December 1, 2021

Starting a New Leadership Role

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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Are you in a new leadership role?

Maybe you’re struggling with being effective in your current leadership position?

I have 6 tips that will have you saying goodbye to stressful transitions in leadership where you wonder:

Does my team like me?

I want to make some changes, how can I do this and keep engagement up?

Do I have buy in or will my team do what they want behind my back?

How can I get my voice heard and influence from the get go?

Are my 1-1s a good use of time? Am I leaving a good impression?

You’re awesome at what you do but moving to a new leadership role can be stressful.

Listen in to avoid the common pitfalls I see and leave with the plan to have a team who respects you, stakeholders who seek your input, and a strategy to excel at a whole new level.

What You’ll Learn

My 6 tips to maximize effectiveness when transitioning to a new leadership role

The common pitfalls when starting a new leadership role and how to avoid them

How to win the hearts and minds of your new team

Featured in This Episode

Apply to work with Melissa 1-1 by scheduling a free consultation at

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Welcome to Navigating your Career, the only podcast that blends personal development, professional skills and psychology to help you get happy at work and live the life you want. If you want to stop feeling stuck and start feeling better, this is the place for you. I’m your host, Melissa Lawrence. Let’s get started.

Hello, and welcome to the podcast. Now, I have been getting a lot of questions about this topic that we are going to dig into today. So I am going to share with you some tangible strategies and tips that you can use right now when you are going into a new leadership role to be more effective from the first day that you start this role. And if you are already a leader, these tips and strategies are going to work for you too. They are going to help you up level your leadership skills.

This is going beyond what your company training programs may provide, what books are out there. These are really going to help you be a leader that people want to listen to, that they want to follow that has a high performing team and really helps you be a great leader that just can skyrocket your career. So I can’t wait to share this information with you. So between my one on one clients, my happy at work club, and just within my network, I’ve had several people reach out to me recently who are going into new leadership roles and wanting some guidance on how to start off on the right foot.

And I love this because I’ve actually had people reach out to me for one on one coaching proactively and that they’re not necessarily unhappy or trying to fix a problem.

They’re trying to proactively go into their role with the support with the coaching. They want to have someone there to help them navigate difficult career situations that come up. They want to make sure they don’t repeat mistakes of prior roles. They want to make sure that they’re successful. And I love that energy and intention.

So before we really dig in, I want to celebrate one of my clients, Lorraine. So Lorraine had come to me because she was overworked and stressed and just not happy in her job. She had a successful career in Pharma, working in medical affairs. And despite this being her area of expertise and really a great career that she had built over decades, she knew it wasn’t her ideal career. She knew there was more for her and that she had these aspirations of having her own business, helping patients.

But she didn’t really know what and how. And let me tell you in less than four months, 16 weeks, guys, she had work life balance again. She was happier at work. She figured out what she wanted her business to be. We created a plan to make it happen.

She has hope again and knows what her path is and what I really love about the work that I do is you get to feel better right away. So if you’re feeling stuck and you’re not sure what your next step is, you don’t have to wait to know what that step is. To feel better. When we work together, we start looking at what are those quick ones? What are those things that you need right now to feel better as you’re going through this process?

So Lorraine hasn’t gone full time into her new business yet. That’s something that we’re going to pick up in the new year. But she knows what she wants and has gotten more fulfilled in the job that she is in right now. She isn’t being controlled by others and constant demands and FDA audits. She is feeling empowered and in control of her life now, and that just makes a world of difference.

So I just want to give her a shout out, Lorraine, if you’re listening, I’m just so happy for you. Okay, let’s dig in. This is going to be juicy. So you have probably heard of psychological safety and how important it is. It’s really gotten a lot of buzz and traction over the last few years.

And if you haven’t heard of this, then check out the work of Amy Edmondson. She’s a researcher and professor at Harvard Business School, and she’s done a lot of great work in this area. I started her work in Grad school. My thesis was all about promoting psychological safety during times of change. So when you hear psychological safety, you might think, yeah, that’s important.

But how exactly? Because it’s not something that happens overnight. It’s something not you just throw up on a poster. So these tips and strategies that I’m going to share with you today are going to promote a psychologically safe team and workplace from the ground up, because when you can start a new leadership role, it can be really nerve wracking. You’ve got a new boss.

If you’re in a new company, you have a whole new political landscape with direct reports or a whole new team that you have to earn trust with, and then you have your actual expertise, your technical expertise, that you are hired to apply as well. And this can be a lot of change to navigate. And I know not just from coaching leaders and developing them in my career, but from first hand experience that it can be really hard. Years and years ago, I was a leader of five different satellite offices across the state of Wisconsin back when I was doing child welfare consulting.

And when I was promoted from direct management to being responsible for five offices, I also acquired some management staff that were reporting directly to me.

So this was a new role within the same company. And this change was a shock for one of my new direct reports, in particular, because I was a 20 something woman and he was a 50 something man, and he did not sign up to report to me and he let me know it. So he was here to report to our boss, who was a more seasoned professional and had told me that straight out, it wasn’t my technical capability. It was really nothing to do with me personally.

It was more his discomfort and that he was too far in his career to report to someone my age.

Yes, this happened. So this was a challenge, to say the least. He was managing an office that was a couple of hours from my home base, and I talked to my boss, and of course, said, you need to get him in line. You need to tell him that he needs to get over this, right? I wasn’t that blunt about it, but I pretty much wanted her to get his buy in for me because she was the higher leader and she like an amazing boss that she was and a good friend of mine to this day didn’t do that what she did.

And she told me that I needed to deal with it myself. And this was the first test of my leadership, and she was there to support me to help win him over. But I needed to build that relationship, and I needed to get him on board. So I drove up to his location and spent a few days with him. We talked things through.

I heard him out, I shared my goals, and it got better. And over the following couple of months, things continued to improve, and we went on to have a positive working relationship where he respected me as his boss, as uncomfortable as that was. And I’m sure he didn’t like it. But I won him over by acknowledging him by knowing his strengths, understanding his perspective, and creating ways of working that were a win win for both of us. And this feeds right into the first strategy that I’m going to share with you.

And that is to plan a connection strategy whenever you are working with a new team, whether it’s direct reports, new peers, new company, going with a plan of how you’re going to make connections as nice as you are, you can’t expect people are going to like you and trust your input, at least not right away. To some, this may be a threat to some. You may have gotten a job that they wanted or felt they deserved. For some, you’re bringing change, and not everyone is on board with that.

And we’re going to talk about the emotional effects of change in a little bit.

So when you go in with the plan, you spend less time wondering what’s working and what’s not if you’re talking to the right people, if you’re influencing the way you want to, so don’t wait for others to initiate with you. One of the best things I did in my last corporate role was to make this type of plan. I made a point to meet with people of all levels, across all different functions to get a better understanding of the landscape, of the needs of the employees, the pain points and what was going well.

And this really helped me. It created strong relationships and buy in.

When I made changes, they were well received, not just because they were good ideas, but because the people I spoke to knew that I had listened to them, that they were heard, that they had a voice and that matters. So plan ahead. Who is important? What kind of relationships do you want to have? How will you determine their communication preferences and ways of connecting?

Ask other people who should I meet who is important for me to know and then cast your net wider. Go to the entry level staff. Get a good idea of what it’s really like to work in your company or Department. Connecting with others, showing appreciation for what they’ve done and where they’re at is so important. You can’t go in with all of these ideas that you have for change without first appreciating what is currently there and connecting with people.

You can’t make assumptions about what is right or wrong because you don’t have the whole story. My clients who have used this approach have told me it works wonders because your leadership team or boss or peers may tell you who would be a good person to meet with or good people to meet with. But remember that their opinion is their bias and their lens. And as a new leader or a leader responsible for your area, you have to think outside of the box because our brains are always going to go to what is familiar, so you have to direct it to something less obvious.

The people that others are going to recommend to you is based on their experience, their bias, right?

They’re not you and they have blind spots just like you do, just like I do. So make an effort to cast that wide net and make a proactive plan. The next strategy is to have an open mind. I’ve seen countless times new leaders come in and want to do a full reorg to move pieces also known as people around to change processes because it’s what they know works based on their prior experience. And the problem with this is the decisions that are being made to do that are from your bias.

You’re sensing a theme here and without an appreciation for what is working. I know. Grab your emotional first aid kit. You might not want to hear this, but I want you to spend some time understanding what is going well to have an open mind about the way to do things. It doesn’t mean the way you’ve done them before that has worked is wrong.

It doesn’t mean that’s not something that you will still do, but there can be more than one right and effective way. Okay, so I wouldn’t suggest instead of going in and wanting to make sweeping changes based on what you know works from your experience. Do an exercise. One that I really like is the search to continue and have done this with new teams. And it’s worked really well.

My clients that use this, it just always works wonderfully. And what you do is you bring the team together, you can decide who that team is and you can do this virtually. You can do this in person. You can do with post it notes. You can make it super fun.

But what you do is you ask for input on what are the things that we should start doing. That is the start. What are the things that we should stop doing that aren’t working. That’s the stop. And what should we keep doing that is working.

That is the continue start, stop. Continue. Then you take the information and you strategically look at changes you want to make. And this is brilliant because you have buy in from those involved. You’re getting other people’s input their ideas.

You’re having an open mind, you’re facilitating that discussion, and then you have that window crack to influence what you want to change. So this process always works. So have an open mind and explore what’s working before making judgments and making changes because change is hard. And like I said, I’m going to be talking about that in just a moment. Okay.

Number three, use my one on one framework. Yes, I’m just going to say it if you haven’t listened to that podcast, it’s one of my most popular. It’s called The Perfect One on One Framework, and it is a game changer. So when I was in grad school studying organizational psychology, I studied leadership, and I practiced different organizational development psychology tools and programs. When I worked in the Pharma biotech industry.

Now managers have such a critical role in the engagement of employees, and one on ones are a huge part of that. But most companies don’t have a standard, and the one on one end up being sporadic and not value add for either person. So I did a pilot program with another company where we tested current state one on one and then implemented a part of this framework and measured employee engagement and other performance indicators. We saw double the employee engagement, increased scores in leader communication and understanding your role and future with the company, even in inclusion and diversity.


It was awesome. It’s awesome. It worked so good. I’m so proud of it. It actually got used on a global scale because of how effective this process was that I had created.

So the essence of it really, I really want you to go listen to the podcast if you haven’t listened to it, but really what it is. There’s three different types of one on one, the one on one that you do when you have your first one on one with a new direct report, the one on one that is your standard one on one. There’s an agenda for that, and then your quarterly one on one, which is all about your engagement. And you can use numbers or red, Amber, green different areas that are tied to employee engagement, belonging, performance at work, your company strategy.

And I give guidance on these categories and an actual guide that you can download from the podcast.

So I will include a link to that in this episode. But if you go to melissamlaurents. Comfamework, you can download the actual framework with the agenda items for those three different one on one. So I’ve had several people reach out to me and say that they’ve managed up and influenced their manager to use this framework, and it’s made a huge difference. I’ve had managers use this with their own teams and seen higher engagement and performance.

And like I said, it continues to be one of my most popular podcast episodes. Okay, so let’s move on to number four, which is change psychology. This is what I was saying. I was going to get into it’s really important. So I want to talk to you about emotional psychology of change.

And this is important because when any of us go through any sort of change, especially navigating a new leadership position, you’re going through this and the people around you and your company are going through this. So there is a model that comes from psychologist Kelly and Connor. And if you know this and you normalize this, it can keep the organization from spiraling downward when change occurs. So if I had you with me now, if you could see me, I would draw this out for you. But since that is not the case, I am going to describe this for you.

So this model imagine a U, like a curve, like a U. And what happens is when change occurs, you will be uninformed and optimistic. Now, what does that mean? It means the people around you. Let’s say someone on your team, one of your new direct reports, they don’t know you yet.

They don’t know what you’re going to bring to the table. They don’t know what changes you’re going to make. So they’re uninformed and they’re optimistic because maybe they’re like, okay, this person is going to be great. They were hired for a reason. I’m excited to work with them.

So everything is starting out great. But after a little bit of time, they fall into stage two, which is informed pessimism. And this means that they are now informed as if they worked with you for a little bit. And maybe you started to make some changes. Maybe you run one on one differently.

Maybe you don’t communicate in the way that they prefer the way that they were used to with their prior manager. Maybe you want to make some changes and they don’t really agree. So now they’re really more informed about what this change of you coming into the team is really doing. And so they’re feeling pessimistic about it. They’re like, I don’t know if I like this.

The next stage is the value of despair. And this is where a lot of people end. They stay within one, two and three, the first three stages. And that is where they’re like, I can’t handle this. This person is too different.

They don’t get me. I’m going to have to prove my worth again. They don’t understand. And this is where you’re going to find a lot of people trying to find a new job, getting disengaged from work. But if you stick with it, if you know that this is happening, if you are aware of this emotional psychology of change, then you know that the next stage is informed optimism, which essentially means when you push through that Valley of despair, when you have support from your leadership, understanding, when you know that your employees may be going through this and you are empathetic to that and you address it, you have an open mind.

You’re listening. You’re aware of it. You’re looking for it. Then your employees can push through and have informed optimism where they’re like, okay, I know what this person is going to bring. I know what this change represents, but I’m feeling like I can handle it.

I’m feeling like it’s going to be good. And then the last stage is success and fulfillment. So if you follow this, you from the top on the left all the way down the Valley of despair and back up to the right. Then you’re going to get to success and fulfillment. But you have to go through all of those stages.

And like I said, most people, they quit and repeat phases one through three. So this is really important for you to understand, because you may be going through this yourself as well. So as someone that you are going into a new job, you might go into this and think, I’m so excited for my new job. And then you think, oh, my gosh, what did I sign up for? This is a lot of work.

And then the Valley of despair of like, oh, my gosh, I shouldn’t have left my job. I need to see if I can go back to that job. This was too much. This is more than I can handle. This is more different than I thought.

But then it’s pushing through again to informed optimism and success. So keep this in mind as you go through change. And as you build relationships with your new stakeholders, with your new direct reports, and whenever you’re creating change within your Department or organization, your employees, your staff are going through this cycle on some level. So the resistance isn’t necessarily them pushing back or not liking your idea. It’s just natural in their psychology, and they will come through the other end with the right support.

Okay, number five is to be approachable. So I know being approachable is a no brainer, but I have this on the list because I think people think they’re approachable when they’re not. They’ll say things like, I have an open door policy, but that isn’t enough. So I want you to think about what would be approachable for you. What would someone have to do or say for you to feel comfortable to go into their office at any time, to share with them a concern?

What would they have to do for you to have that level of comfort? And a lot of approachability comes from your communication skills. When you’re having conversations, are you listening? Are you open minded? Do you offer when and how people can communicate with you when people reach out unexpectedly?

Do you make an effort to be open and welcoming, or do you let them know how busy you are or how inconvenient the timing is? It’s important to not only state how to best communicate and get what others need from you, but also practice it in your actions. You can be approachable and have boundaries. So approachability doesn’t mean letting anyone walk into your office at any time, but it is being clear on when you’re available, holding your meetings, respectfully, respecting other people’s time and be open and present.

The more approachable you are, the more comfortable others will be around you and will trust you, which is critical to effective leadership.

So I can tell you about a leader that I worked with who said she had an open door policy, said you can come to me anytime but was always busy, always in chaos. And when you did go to her, it was often met with a smile and let’s schedule some time, but the time never got scheduled. So you have to think about following through as part of your approachability, the experience you are having with people and the impression that they are getting because it is much more than words.

Okay, the last strategy that I want to leave you with is to manage your stakeholders, and this one is closely tied to having a connection plan. But I think it is important to call it separately.

So as an exercise, you can take out a sheet of paper and put yourself in the center like a nucleus and then branch off to that and jot down all of your stakeholders, which includes your direct reports, your boss, your matrix, team members, any person or group that you provide a service to internal or external. And this will give you a picture. And from there, think about how you can manage the expectations and needs for these people and groups. What do they need from you? How would they define success for you?

You can ask them. Don’t make assumptions. I like to have a spreadsheet, but I’m Super organized that way so you can put all of your stakeholders in a spreadsheet with notes about them. They’re ways of communicating. Last time you spoke with them any action items, it can help you stay organized and see visually.

If you have a stakeholder that you need to follow up with, that you haven’t talked to in a while, so keep those relationships warm. Okay, so that was my six strategies that will help you have a psychologically safe team foundation, and that is make a connection plan. Have an open mind. Use the one on one framework. Know emotional change, psychology, be approachable and manage your stakeholders.

And if you apply these, they really do make a difference in how effective you are as a leader. There is so much more that we can get into on this topic. Leadership development is such a passion of mine. If you’re interested in coaching and want to learn more about how I can help you excel in your career as a leader without sacrificing your home life or your values in the process, then reach out to me. Send me a message.

You can go to my website. I offer a free consultation call where we can talk about your goals, how we can help you and determine if we are a good fit. So I’m going to link a number of podcast episodes and how to get the one on one framework in the comments.

So some of the other podcasts that you may love are reporting to a new boss. The perfect one on one framework. How to be an awesome boss and the one leadership behavior you need. So I will link those in the show notes so you can listen to them if you haven’t already. All right, have a wonderful week and I will see you here.

Same time, same place next week.

I get asked all of the time. How do I know if I’m in the right career now? You can find out I created a free quiz using my criteria for what makes a great job fit. You can take the quiz at my website

 and in less than three minutes, you’ll know the answer so you can stop guessing and take some action. And as a bonus, if your job isn’t a great fit, you’ll get some resources to help you decide what to do about it. Head there now.

Give it a listen.

Hello. So this meditation is all about the acceptance of your emotions. We often will push our emotions aside or distract ourselves and numb ourselves with work, shopping, alcohol, Netflix, all of the things. And this meditation is all about allowing yourself to accept your emotions for what they are. So before we get started, try to think of something that is bothering you.

It may be a scenario that worries you or something that has happened in the past or something that may happen in the future. Try to think of a scenario that elicits an emotional reaction. In this meditation, you will imagine yourself in your chosen scenario. Now, if at any point you feel that the meditation is too much, you have the option to open your eyes and or wiggle your fingers and toes, which will help reground you in the present. You can also try bringing your focus of your attention back to your breath.

If this doesn’t help and you do not wish to continue the meditation, then please respect yourself and stop. You may always choose to do this exercise again later and improve your emotional acceptance through smaller steps.

Let’s get started.

Begin by closing your eyes.

If you choose to leave your eyes open. If that is more comfortable for you, then focus your attention on your feet and let your gaze softly rest and remain there for the duration of the meditation.

Start to notice your breath, each inhale and exhale after at least five breaths, notice where your body is making contact, feet touching the floor, back on the ground. Sit bones on your chair.

Now, bring that challenging scenario that you’ve chosen to the forefront of your mind.

Imagine yourself as vividly as possible in this scenario.

What happened? What might happen as a result of this scenario that you have recalled, you may notice that certain emotions arise.

What emotions are you experiencing?

What thoughts are going through your mind.

Now focus on your body.

Often emotions are represented in our bodies.

What feelings arise in your body.

Observe what you are feeling.

Maybe you feel tension or other sensations.

Perhaps you experience tightness in your stomach, around your heart or neck.

Whatever you experience, try to stay with the sensation and be gentle on yourself.

Emotions are just vibrations in your body.

You try to locate it, your head, your heart, your stomach, your side.

Is it cold, warm.

Use your breath as a vehicle to stay with those sensations and remember. Be gentle on yourself. Direct your awareness to the part of your body where those sensations are the strongest.

Breathe into that part of the body on the inhale.

Rather than pushing this experience away, try to let it be.

You can say to the feeling it is okay. You are allowed to be here.

Whatever it is, it’s okay.

Let me feel it.

See what happens if you allow yourself to experience whatever you experience at this moment.

Just stay with the awareness of these bodily sensations and your relationship to them. Breathing with them, accepting them, letting them be.

Repeat it’s okay. Whatever it is, it’s okay.

You are okay. Now, perhaps you notice that the feeling gets more intense. Maybe it will stay the same or diminish. It may also move into your body. Whatever happens, it’s okay.

Allow it to be. Observe what happens. Remember to stay with the experience with curiosity and kindness.

You are allowing your sensations to be experienced without reacting to them.

Often our thoughts can distract us from the present moment. Maybe you have thoughts about this scenario. Maybe you have thoughts about this exercise. That’s okay. Notice when your attention is focused on thoughts and then kindly direct your attention back to your experience in the present moment.

Continue to discover what happens within your body and mind without tightening or resisting it. Try holding both the sensations in your body and the sense of your breath together. Being aware of breathing with the sensations.

When you notice that your bodily sensations are no longer pulling for your attention, return to your breath and continue with that as your primary object of attention.

Just breathe.

Whatever it is you’re okay.

Now slowly let your chosen scenario. Leave the focus of your attention when you’re ready, wiggle your fingers and toes. Slowly open your eyes.

Return your attention to your room.

I get asked all of the time. How do I know if I’m in the right career? Now you can find out. I created a free quiz using my criteria for what makes a great job fit. You can take the quiz at my website, and in less than three minutes, you’ll know the answer so you can stop guessing and take some action. And as a bonus, if your job isn’t a great fit, you’ll get some resources to help you decide what to do about it. Head there now.

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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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