March 27, 2024

What New Leaders Shouldn’t Do

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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When taking on new responsibilities or stepping into a new leadership role, there are certain things I suggest you avoid doing.

On today’s episode of the podcast, I am sharing 6 subtle things that new leaders can do that seem harmless, but can negatively impact your effectiveness and even halt your career progression.

Tune in to find out what new leaders shouldn’t do and my advice for what to do instead.

What you’ll learn:

  • 6 subtle mistakes new leaders make that seem like a good idea but only make them less effective
  • How to fix it if you find yourself making any of the mistakes mentioned in this episode

Mentioned in this episode:


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Welcome to Your Worthy Career, a podcast for women in Pharma and Biotech with me, Melissa Lawrence. I am a certified career and leadership coach with a master’s in Organizational Psychology who has worked in talent and learning development in biotech to large pharma, from non-clinical to commercial. I help women in pharma and biotech create a career worthy of them. Whether you want to get clear on what you want, get a new job, get promoted, or be effective as a leader at any level, this is the place for you. Every week, you will get practical career strategies and mindset shifts to help you overcome the problems you experience at work so you can reach your goals feeling better than ever. Your up level begins now. 

Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of the podcast. How are you? I hope you are finishing up your first quarter strong. I cannot believe that we are already about one whole quarter into this new year. It is flying by. I’m so excited that I have some new things coming for you all, some surprises. And today we have this brand new episode on what new leaders shouldn’t do.

We talk about what you should do, best practices, but this is about what you might get caught up doing that you shouldn’t, that is actually holding you back. And this applies to you at any time in your career. I’m also working on some new elevated free resources for you outside of this podcast. So for those of you that are on my VIP email insider list, stay tuned for that because you are going to be the first to know how I’m up-leveling these emails and these resources that I’m going to be providing for you. I’m so excited. Are you ready to dig into today’s topic? I know I am. Let’s do it. I am going to share with you six different things that you should not do as a new leader, whether you’re moving into a leadership role at your current company, at a new company, or even if you’re taking on a more visible strategic role that doesn’t have direct report. No matter the type of leadership role, I’m going to share with you what to avoid so you can be effective, more productive, feel more confident, and really Excel in your leadership position. All right, number one, let your ego get in the way and assume you know what’s needed.

Now, I’m starting off strong with this one, so please bear with me. I’m not intending to offend anyone or call anyone out because this happens in a very subtle way. How I see this happen is when you have experience, education, good ideas, you know what works and you know what doesn’t work. A superpower that you might have, given all of your experience and talent, is going into a new situation and seeing what needs to change, what could be improved, how things could be more You can see those inefficiencies in the way things are done. You can see how maybe a new organizational structure would make things better. You see why deadlines aren’t being met and what those bottlenecks are, whatever it is. And yes, 100% you were hired to provide this expertise. But what some well-intentioned leaders can do is go in and assume they know the whole story. They may meet with their team, with their stakeholders, and then confirm. But they approach this conversation that they are having with bias, thinking they already know the answer, they already know the problem, and this can hurt you in the long run. Before making any changes, I suggest doing an in-depth analysis by getting stakeholder feedback, meeting with your team, maybe doing a start/stop/continue exercise, and most importantly, do these activities with an open mind.

Tap into curiosity. Don’t go into it with the bias or to validate what you already want to do. Assume that what you want to do isn’t even relevant. Just go into trying to find what that answer is. Apply a scientific mindset. You’re collecting the data, you’re not making conclusions just yet. Then when you identify changes you want to make, what will happen is you’ll be more likely to get buy-in and have a better change management experience because you weren’t being hasty. You did your due diligence, people felt heard, and a part of the decision to make the change. Number two, letting your doubt get in the way and being afraid to ask for help or ask questions. Now, this is almost on the other side of what I just talked about. Some people will go in hot and ready to make a splash, ready to make improvements, confident in what they’re doing. Others will want to demonstrate their expertise, make the changes, but they doubt themselves. They might worry they will make the wrong decisions, but they don’t want to ask their team, they don’t want to ask their team. They don’t want to have collaborative exercises or they’re asking for help or feedback because they’re worried that doing that will prevent them from being seen as a leader.

It’s like their lack of confidence as a leader prevents them from asking questions or involving others for fear that to be seen as confident, they need to know the answers already. They need to drive the change. But this actually ends up backfiring because when you’re not making informed decisions, you could be seen as working in a silo and you’re more likely to make the wrong decision. The self-doubt is driving the behavior to not ask questions for fear of being seen as not competent But then that action of not asking questions or involving others leads to incompetence. It becomes a cycle that you can’t get out of. Instead, consider that your ability to demonstrate leadership behaviors is how you demonstrate competence as a leader. I’m going to say that one more time so that can really stick in with you. Instead, consider that your ability to demonstrate leadership behaviors is how you demonstrate competence as a leader. You show you’re a competent leader not by just relying on your technical expertise, but by your people skills and your strategic skills. It’s okay to not know everything, and no one expects you to. That is why you have a team, and it isn’t a team or a company of one.

So instead, leverage the expertise of your team. Ask questions. It is going to go such a long way. People will want to work with you. You will get more done. You will build confidence through those relationships. Now, number three, being distracted with your onboarding and not connecting or being aware of your impression to other people. Now, this is a big one. This is one that can really be even tied to the last one. This is almost like dominoes that can happen. You could have one of these things, you can have all of them. Sometimes I see leaders be in such a hurry to know everything because they want to contribute and don’t think that they can really be effective until they know everything. So they bury themselves in their onboarding, reading all the SOPs and trying to feel like an employee that has been there for five years instead of just letting themselves be new, taking luxurious amounts of time and taking advantage of this one time that they have to actually be new and take time to learn. So they might be reading SOPs late at night, logging on to complete training after work, avoiding opportunities to build relationships, or having lunch with new colleagues so that they can get more work done.

But just like I said before, you don’t need to know everything to be a good leader, and you aren’t expected to know everything as a new employee. What is more important are the questions you ask your your integrity, your presence, and your relationships. If you catch yourself wanting to just hurry up to know everything, I totally get it. I truly understand and have fallen into this behavior, too. But you really do have time. You’re not actually learning if you’re skimming and going through things really quickly. Also, you know that those resources and trainings are there for when you need them, when they’re relevant. You don’t need to do them all right now if they aren’t due right now. Now, also, allow yourself to soak up the new role and learn by doing the work, being with your colleagues, asking questions, and using the luxury you have right now of being new. No one expects you to know everything or the same amount as people that have been there for a long time. Plus, I think some of this has to do with self-trust, too. Do you trust yourself to answer questions, to say that you need to check on something, to be the person who doesn’t know the most in the room and still be able to contribute and still believe that you will be seen as the leader you are, to be seen as competent and valuable.

This is something to think about, right? Number four, manage and lead each person on your team the same, even if you are a servant leader. Now, you might have worked really hard to be a good leader, to know the type of leader you want to be, and be excited to lead your new team as the best leader that everyone wants to work for. Servant leadership is a tried and true style of leadership that is proven to be effective and supports long-term employee retention. But, and here’s something I learned as a leader early in my career. Even if you’re a great leader and apply the best leadership tips and approaches, each person will need you to be a different leader in different circumstances. You can’t always treat every employee in every situation the same, or you won’t be effective across the board. Instead, I suggest you take a situational approach. Let’s say that you have someone on your team who is fantastic, reliable, but going into a new task is a little uneasy. You would want to be more hands-on with them for that specific task, where with the majority of their role, you might be totally hands-off.

Or if you’re going to be implementing a change to your reporting structure or a new process or way of doing things, my research in grad school found that you would want to adopt a transformational leadership during that change management process. You want to lean on different types of leadership during different situations or circumstances at work and also based on the individual employee and where they are with their competence and comfort with each task. I like to think of it as leadership is about them, it’s not about me. I start with my own leadership philosophy, the type of leader that I want to be, but how I apply it, what I do when I do it, that is about them and what they need. Number five, only connecting with the people your boss or senior leaders tell you to, or assuming that they’re telling you the truth about their perception of problems, of what’s going well, of people, and using that as the only truth. Those things are connected. When you start a new role, your boss is going to give you all of their thoughts about it. Who is good? Who who isn’t, who needs some more support, and who you should spend time investing in.

You’ll hear what the problems are, what they think that you need to solve, what they think is going well. You might have even talked about some of these things in the interview process. Now, again, I would encourage you to use a scientific approach when it comes to this information, because not all of this information may be accurate, but it is data. So validate their findings, do some research, gather your own data, go outside the norm, and meet with people that your boss doesn’t even mention for you to meet with. I suggest this in an earlier episode, I think in the episode about your first 90 days in a role, or maybe I’m starting a new leadership role, that for each person you meet, ask them who else you should know or talk to. This will expand your network and also give you access to more people that you might not have otherwise known to meet that will be really beneficial for you in your career. When it comes to leadership or just being successful in your role, in general, having more positive relationships is only going to help you. It’s going to help you now and in the future.

When you have less, that can hurt you or hold you back. It can make work harder. You can never have too many positive working relationships, even if you don’t see the need for them right now. Okay, number 6, let other people’s opinions sway your judgment of others. Now, the last thing I’ll talk about that you shouldn’t do as a new leader is let other people’s opinions sway your judgment of others. I’ve seen this be a problem in a few ways. One is people will be, say, in the middle of negotiating a promotion or job change, and then suddenly they have a new manager, and that new manager is you. They go in and they try to sell themselves and let the manager know, Hey, I was going to be promoted. The problem is, were they inflating that? I don’t know. This should be confirmed and should be easy to do with performance review documentation and stakeholder feedback. Support them, of course, but confirm in case they’re trying to take advantage and misrepresent just how far along they were in the process. I have definitely seen that happen before. Now, I suggest you actually talk to each of your team members and ask them what you should know, where they are in their development, and so on, so that you can try to lessen that pain that comes from having a new manager or having that feeling that you have to prove yourself again and again.

It’s not really comfortable or fair to employees that are high performers, get a new manager, and then they feel like they have to start all over, and they’re losing that track record and that reputation with their manager that was going to help them advance their career. So it’s really good to know them and understand from their perspective where they were in their development and how you can support them. Also, now, this is the biggest problem I’ve seen is that You will have high performers on your team that the prior manager or other leaders may feel threatened by, may not like, maybe they have a personal bias against, or maybe it’s just their opinion, and their opinion can taint and hold back the development of your employees. It also continues the bias and toxic leadership traits of prior leaders. You could think that you’re just taking in all the information and getting up to speed. But how our brains work is once a seed is planted, negative thought or opinion, your brain will automatically search for evidence. It’s true, which isn’t good for your employees and can cause higher turnover. It doesn’t have to be super drastic negative feedback either.

It could be something like, Oh, she’s really good, but not really ready for leadership yet. Or, She had a great year, but I’m wondering if there’s something going on with her at home because she’s been really distracted lately. These subtle statements will leave you unconsciously consciously looking for, Oh, why isn’t she ready for leadership? And maybe putting her under a microscope unintentionally or not giving her opportunities she would have had had that seed not been planted. Or it could be that you start over Analyzing if, let’s say, the person is distracted, maybe you’re over analyzing her facial expressions and meetings, questioning when she’s late, if it’s really part of a bigger problem, or did her prior meeting really run over? All of these little things that seem innocent. But if you don’t actually question and keep an open mind to the feedback, and if you don’t intentionally try to find data to prove and disprove the feedback, you will likely unintentionally perpetuate a cycle that could be unfair or even discriminatory to a team member. All right, so I am going to end it there. I have offered you six things that leaders shouldn’t do, and I hope you found this episode insightful, and it gave you some good Good food for thought as you approach your work. I will talk to you next week. 

Thank you for listening to this episode of Your Worthy Career. Visit for full show notes and additional resources to help you on your career journey. Speaking of resources, if you enjoyed today’s show, you will love being an email VIP Insider, where I share trainings, tools, and behind-the-scenes content exclusive to my VIP list. Become a VIP and join us at See 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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