When I first became a team leader at the BBC, I found it a painful process. Although I’d led smaller teams before, I saw myself as a creative, leading creative projects with like-minded people. Easy, really.
But a few years ago I became an editor for the BBC’s Design & Technology division, directly managing seven people and co-leading a team of more than 20 people. I was responsible for service delivery of BBC Red Button and one of the duty editors of the BBC Homepage, which had 10 million weekly users.
It was time to see myself as a leader and a creative, and this felt, well, scary.
I was put through a one-year leadership training called Leadership Essentials, which included modules and cohort meet-ups as well as mentoring. A year later I had executive coaching as well, from the wonderful Mark Grinnell, managing editor of Radio Devon.
The focus of my coaching was to build confidence and become a better leader. An emotional challenge, though I couldn’t explain why.
Fast forward a few years and I’ve recruited, trained and mentored dozens of people. I launched digital Red Button and a new version of the BBC Homepage. I’m editor of the BBC Homepage and I’ve led a 35% increase in the clickthrough rate. We drive 1bn billion clicks to BBC content a year.
But the accomplishment I’m most proud of is building a collaborative and innovative culture in our team. People from BBC North approach me and say, ‘I’d like to work for your team, I’ve heard good things about it.’
An important thing I’ve gained along the way is insight into the behaviours that were holding me back from taking the lead. All were behaviours that came naturally to me. Changing them was what made stepping up feel so hard.
Last week I saw them all outlined in this piece by Sally Helgesen. I’d thought of writing about ‘behaviours that hold women back’ before – but now there’s no need, this video covers it completely.
Perfectionism, the desire to please, modesty – Sally cannily summarises the traits that feel like positives at the start of your career, but then get in your way later on.
Sally Halgesen is a women’s leadership coach (bet you didn’t know there was such a thing), but at the end she makes the same point that I would make after managing people starting out in their careers: men need this advice too. Not all men, but many who don’t feel they are doing the right things to progress.
And one final point: you don’t have to do any of the things Sally suggests. Success comes in many different guises, and it should not always entail a race to the top in what is mostly still a male-dominated workplace.
But if you feel you may be holding yourself back and want to know how to put your best foot forward, I cannot recommend a better place to start. I hope to take a closer look at how this piece in the context of my own working life in future posts. But for now, have a read and take note:
Sally Helgesen is the author of How Woman Rise. You can follow her on Twitter here https://twitter.com/sallyhelgesen