of the calls are recorded. So it’s okay if you have time planned to care for you. I actually encourage you to do that. But you don’t have to struggle alone. If you are on vacation, the call is recorded, you can check back in when you get back from vacation. There’s never going to be a perfect time to prioritize you. There’s always going to be a vacation. There’s always going to be busy time at work. You have to just decide that now is the right time. So head to yourworthycareer.com/incubator, and you can get all of the details.

If you’re listening to this on the day that this episode is live, then you can head to my website and add your name to the waitlist. You will get an email on the day that enrollment opens with the link to apply so you don’t miss it. And if you’re listening someday in the future, head to that page to see the current enrollment information. Talk to you next week.

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No longer settles for “good enough”

Hi, I’m Melissa.

Career & Leadership Coach for Women in Pharma/Biotech

I'm a former Talent & Development leader in Pharma/Biotech turned CEO and Certified Professional Career & Life Coach. I also host the podcast, Your Worthy Career.

I've been where you are, and I help you create the career you want without working more hours or settling for good enough.

I'm leading a movement of women in the industry who are figuring out exactly what they want and shattering the glass ceiling. The very real ceiling in the industry, but also the one that we impose on ourselves. 

So long, imposter syndrome and overthinking. It's time to step into the impact and life you're worthy of having.

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