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Be the Boss Everyone Wants to Work For

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Flip Your Script!

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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10 Chapters

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Contents

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Introduction The Biggest First in Your Professional Career1  Flip Your Script So You Won’t Flop as a Boss2  Flip Your Mindset3  Flip Your Skill Set4  Flip Your Relationships5  Flip Your “Do-It-All” Attitude6  Flip Your Perspective7  Flip Your Focus8  Stick with Your Flipped Script
Taking the First Step

Notes

About the Research

Acknowledgments

Index

About the Author

About the Center for Creative Leadership

About the Maximizing Your Leadership Potential Program

 

1 Flip Your Script So You Won’t Flop as a Boss

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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.

 

2 Flip Your Mindset

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I’m driving home Friday. I’m pumped about my raise. All these thoughts start going through my head, like, “How am I going to celebrate? What will I do with that extra money each paycheck? What new things will I buy? Maybe those golf clubs I’ve wanted.” Then it hits me—I’ve got to lead people now. I’ve been an individual contributor all my working life. How do I suddenly start on Monday being a boss?

I felt awesome driving home. It really was an honor that my organization wanted to promote me into a leadership role. And that the executive team and others in my organization thought that highly of me? Wicked awesome.

Being a boss was a new challenge for me. Yeah, I was hesitant. But I really was up for it. I’ve always been up for a challenge.

But I definitely had that “Oh bleep” feeling too. I knew that when I sat down at my desk on Monday, that comfortable feeling of being in control, responsible for me and my actions alone, and the confidence that I was pretty darn good at what I did, would vanish. I knew that on Monday, something would be different. I had to be different.

 

3 Flip Your Skill Set

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So it’s Monday. Same desk. Same computer. Same messy office I’ve been meaning to clean forever. But I’m different now—I’m a boss. I’ve got the mindset needed: “It’s not about me anymore.” I’m ready to learn what to do, not because it’s going to make me look good, but because it will be fun and engaging. But what skills do I need to learn and develop to best lead, skills that will help me with my direct reports and serve my coworkers? I know all about downloading data, writing academic articles, and making data come alive in reports, but that has nothing to do with leading others. There are tons of skills new leaders need in order to be effective. Which ones should I focus on the most?

That was my mindchatter on Monday at 7:45 A.M. Overwhelmed and lost. Again. But after I got my morning caffeine in my system, I told myself:

Technical skills, knowing how to run statistical programs, crunching numbers, and writing reports won’t help you as a new leader. You need to trust the research you’ve done on new leaders. Trust what you learned from training other new leaders. You know what to do. Flip your skill set.

 

4 Flip Your Relationships

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It’s still Monday, not even lunch yet. Geez, I’m hungry. And this meeting isn’t helping my appetite either. I really wanted to use my communication and influence skills to help set a good impression as I was introduced as a new leader. I was excited to help set a new course and direction for our group’s work. But then I heard, “You all don’t understand. You all need to do things differently. You all are not providing the things we need.” Wait, did I just hear, “You all?” I worked side by side with these people on Friday, and now I’m, “You all” less than 72 hours later? That was quick. They really see me differently. And, well, they are different too, now that I think about it. Today I’m the boss of people who were peers and friends Friday. What do I do about these relationships?

Mid-morning on Monday, my first day as a boss, that’s what I felt. I walked right into a buzz saw that I didn’t expect. I’ve known these people, worked alongside them. They know me and know what I can do. Why didn’t I get more credit? Why didn’t they give me the benefit of the doubt that I have their best interest in mind?

 

5 Flip Your “Do-It-All” Attitude

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BDL is not going to meet the year-end goal. But what can we do going forward to get the product out and back on track?

Okay, let’s delay the rollout a month. Wait—what? The user’s guide needs more work? Training protocol needs approval? Marketing needs to be notified? Sales sheet needs a revision? Decisions on pricing aren’t vetted yet? Internal communications needs more information? IT needs to be in the know?

There’s no way we can do all this in a month now. How is all this work going to be completed? How can I complete all of this?

If you’ve felt like I did with BDL, an identity crisis creeps in (or has gone full blown). For me, it was running stats, analytics, and writing reports and articles. For you, it can be any number of things that made you special and unique as an individual contributor. Making the most sales. Fixing things right the first time. Providing the best customer service. Writing the best story. Creating the best pitch or design. Being the force behind a patent or product. In the script of individual contributors, that’s how work is defined.

 

6 Flip Your Perspective

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So, I’ve made it to “the inner sanctum”—my first management team meeting. I always wondered what it was like in here. Before, my friends and I only speculated about what went on in these meetings. Now, I get to see what it’s really like.

It’s nothing like what we thought.

I’ve only been here for five minutes, and I’m in way over my head. All the managers are talking about lack of resources, needing more people. And a lot of their suggestions sound like they are at my expense. Are they trying to steal some of my people? Steal some of my budget? It’s my first meeting for goodness sakes.

I need to stop this. I must talk about my group and what I need. That’s how things get done around here, right? But that sounds so selfish. How do I do that so I don’t piss other people off? That’s not the impression I wanted to leave in my very first management team meeting. Does it have to be “I win and you lose?”

Later in the agenda, we will discuss a long-term strategy for our entire department. How do we communicate better to the entire organization and effectively work across boundaries to show how important our group and department are?

 

7 Flip Your Focus

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You’ve had some really tough decisions to make. Some pretty small. But there are other decisions that are a little more complicated and distressing. Should you cut that project’s budget over another project? Do you give that piece of feedback to someone even though you know it will be hard for the person to hear? Do you really have to officially reprimand someone or do you let it slide? Do you recommend going forward with a decision that is cost-effective even though some cuts are involved? It’s so uncomfortable. But there’s this quote from a CEO:

“You will be confronted with questions every day that test your morals. The questions will get tougher, and the consequences will become more severe. Think carefully, and for your sake, do the right thing, not the easy thing.”

I love that quote for a couple of reasons. Whether you are an individual contributor, a brand-new boss, or well-seasoned leader, it speaks to where your focus is. Where is your integrity? Your character? How do those come into play when you make decisions? The quote speaks to the difficulty of doing what is right. It’s difficult to do, and even when we try, we may fall short. Mistakes will be made in our careers because we are imperfect people. But what I hope you realize, now that you are a leader, is that your actions and decisions, and the aftermath, may be amplified. It’s not just you who may deal with the consequences; your actions and decisions will affect others too. As a new leader, own it. Now that you are a boss, your focus must constantly be on your character, integrity, and doing what is “right.” Why?

 

8 Stick with Your Flipped Script

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Since becoming a boss, I’ve struggled with helping others realize just how important their work is. I see how valued they are to our team and organization. But I just can’t quite get them to see it.

But today, I had the best call ever with one of my direct reports! She just completed a project and clearly sees how valuable her work is. And she had fun doing it too. Over the phone, I could hear it in her voice—how excited and proud she was of her own work. It felt like she’d turned a corner and has purpose and meaning that she never saw or felt before. She’s now ready to take on more work and make new goals to stretch herself.

What’s that secret sauce or magic formula so that can happen with everyone all the time?

That phone call was one of the best feelings I’ve had as a boss. My direct report felt energized with her work. She felt her work truly mattered. Looking back, it wasn’t one thing I did, but several, over a long period of time that brought her to that realization. For months I was deliberate in giving her clear direction and outlining her roles and responsibilities. We had several coaching conversations about her current work, and mentoring conversations about her future aspirations. At times it was exhausting and frustrating for me and probably for her too.

 

Taking the First Step

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Flipping your script is hard. But you can do it. This book, the resources on the companion website, and your peers, colleagues, and boss (if you ask) are all there to help.

But to truly flip your script, take that first step. Here’s how:

Step 1: Select the one part of your script you want to flip. You’ve read the book now. All parts are important, but what is the one part of your script you firmly believe will help you be the boss everyone wants to work for? And how can you get your own boss to support you in flipping your script in this one area?

Step 2: Set a goal to flip your script; then share it, and get feedback. It’s not just knowing what part of your script you want to flip. Now, put it into action.

•  Set a specific, difficult, yet attainable goal (like you read about in Chapter 5) that is linked to the most important part of your script you want to flip.

•  Share what that goal is with others (for example, your boss, your direct reports, your team, staff, coworkers).

 

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