Episode 34

#034 - Adjusting to Your New Leadership Role

Published on: 29th March, 2021

How do you handle being a new leader and inheriting a team that is cold and disrespectful from the start?

Today we answer another question from the internet around adjusting to a new leadership role. These situations are always unique, complex, and nuanced so we do our best to provide some support for a tricky situation.

Thanks for joining us today and don't forget to hit the subscribe button or reach out at [email protected].


Igor Geyfman 0:05

Sound check sound

check to

Charles Knight 0:07

I muted myself. Sorry.

Robert Greiner 0:08

No, that's okay.

Charles Knight 0:09

Sound check 123

Robert Greiner 0:10

All right, What's up y'all?

Charles Knight 0:12

I'm sneezy. today.

Robert Greiner 0:13

You looked like something was going on? Yeah. Is it vaccine related or allergy related? What

Charles Knight 0:19

It's allergies, man. They are hitting me very hard. I usually don't have to take medicine, but I'm taking some allergy medicine to help.

Igor Geyfman 0:26


that time of year, man spring.

Charles Knight 0:28

It's crazy. So I'm a little sleepy, but I'm okay. Do y'all have allergies?

Robert Greiner 0:31

Yeah, seasonal allergies? Yeah,

Igor Geyfman 0:33

Pretty bad. Are you in your new house? Charles?

Charles Knight 0:36

I am. Yeah. I don't think it's house related, either. It's over the weekend, when I was just going into the backyard with the kids. I'd come back in and my nose would start to itch and had sneeze. So I think it might be specific pollen in the backyard. But I doubt it. I think it's just in general that time of year.

Robert Greiner 0:52

Yeah, we had the windows open over the weekend, which was great. Just bunch of natural air flowing through the house. And my allergies were bugging me. So why it's best to stay indoors. I think. Not an official podcast recommendation.

Igor Geyfman 1:04

Do not go outside.

Robert Greiner 1:05

just for me personally, the sun and the wind are not coming to me. So we're going to switch it up a little bit today. Yeah,

Charles Knight 1:10

we got a question from the internet. Yeah.

Robert Greiner 1:11

Another question from the internet. Which Igor, you found this one, right?

Igor Geyfman 1:15

Yes. Yes. I'm sometimes a fan of Reddit, which I know breaks my no social network rules. But that's okay.

Charles Knight 1:24

There's okay. Maybe there's a deeper discussion at some point.

I've never been a big fan of Reddit. I haven't really even read. reddit. That's the thing. But you can you can see that a social network?

Igor Geyfman 1:37

That's a bunch of people interacting online posting things. You can scroll through it pretty infinitely. There's no stop to it. It's algorithm based in many ways. It's like a Twitter. Okay,

Robert Greiner 1:48

Twitter meets crowdsource

news. Yeah, there's so much noise on Reddit. But a lot of times when you dig into these, especially if the post gets a lot of views and up votes, there's some really exceptional posts and advice on there.

Igor Geyfman 2:03

Interesting. Such a good question. And it had so much detail in it, that I thought even if our answer isn't helpful to this person, maybe it's helpful to other individuals who are like in a similar situation.

Robert Greiner 2:14

It's a career question. Definitely.

Igor Geyfman 2:16

That's a great question.

Charles Knight 2:17

You had shared this with us. I think I clicked on it, and saw that there was a lot of text. And I didn't read it.

Igor Geyfman 2:23

I'll read it. And I think that the beauty of this question is because there's so much detail in it. So there's a lot of things for us to in context to react to. Usually our questions are very broad. And so we create our own guide rails, if you will. But I think this one has a rich amount of detail. So here we go. The question is, how do I adjust to my new role as a first time director, I'm feeling young and incapable as a 29 year old female. So 29 year old female landed a director level role at a small company with five direct reports. This is my first director level title. while applying and interviewing I was 100% confident I fit the bill. I've worked in bigger companies and provided freelance consulting services that did what this role entails. Only gap was the people management experience, prior to this position, managing at most two people, and it was a positive experience. At the time, I made it clear that I was confident I could manage five if I was able to manage two also the title gap is there too. But to me, titles vary so much in different companies that I overlooked that. I must have sold myself nicely because I was hired, I was really confident about everything and very excited to finally start that next step in my career until I actually started. Now I feel incapable, small, young, and clueless. It doesn't help that I feel inferior to some of the men executives to I feel exhausted after a simple quiet day of work. Because I feel like I'm putting on a massive metaphorical mask of faking it. I'm so much more anxious than I've ever been. During the interviews, I felt like I was on the same wavelength as everyone. And so I thought I'd fit right in. But currently, I'm not feeling that way at all. I have two major pain points. One, usually when I take on a freelance project, I'm able to jump right in to consulting and helping currently I feel like I'm still learning the ropes. But at the director level, I feel like I should already be jumping in and doing more. So I already feel like I'm failing and not meeting expectations. And two, I have two people, Person A and Person B reporting to me, who have made it clear that they know more than I do, and don't really want to change anything. For what it's worth. I know I'm young, but I also look young. So my hunch is that these two feel like I'm too young to do my job. I like to set up one on ones my first week to meet everyone. I'll be working with direct reports and not because I'm a big quote team player person. For my direct reports. I thought it'd be nice to buy them lunch and get to know them personally and start getting an idea of who I'm working with person. A Explain that they have been doing this role since they started three years ago. And since then have seen two people in my role who failed to make a meaningful impact. The attitude I got here was my strategies is right. I have no intention of listening to your ideas, without her directly saying so, example to Person B was just very standoffish during our lunch date. She did ask me a lot about my background. And every time I answered her question, she had very judgmental eyes and tone of voice. When I tried to ask about her, she seemed disengaged from the conversation. Person A and B are really close to one another from what I observed. And knowing office politics in general, I get the feeling that they're both that they both do not enjoy my new presence.

Robert Greiner 5:44

That's a very deep question,

my goodness,

Igor Geyfman 5:47

lots of detail there to react to,

Robert Greiner 5:50

I wish this person worked on my team, I really do like hungry to do a great job, ambitious to take on new career opportunities, and hitting the ground and doing the exact right thing trying to connect with her team, there's a lot of really good things that happened here. And if she's new to the role, and is already instinctively behaving like a leader, she's gonna have a really bright career, regardless of how this particular job goes, she's the one that tested go to work, and actually deal with these people. And so she's the one at the plate having to swing the bat. But maybe there are some thoughts and ideas we could offer to provide some support and help.

Igor Geyfman 6:27

And there's this, I think, a couple of times, when I read the prompt, she mentioned that she feels inferior.

And I think you have to really own that feeling, and figure out what you want to do with it. Some folks. And some situations, it's totally contextual. You can use that feeling of feeling inferior, and channel it into action. Or sometimes it cripples you. And it denies your ability to do a great job. And so you have to figure out if this feeling that you have in your reaction to it, can you channel it towards more action and motivation? Or is it something that's going to demotivate you and prevent you from taking action, I think you have to react to both those things differently. The people who hired you for this job, saw goodness in you, they probably had lots of other candidates that they were looking at an interviewing and out of those candidates, you came out on top. And so there there are people in your company, just by the fact that you were hired, that believ in you and your ability to do a great job and have invested in you. And and so those feelings of inferiority can really become quite destructive if you let them creep in and not process them properly.

Robert Greiner 7:48

Yeah, and I'll add to that, too, you got to keep showing up. Right. This is a an experience having to deal with difficult people having to deal with people that work for you who are difficult. If I had to speculate, obviously, I don't know this to be true, there's a good chance that one or two of those team members already knew about this role and applied for it and got turned down. Right, there's there might be some jealousy at play. And then you have this level of role power, that you may not have had to wield the same way before. And people view you differently when they're your boss, or you have this role of director or whatever. But I will say you're going to make mistakes, things are going to go well, things are going to go poorly. When you look back on this time, though, I think you'll see it's a formative time like that the feelings that you're having are those of learning and growth. And that will make you a more effective leader in the future. So it's not great when you're going through it. But I do think the situation is set up, such that you can really learn and grow and take your career to the next level here. And if you're willing to continue to show up and try to move past some of the initial hurdles and roadblocks you're finding in your role.

Charles Knight 8:59


I'm trying to go back to the TLDR. Eager, I think you've got me a little cautious in terms of thinking about I don't know what advice to give women I think that's thrown me off a little bit here. But if I tried to remove some of the contexts, and I look at and some of the details and really just talk about, I feel in capable, as a first time director, miss the first sentence that they put there. I think in the second sentence, I felt 100% confident, I think what I would do, because I felt that way before, I'm sure you all have as well, I continue to feel that way. As our careers evolve, and we grow into different positions. I think, for me, oftentimes, that is a repetitive story that I've told myself, this inferiority or this lack of capability, and it's a story that that is on repeat whenever I'm in an uncomfortable situation. And so I think practically It's okay. What was absent from some of the details? The first thing that jumped down is like, what about her supervisor? So where are they here? And oftentimes, when I have felt uncomfortable in my role, I haven't gone and talk to my supervisor, because I feel like I should be able to handle it on my own. And that has come back to bite me time and time again, I think especially from a consulting standpoint, to me, age is just a proxy for knowledge. And that kind of goes back to this question of how capable are you? And is there work to be done to actually build your capability and gain more knowledge in the situation? Because I know for me, my comfort doesn't go away, or my discomfort doesn't go away. Unless somebody tells me, I'm doing a good job, right? I'm doing what they're expecting me to do. And or I feel like I'm starting to learn more, right about the role about the work about the situation and the environment. And those are things that I have in my control, right? It's like I can control, getting more knowledge, building my capabilities, talking to my supervisor, in addition to the, to my team to try to find how to improve the situation. Does that make sense at all? Or am I just in a Benadryl induced haze? Right now, I feel kind of rambling.

Igor Geyfman:

I think that point about talking to your supervisor is really great. And I didn't think about it, but you're spot on. And that person is likely the hiring manager that made the final decision, or one of the decision makers to bring you on. So they believe in this person. And you also get like the new person, Halo for a little bit. So you can bring things to your colleagues, and to your boss and to your team, that after six months on the job, you probably can bring the same way. And also, it's a good time to test the workings of your relationship and how that's going to develop with your supervisor. Because that's important. And if you're not able to establish a sense of trust, that you can go with your feelings and problems to your boss, and have them heard, and have that person help you work through them, then maybe that's not a place, you want to stick around for too long. Because I'm sure that you want to be that person for your team. And you should have that expectation of your boss as well. But there is a fear of, if I go to my boss, now that I've been hired with this sort of problem, I'm going to be like found out as a fraud. He made a mistake in hiring me, obviously. And if somebody, if your boss reacts that way to your feelings, I'm not sure that's a great start to a relationship. I can't, I'm putting myself in the situation of the boss. And if somebody new comes to me with and explains to me these issues that they're having, I would never dismiss them, and be like, Oh, my gosh, this person is obviously incapable and inept. And I made a huge mistake, that thought would never cross my mind. My thought would be on, how can we work together? And how can I help you create an environment where you can work through some of these issues, and make you more comfortable and help you work with your team, so they're more comfortable with you. So talking to your boss is a really great piece of advice. And I don't think it's been a drill induced.

Robert Greiner:

But you do get rambley when you're on Benadryl, which I'm like, Oh, you should take it every day. It's your thoughts are much more long and drawn out.

Charles Knight:

Oh, interesting.

I was listening for the detail of the supervisor being part of the problem. And I didn't hear that I, which is why it's like, oh, there's probably an opportunity there. And it's just that fear, like you said, of being found out that you're floundering even though you felt you're comfortable. But I'll go back to Robert, what you said at the beginning. You want somebody like this person on your team, right? So that honesty and that that reflection and this desire to get started and jump right in and build the relationships that are needed to be successful. And so I would hope that if there are no signs that the boss is part of the problem, but the supervisors part of the problem, that even though you feel afraid, you can still go that route. In fact, that's probably the most important route to go to. Because they have more context. And they have and they also have positional power, or we I was talking about capability and knowledge, you can see that as content power. It's like you have the ability to draw from expertise and things like that. And it's it seems like people are challenging your positional power, because of your perceived lack of knowledge capability and or youth. That is that's really tough to overcome without some help. And so I think you got to lean into the to the relationship with a boss and get some of that positional power to help get people to see you in your role with an open mind as opposed to being so closed minded,

Robert Greiner:

which could just look like a public display of support in a meeting or something like that are signals that the VP, I'm assuming, right would be able to do that are non invasive, non direct, but our signals of support,

Igor Geyfman:

yeah, I've got your back sort of deal. I think a lot of people discount, we'll just call them the VP, I think a lot of people discount that. That is, you have leverage in that relationship, because by hiring you, they have put part of their reputation on the line. And they are even incentivized for you to succeed.

Robert Greiner:


Igor Geyfman:

that's right. You are not some sort of benevolent king or queen, they are selfishly invested. Because if you don't work out, that was a very expensive move for the company, hiring a person. And that person not working out is incredibly expensive, from a dollars perspective for a company, but also from the reputation perspective to the person that made that hiring decision. And it's very hard to just fully write that off, and then say, Oh, this person was just horrible. There's, they have invested part of their reputation in you. And you have, so you have leverage in that relationship. And you should realize that and use it to mutual benefit, I tend to think of everything through the lens of relationships. And I would double down on relationship building, with the team, with my boss, and with the client, that I'm at the stakeholders of the clients, I can better understand the problem. And all that means is regular one on ones, regular one on ones, because there's the two person a named person b don't feel safe, you came into their world, and they don't feel safe, you came into their world, and they came into your world, and now you don't feel safe. And that, to me is the core of the issue that has to get resolved. And you have to get everybody to feelings of safety, you have to get Person A and Person B to feel safe, and create that environment for them. So they can feel that way. And over time, that environment of safety will come for you as well. And part of building safety for you is going to your vice president and having those discussions. And so it takes time. And I've been in difficult situations where I've joined a team and I had difficult subordinates or I've had difficult peers, or even a difficult boss. And every time as I invested more and more into that relationship, everything just got better things, things seem to just resolve themselves. Because you're building trust, and you're building safety. And part of that is just it just takes time. And it's not going to be instant. And some people, you can help them feel safe right away. So maybe the other three people on your team. But don't assume that's the case, I have equitable investment of time into relationship building on one, one on ones with everybody. And that's where I flex to naturally is, let's have a conversation. No matter how grumpy you are, I'm going to keep taking you and paying for your lunch. Because that's part of the test too. There's a person that was really dismissive of me, but it was very important for me to get my job done. And every morning, I would come to their office, I would knock and I would just ask them how they're feeling. How are you doing this morning, and I would say probably four straight three weeks, this person would tell me to get out of their office, in not so nice away with some nice curse words put in there. But I just kept at it. I just kept at it. And at some point, the glass broke. And she knew that I genuinely wanted to know how she's feeling and, and we had an amazing relationship. And so as a high red person, that's how I tend to throw myself into problems is investing more and more time, one on one in building trusting relationships and creating safety for everyone.

Robert Greiner:

All right, there we go. I like it, Igor. This is definitely it's not gonna work the first time you try it. I think that's really insightful. We found this post online. And it what we appreciated the vulnerability and detail. We feel like the career aspect of the question tends to be in our wheelhouse. So we're taking a stab at providing some help answering the question to the best of our ability. And we'll say, Hey, we have no idea about her situation, how she's feeling what it takes to be a woman in that environment. And here are some thoughts and ideas if they're helpful, awesome. If they're not, sorry for wasting your time,

Igor Geyfman:

I think we're likely to have blind spots. Oh, absolutely. And I think what would be really great is for people who are listening to this, and that can identify the blind spots that that we've demonstrated. I'd love to hear about those because I have, obviously female colleagues, I have female folks on my team. And they do come to me for advice and things like that. And sometimes I'm like, Yeah, I just have these blind spots and I can give you advice, but you may not be helpful, because I don't know, at the end of the day, what it's like and so the more I know about my blind spot In these sort of situations, the more I can acknowledge them, and maybe I can overcome some and maybe not, that's fine, too. But it would just lead me to be more self aware. So it would be really cool for for someone to say, y'all Igor, you didn't consider such and such because you don't have to normally deal with that.

Robert Greiner:

If it's helpful. I really hope it's helpful. But if it's not, certainly no offense taken, if you think we're idiots,

Charles Knight:

I say that a lot. asked me for advice is take what works and throw away the garbage. It's like you don't have

Yeah, yeah,

Robert Greiner:

that has to be out is you asked 10 people for advice on one dump, seeming seemingly simple thing, and you get 10 different answers. So yeah, that's how you got to use your own wisdom to take what's given to you and make it your own. So hopefully, this helps.

Charles Knight:

That's a good question. Thanks for bringing it up.

Igor Geyfman:

Great question.

Robert Greiner:

I really wish this person was on my team,

Charles Knight:

if it doesn't work out. As I said, it doesn't work out. So come talk to us. We'll find your new home. Yeah,

Robert Greiner:

just yeah, just send us an email. Yeah. Good.

Igor Geyfman:

I love it. I think lack of self awareness is what scuttles most directors, people at that level, just the inability to reflect. And obviously, this person has that. And so that's a awesome sign.

Robert Greiner:

You're going to be a great leader.

Charles Knight:

You are a great without our help. don't discount that.

Robert Greiner:

Yes, that's right. All right, y'all, it was great to see you today. We tried a new recording technology. So we'll see how it goes.

Igor Geyfman:

Fingers crossed,

Robert Greiner:

fingers crossed. That's it for today. Thanks for joining. And don't forget to follow us on Twitter @wannagrabcoffee or drop us a line at [email protected]

Next Episode All Episodes Previous Episode
Show artwork for Wanna Grab Coffee?

About the Podcast

Wanna Grab Coffee?
Join us for weekly discussions about careers, leadership, and balancing work and life.
A podcast about all of the topics we discuss during our mid-day coffee breaks. We bring you stories, thoughts, and ideas around life as a professional, leadership concepts, and work/life balance. We view career and leadership development as a practice that spans decades and we are excited to go on this journey with you.