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“I want credit for my innovations—help!” | Ask a Leadership Expert with Susie Kelleher
Leadership Expert Susie Kelleher, SVP of Consulting at Linkage shares leadership wisdom with readers in this Q&A
As we enter our second year of working from home, we are continually adjusting—and readjusting!—to our new reality. We all have concerns, worries and questions about our role as leaders in a changing world.
In this series, we’re answering your leadership questions. In this installment, our leadership expert is Susie Kelleher, Vice President of Consulting at Linkage, who works with hundreds of leaders to help them realize their full potential and ascend to new heights. Susie also serves as leader of the Advancing Women Leaders and Redesigning Inclusion: Superpowers & Symphony solutions at Linkage.
In this first installment, Susie shares advice for three leaders grappling with dilemmas stemming from the virtual workplace.
Have a question for us?
I manage a small team of customer service reps as part of a large national company, and since we switched to working from home, my direct boss has asked me to develop and roll out several new customer service strategies. This is new for me—and I was excited by the work. However, I’ve heard that my manager then presents this work as her own ideas in meetings with our executive team. I don’t think she’s doing this to be malicious. I think she does it to save time and simplify. But, she’s also not giving me the opportunity to take ownership for my own innovations. How can I talk to my manager about elevating into a more visible role, even as we deal with a virtual workplace?
Susie: First, it is fantastic that in a situation where you could easily feel resentment you are instead assuming positive intent in your manager’s actions and also considering what her “why” might be behind her actions—in other words, you’re understanding her needs and goals. With this mindset, you will be well positioned to confidently “Make the Ask” for what you want, while also considering how what you want can help your manager be successful too.
The next most important step is to get very clear on your personal goal, so you can tie the importance of this visibility to your goal. Then, outline explicitly for your manager exactly what you would like from her and how she can support you. Finally, share how what you are asking her for will be good for the organization and good for her. Dialogue is always the best solution, especially when it comes with careful planning around shared goals and win/win outcomes.
After a year of working from home, I thought that I had this under control. I have set a routine for my kids (as best I can), physically set up space in my home to work from, introduced more regular exercise, and set boundaries at work, etc. But since kicking off a new year in January, I’m feeling more burned out than ever before. What gives—and how can I move past this?
Susie: You are certainly not alone in this feeling. Many people found themselves leaving vacation on the table in 2020, working longer hours than ever, as home became the office. Work roles shifted, demands increased, and time that normally would have been spent away from work was given to our organizations instead. Add to that the worry of a pandemic and it is not a surprise even with added structure that you feel burnt out.
Much of what creates exhaustion is our thinking, the constant analyzing and storytelling we do about everything that happens to us. It sounds as though what might be missing for you is the opportunity to completely unplug, experience some levity, separate from your regularly scheduled agenda.
We tend to value busyness as a society and we place low value on recovery, which is critical to our success. Jim Loehr, a performance psychologist, teaches that the higher the stress, the more the need for recovery. Never apologize for recovery time, as it is an integral part of performance strategy.
To uncover small steps you can take to add more recovery into your day, ask yourself these questions:
- Do you completely shut off your thinking about work during non-work hours, or do you problem-solve and ruminate after hours?
- Do you spend time just doing nothing, or are you always checking things off a to-do list?
If you answered no to the first part of those questions, then no matter how much structure you put in place, you will continue to feel burnt out. Start by adding more levity and laughter to your day. Humor is a wonderful recovery tool and a great way to reset your thinking. Place a higher value on doing nothing and view it as strategic recovery—refueling the tank so you can perform at your highest. Reflect daily on who and what truly matter most to you. Once you gain clarity on what you truly want for yourself, it becomes much easier to put the actions in place to help you get there.
As a woman leader within a male-dominated field, I’m very aware of the need to lift as I climb. Because of this, I mentor several young professional women, both inside and outside my organization. Recently, one of my mentees asked me to introduce her to one of my colleagues for a virtual coffee. I was taken back—I realized I hadn’t been proactively giving her opportunities to grow her network during the pandemic. Instead, I was just offering advice to her during regular calls. I need a reset—how can I be a better resource to these women in virtual times?
Susie: Thank you for your commitment to supporting the women around you! We need more women supporting women!
It is absolutely true that women are over-mentored and under-sponsored. What women really need is what many men already have: someone to connect them to their network and also to promote them to others when they are not in the room.
Through Linkage’s research and many years of working with women, we have demonstrated that networking is a hurdle for women in the workplace. Women often feel they do not have the time to network, or that networking is a false way to get ahead. It is often more difficult for women to organically network, simply because they do not have shared common interests with the people at the top, who are still predominantly men.
We must help women to understand how important it is to intentionally spend time building their connections—not only so people know who they are and the value they bring, but also so the women themselves can access a full network. Part of leadership is knowing the talent in your organization and fully understanding what others do, so you can build networks of people supporting people growth—and you become an invaluable sponsor of great talent and lift as you rise, as well.
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