You’ve been promoted to leadership—congratulations! But it’s nothing like your old job, is it? William Gentry says it’s time to flip your script.
We all have mental scripts that tell us how the world works. Your old script was all about “me”: standing out as an individual. But as a new leader, you need to flip your script from “me” to “we” and help the group you lead succeed. In this book, Gentry supports and coaches you to flip your script in six key areas. He offers actionable, practical, evidence-based advice and examples drawn from his research, his work with leaders, and his own failures and triumphs of becoming a new leader. Get started flipping your script and become the kind of boss everyone wants to work for.
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About the Author
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Be the Boss Everyone Wants to Work For
A Guide for New Leaders
By William Gentry
Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2016 William Gentry and the Center for Creative Leadership
All rights reserved.
Flip Your Script So You Won't Flop as a Boss
This book provides one overarching theme for new leaders to be the boss everyone wants to work for: Flip your script. I believe you can truly be the boss everyone wants to work for if you are willing to flip your script.
First, let's be clear on what a script is. Think about a play, musical, movie, or television show you've watched. It was scripted. It used written text to guide the performance. And you know those scripts; you can spot them a mile away in romantic comedies, Shakespearean plays, Greek tragedies, thrillers, or dramas. You could probably write the script about these people: the third wheel; the bridesmaid who is never the bride; the party-like-a-rock-star, wicked-funny, good-looking hero; the devious villain; the jock; the nerd who gets the girl in the end; the wallflower who was beautiful all along. These people do what they are supposed to do, act the way they are supposed to act, and live the way they are expected to because of the scripts that are written for them by writers.
But scripts aren't just for jocks, nerds, villains, heroes, and heroines on stage and screen. We all have scripts in our lives. In your own life, you write your own script and live your life based on what your script says about the various roles you have: parent, child, partner, spouse, sibling, community activist.
Your script helps you understand who you are and how to live. It's what is expected of you. When you write your own script, you provide details about how you are supposed to think; what you are supposed to do; how you should act, feel, relate with others; how you should view the world; and how you should view yourself. Scripts help us understand our roles and our purpose.
The Individual Contributor Script and a Breakup Line
At work, you definitely live by a script. Oddly enough, the script of a successful individual contributor reminds me a lot of that old breakup line many of us have used — or, like me, heard all too often — when someone's about to get dumped. You know the one: "It's not you; it's me."
So what does that breakup line have to do with the script of an individual contributor, you may ask? Well, have you ever noticed where the spotlight and center of attention is when someone uses that "It's not you; it's me" breakup line?
Not you. Me.
No doubt, many successful individual contributors and technical experts shine the spotlight, not on "you," but on "me, myself, and I" to get success. The script usually goes something like this:
Keep my head down. Work harder than everyone else. Push to get things accomplished. Rely on my technical skill, knowledge, resourcefulness, and unparalleled effort to get ahead. Do my job and do it well. That's how I will separate myself from everyone else and become a subject matter expert and well respected at work. That's how I get rewards and recognition. That's how I will get ahead.
The script is the reason individual contributors get promoted into their first managerial role:
I got promoted to my first managerial role because of my dedication, my drive, my initiative, my work ethic, my technical skills, and the accomplishments I made that directly contributed to the success of the team and organization.
It's all about "me, myself, and I" as an individual contributor. That "me" mentality is at the heart of the script of individual contributors, technical experts, and professionals everywhere. And we've been living this script ever since we can remember, even as kids, to get ahead, to get attention, to outshine everyone. Focusing on "me" and "my" talents, knowledge, efforts, and unique set of skills and abilities brought awards, accolades, recognition, and approval. It made us successful in our educational endeavors and in extracurricular activities. And at work, that's how we became valuable and successful individual contributors, subject matter experts, and well-known professionals in our organization, if not more broadly.
The script works, and there's nothing wrong with it for individual contributors and technical experts. And because the script worked for us before, we think it should work as new leaders. Why wouldn't it? Like the saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
But here's the problem. Many times in life, the situation changes, and we neglect to alter our scripts to be successful in that new situation. So we keep living that same script each and every day, not knowing that it just doesn't work. That's why I think many new leaders stumble from the start. What so many new leaders have come to know (oftentimes too late to do anything about it) is that success in that new boss role is no longer defined by "It's not you; it's me."
Yes, the script for an individual contributor ain't broke. But it won't work for a new leader. The script of a boss that everyone wants to work for is different.
So What Must You Do? Flip Your Script
The script for individual contributors is all about "me" and "my" own abilities, achievements, technical expertise, and personal desire to get ahead. That's not necessarily a bad thing; having ambition and seeking personal excellence are worthy traits. It's perfectly normal for us to be motivated to succeed and do well in life. It's the reason individual contributors were promoted into leadership in the first place.
But to be a successful leader, to transition from a technical expert to a leader of people, you must be willing to shed the "individual contributor" role that got you the promotion to leadership in the first place and stop shining the spotlight on "me, myself, and I." You must want to change, truly believe that you can change, and be 100 percent committed to change. Actually, strike the word change — -flip is a better word than change. You must want to flip, truly believe that you can flip, and be 100 percent committed to flip your script. I believe you can truly be the boss everyone wants to work for, if you are willing to do this.
So what does "flip your script" mean?
Well, you know the script of an individual contributor. It's like that old breakup line: "It's not you; it's me."
To be the boss everyone wants to work for, flip it:
"It's not about me anymore."
Flip your script from "me" to "we." Flip from a "me mentality" to putting attention on "we" and "us."
It sounds so simple, doesn't it? Maybe too simple. But you know as well as I do, it's so difficult to do. Just look around. So many of us see (and work with) leaders who haven't flipped their scripts, like this one:
Lee, sales are down 15 percent this month. You know I pride myself on being at the top. I always was when I was in your shoes, not too long ago. So buckle down. Work harder. Call more people. In fact, that sales lead call you have in ten minutes? I'll sit in, and you introduce me to Ms. Oakes — that's her name, right? And then I'll take over and show you how it's done. I had to do the same thing with Vicki earlier today too. Do I need to remind you of all the incentives we'll get if we meet the targets I set? I am not going to have my meeting with Mr. Scott and tell him I missed our group's goal the very first quarter I took over sales.
That old script — that relentless determination to complete work, reliance on technical savvy, being a subject matter expert, that focus on "me," to get rewards, recognition, and impress others — is nowhere in the script of a new leader who wants to be the boss everyone wants to work for.
So what would it look like if that new leader flipped his script? Maybe something like this:
Lee, I've noticed sales are down 15 percent this month in the reports. What's your opinion on why? ... Hmmmm, I didn't know there was a process issue. And it's affecting others on our team too? So what do you think could be done? ... Lee, that's a great idea. Can you write a memo detailing your thoughts, clearly showing how your idea can better our sales? I'll be sure to tell Mr. Scott and mention that you came up with this great idea. And that call with Ms. Oakes in ten minutes — is there anything I can help you with? No? Well, I know you've got this, I have confidence in you. Afterward, let's have a 15-minute debrief and talk about the call, what went well, and what you learned from that call that will help you in future calls, okay?
That's the type of boss everyone wants to work for, a boss who flipped his script.
Clearly, the situation has changed now that you are the boss. As a new leader, your script is much different from the script of an individual contributor, the script that you've lived your entire life, the script that made you successful and got you the leadership position. It's no longer about being better than others, about what "I" can do, "my" technical savvy, abilities, expertise, knowledge, and ability to get all the work done, proving "my" worth. Realize that the biggest driver of any new leader's success is not about "me" anymore. Make others — your staff, your team, the people you lead and serve — successful and help them fulfill their potential.
This is your wake-up call to stop living the "It's not you; it's me," script. Flip your script from "me" to "we," and embrace "It's not about me anymore." Flip from being the center of attention to shining the spotlight on others.
Six Ways to Flip Your Script
Flipping your script is a huge idea, a big deal. It goes against every normal and natural instinct you may have. It's so different from everything that has made you successful up to this point in your career. But leading others is so different from anything you've ever done before.
It's difficult to do. So don't take it for granted. The chapters of this book will help you with six parts of the script you must flip in order to be the boss everyone wants to work for.
Chapter 2: Flip Your Mindset
You'll realize how to avoid derailing at such an early point in your career (and later in life too). Based on my latest research of almost 300 new leaders, this chapter will help you flip your mindset to start thinking like a new leader.
Chapter 3: Flip Your Skill Set
Individual contributors rely on their technical skill to do their job and get ahead. That's their script. But many new leaders struggle because (1) they rely too much on technical skills that a boss clearly does not need, or (2) they were never told what skills they needed to be successful leaders in the first place. Through my latest research, I've identified four skills that new leaders often struggle with the most. So flip your skill set. You'll read about communication and influence in this chapter. Leading teams and developing others come in the next two chapters.
Chapter 4: Flip Your Relationships
As a new leader, your relationships are different. For instance, your former peers — some possibly being your friends — now report directly to you. Plus, you actually lead a staff or a team of people. In this chapter, you'll understand the relationship aspects of leading others.
Chapter 5: Flip Your "Do-It-All" Attitude
To be the boss everyone wants to work for, it's not about doing all the work anymore. As a boss, you'll flip your script in the way you define, think about, and conduct work, which includes developing others.
Chapter 6: Flip Your Perspective
Individual contributors usually have a narrow view of the organization. As a new leader, flip your perspective and expand your view. Here, you'll understand what "politics" really is. Plus, you'll gain the awareness and ability to navigate the politics inherent in your organization through your political savvy, including "managing up" and working in a matrix.
Chapter 7: Flip Your Focus
New leaders must understand that their actions and decisions can have repercussions far beyond themselves. So, flip your focus. You'll appreciate the importance of integrity, character, doing the "right" thing, and building trust, now and as you climb up the organizational ladder.
Chapter 8: Stick with Your Flipped Script
Finally, Chapter 8 will help you stick with your flipped script to be the boss everyone wants to work for.
That's a lot to take in, I admit. If you think about it, there are entire books on the topics each chapter presents. To make it manageable and easier for you to flip your script, I'll provide a couple big takeaways in each chapter. You can put that information to work immediately, and you'll have opportunities to continue your learning (along with some exclusive content, more tips, and several other answers to the old "Just tell me what I have to do" appeals) in "The Coach's Corner" at the end of each chapter and on the companion website (www.WilliamGentryLeads.com).
And know this: you don't have to take on flipping your entire script all at once. Like one of my mentors says, "You don't have to try and swallow the entire ocean." After reading the book, you'll know the one or two areas you can start to flip (and "The Coach's Corner" and companion website will help out a lot too). You can be the boss everyone wants to work for, and this book will show you how. Flip your script.
The Fine Print. Or "This Book Isn't for You If ..."
With all that being said, here's "the fine print" that you must read. Here are four not-so-subtle points you should consider before reading the rest of the book. Warning: Myths will be shattered. If any of these describe you, return the book and get your money back.
Point 1. If You Believe Leaders Are Born, Not Made, This Book Isn't for You
It's an easy cop-out: "I wasn't born a leader, so I'll never be a leader." That excuse is no longer acceptable. And it wasn't even true to begin with. No matter who told you or what you've heard, being born into leadership is not necessary to be the boss everyone wants to work for. Science actually debunks that old adage "Leaders are born, not made" — it's total garbage, or at least 67 percent garbage. The scientific study of genes and leadership exposes that, at the most, one-third of leadership is born. That means two-thirds is made. Even my own research at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) uncovered that a majority of top leaders of organizations around the world think leaders are more made (i.e., can be developed) than they are born. (This is just one example of how I am going to use science and research to help you flip your script and be the boss everyone wants to work for. See? That wasn't so bad.)
And if science isn't enough, just look around your own organization or consider the people you know in the world. Granted, most of us will never be president, admiral, general, superintendent, or CEO. No matter if these positions are on your radar or not, you don't need to have credentials the length of your arm, come from privilege, or have the necessary "genes" to be the boss everyone wants to work for. So many of us are underdogs who can rise up through the ranks, without privilege, money, or fame, and become great leaders. You shouldn't feel leadership is impossible, that you'll never be able to get this "leadership thing" because you're not famous, not a one-per-center, or not at the top of your class. You shouldn't feel that because you aren't a born leader, you'll never have the chance to be one. And if people are telling you that, buy another copy of this book and show them, or use it to hit them over the head with it (okay, bullying probably isn't the answer, as you'll read in Chapter 2). So, first, if you firmly believe that leaders are born, not made, this book isn't for you.
Point 2. If You Expect That Transitioning into Leadership Will Be Easy, This Book Isn't for You
If there were some magical "if X, then Y" flowchart that worked 100 percent of the time, or if there were an app that guaranteed success in each and every situation you encounter as a new leader, I would give it to you. But when you lead others, easy fixes are rare and more likely than not, difficult. However, it can be rewarding. So, second, recognize that it is hard to flip your script. It will take effort but will be so worth it in the end. However, if you think you'll breeze right through with no sweat, this book isn't for you.
Excerpted from Be the Boss Everyone Wants to Work For by William Gentry. Copyright © 2016 William Gentry and the Center for Creative Leadership. Excerpted by permission of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction The Biggest First in Your Professional Career 1
1 Flip Your Script So You Won't Flop as a Boss 16
2 Flip Your Mindset 31
3 Flip Your Skill Set 51
4 Flip Your Relationships 77
5 Flip Your "Do-It-All" Attitude 98
6 Flip Your Perspective 118
7 Flip Your Focus 141
8 Stick with Your Flipped Script 162
Taking the First Step 173
About the Research 189
About the Author 201
About the Center for Creative Leadership 203
About the Maximizing Your Leadership Potential Program 204