I’m sure that anyone who has held a leadership position would confess to having been in a situation of feeling overwhelmed and in over their head.
In such circumstances, leaders might rely on the “say yes to everything now and figure it out later” approach, which can trigger angst, frustration and some sleepless nights along the way.
Many years ago, I worked for a large hotel chain, rising from an entry-level position to general manager at age 24, becoming one of the chain’s youngest general managers.
I was exhilarated and determined to be successful in my new role. But I was also incredibly terrified at times. The responsibility weighed heavily on me and I worried that people might not take me seriously.
To say that I went through some growing pains would be an understatement. I most definitely learned from my mistakes. Looking back, I am grateful that these heart-centered senior managers were willing to hedge their bets on one very green general manager. The leadership lessons I gained from that experience were profound and helped shape who I am today.
Here are five golden bits of wisdom I have held onto:
1. Delegate and trust that others can rise to the occasion.
Learn to let go of control. Sometimes seizing the reins is appropriate but on other occasions relinquishing control over employees can benefit everyone.
When I was the general manager, the bad economy hit us hard and I faced the prospect of having to lay off many people. I called together everyone, from the housekeeping staffers to the front desk employees and asked them how to cut the budget to avoid as many layoffs as possible.
I will never forget how this creative and determined group of people came up with workable strategies for scheduling, job-sharing and cost-cutting measures without lowering customer satisfaction. Letting go of control can boost the esteem of associates and create a chance for them to learn from experience.
2. Coach, mentor and develop your associates.
Your job as a leader is to empower employees and be keenly aware of their potential — not to set up a dynamic where they simply take orders from you.
Start off by being there for new hires or when someone’s beginning a fresh project. Explore ways to set up mentoring and learning opportunities.
Be creative and open-minded about unique opportunities for employees’ personal and professional development. Some people believe that mentoring is only done by an older, wiser person who takes a younger, less experienced person under his or her wing.
A real and powerful mentorship occurs, however, when two people collaborate regardless of age or years of experience to coach, support and provide feedback to each other. Mentoring works best when there is a parity of respect between the two parties and a level playing field.
Empowering people will let you reap the benefits: You’ll be able to focus more on developing a broader vision and a long-term strategy for the business.
3. Always do your best work.
Doing high-quality work is the right thing to do and you never know who is watching. Indeed team members observe everything leaders say and do. Be vigilant about your conduct, behavior and actions and deeply aware of your impact on others.
4. Give yourself permission to take risks.
A boss once told me, “It is so much easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.”
These words were life changing. Everyone makes mistakes and it’s good business to trust your instincts and not to overthink every decision. The fear of making an error is a cause of risk aversion or the inability to move forward with decisions.
Many leaders also get caught up in analysis paralysis. This plays out in the form of incessant information gathering — statistics, surveys and the like — that prolongs the decision-making process. This can trigger staff frustration and lead to a lack of trust or loss of respect for the leader.
Consider assigning a team or a person to challenge the status quo and play the devil’s advocate at monthly meetings so that major decisions are made with a well-rounded outlook.
5. Never burn any bridges.
In certain situations, burning bridges seems like the only option. But first ask yourself if your actions might result in regret. You can still stand up for your principles without venting animosity toward someone.
Think of everyone you come in contact in your business as a potential partner, collaborator or future client. Operate with a pay-it-forward mind-set and act with respect and integrity in business, as well as in the rest of your life.
*originally published on Entrepreneur.com