A lot of employees leave their job because of their boss. Communication is key to a great employee-boss relationship. Employees want to know their purpose and goal for doing their job, so the boss has to make that clear. An effective boss is visible and transparent with all his/her employees. So if you’re the boss in your company, make sure that you listen to today’s episode. Join Rosie Zilinskas as she talks to human resources expert and executive coach Kate Walker. Kate shares five great tips on how you can become an admired and effective boss. From communication to coaching, discover what it takes to run a successful business. Start being the boss that helps his team today!
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Running Your Business Like An Effective Boss With Kate Walker
I am thrilled to be talking to Kate Walker in this episode. She is going to help us go through the five tips to become an admired and effective boss. Why are we talking about this, you ask? Many managers have now stepped into a management role, especially with so many people leaving the corporate world with the Great Resignation and we know that’s leveling off a little bit but a lot of people find themselves new to their management positions.
We want to provide new managers or managers that want to improve themselves and help retain employees in their company to become better managers. Kate is going to help us go through those five tips to become an admired and effective boss. Let me tell you a little bit about Kate. Kate Walker is a human resources expert and a renowned thought leader on leadership, business insight, team dynamics, and mindset.
Through her client engagement, social content, media contributions, and podcast guesting, she empowers business professionals to design businesses, teams, and people processes that positively impact their professional success. She has over two decades of senior-level business experience working with thousands of individuals at various stages of their lives and careers. She offers executive career coaching to support ambitious career professionals. Stay tuned. We’re also going to talk to Kate about using your secret weapon and also, how to set powerful intentions. Here we go.
Kate, thank you so much for being here on the show. I know you and I have had conversations before, and in this episode, we’re going to talk about the top five tips to become an admired and effective boss. Let’s go ahead and talk about that, Kate.
Thank you so much, Rosie. Thank you for having me. I appreciate it. To dive in, I was looking at a recent study. It was up on social media. It was by LeanIn.org and the study was also done by McKinsey talking about what women are looking for in the workplace these days. We’ve all heard about the Great Resignation. I’m hearing it’s being recoined and called the Great Breakup. People are taking their power, especially women to go out and get jobs where they are getting certain benefits.
Let me just read a few things that were in the study by LeanIn.org and McKinsey. “Women, in particular, are looking for a flexible work environment, a fair work environment and inclusive. They’re looking for opportunity and flexibility. As a boss, how do we deliver these things, especially to these women? How are we getting women to stay on the job? How do we retain them? How do we develop them? To your point, I have five different tips that I’d like to share on how to become not only an admirer. As the admirer boss, you’re someone that people want to work for. How do you embody those different traits so that people want to work for you and people like working for you?
I also want to say, as far as becoming an admired boss, there are two different giant umbrellas. One umbrella, which I’m not going to talk about in-depth is the Total Rewards Umbrella. We’re looking to be compensated fairly. We’re looking for a great benefits package. We’re looking for time off. We’re looking for a vacation. We’re looking for all of those things. As a boss, we certainly want to advocate for making sure that our people are getting the benefits and the pay that they need. Our bosses are working with leadership and HR to make sure that all of those benefits are attractive.
The second umbrella, which I want to talk more about is more of an Emotional Intelligence Umbrella, but to dive a little more into the everyday talk, under that is communication. It’s like, “I’m going to give you five tips,” but it’s like, “What’s the number one tip? If you’re to walk away from this, what’s the one thing I needed to do to be that admired boss?” It’s communication. Your people need communication. For so long in the workplace, there’s been this feeling from bosses and from company leaders.
I hope it’s becoming more and more outdated but expect that our people will come in and do their job. They will sit down and do their job. As I spoke about, I think that people are looking for more, especially women. We’re looking for more in the workplace. How do we engage, especially our women in the workplace so that we can retain them and advance them?
Source communication goes, “The number one tip that I would share with the bosses is helping your employees understand why. Why are we here? Why am I in this job?” You’re laughing and you’re like, “Why am I here?” Again, sometimes it’s like, “Just do your job and everything will be fine.” More people are like, “Why am I here? What’s the mission of the company? What are we doing? How are we serving? What are we giving back? What’s the product? Why does this matter?” As a boss, it’s helping people understand the vision for the company or even my team. “What’s the mission? What are we doing? What’s the why? Why am I here?”
I do know that companies are trying to treat the person as a whole more. As you said, a lot of times as a manager before, you’d be like, “Come sit down, do your job, and don’t ask questions.” Communication is the one big thing and we’re having the conversation in this episode because there are so many people, especially now with the Great Resignation that have left the corporate world.
Now all these new managers are in place by default or whatever. They don’t know how to become that admired and effective boss but by being able to communicate to let your team know what the big picture is and why they are doing what we’re doing. I remember years ago, I became a manager at my old company and someone was doing a specific job.
When I finally asked when I was assessing all the jobs, “Why are you doing this?” They’re like, “I don’t know. I was told to do it.” It was a job that was so obsolete and I’m like, “Ask the question.” If you don’t know what you are doing, ask the question. It’s communication both ways, to the team and from the team to the boss as well.
That’s a great point because I do think that employees should feel empowered to have those conversations with their bosses. One of my other tips is for managers to have that one on one meetings where you can start to have these conversations. I can even skip right over to the other tip but one of my other tips is I talked about, “Why are we here? What are we doing?” It’s the bigger picture, the why, that can help get people motivated about the mission of the company or the department.
I’ll fast forward to this other tip as a manager, it’s sitting down, putting time on the calendar, one-on-one to talk with your people, and say, “How can I help? What are you working on? What’s important for you now? What’s important for you down the road?” This is also an opportunity in these one-on-one conversations, not only to talk about the to-do list, the checklist like, “Did you get this done? Did you get that done?” but it’s going beyond that. Again, “How can I help, or what’s important for you?”
This could even be a separate conversation. I do advise this, but talking about someone’s development is another key thing that women are looking for in their employment. It is to grow, advance, and develop. That needs to be a two-way conversation. I do hope admired bosses are going to have those conversations and feel good about it and want to help their employees. It shouldn’t be a threatening conversation. It can be a nice dialogue to have about someone’s career, ambition, or future. What training might you need? What development might you need and how I, as a manager, support you in that? That was a beautiful conversation.
I love what you said as far as having that conversation on development. I don’t know if this is going to steal your thunder elsewhere, but we are going to talk about feedback because if not, let’s talk about feedback now.
We can talk about feedback now. The feedback would go into those one-on-one conversations.
The feedback is very crucial because if nothing is happening in your career, let’s say and you’re wanting it to. Meaning that you’re trying to advance in your career and trying to get a promotion, salary increase, or whatever. If you’re not either having those regular one-on-ones or you’re not meeting with your manager at least twice a year to talk specifically about your performance, then it is up to you to ask for that feedback. How would you handle asking for feedback?
Interestingly, I did a masterclass on this topic. If anybody wants the link to the masterclass, it’s called The Number One Fix to Transform your Career. What was the number one fix? It was talking about feedback. Here’s the thing too. Employees might be waiting for the manager to come to them to talk about the feedback or maybe you’re waiting for those two times a year when the company needs you to do the performance review.
If you want to be in the driver’s seat of your career, I advise you, the employee, to go out and start soliciting feedback. It’s so powerful and it can be a very scary proposition. In my masterclass, I share some stories about myself in the early parts of my career not wanting feedback because I equated feedback to negative feedback. “What have I done wrong? What did I need to do better?” I did not want to engage in those kinds of conversations. It ruins my day.
If you want to be in the driver's seat of your career, go out and start soliciting feedback. – Kate Walker Click To Tweet
If you can reframe it and think, “Information is going to help me. It might sting a little bit if it’s something very honest, but let me digest it. Let me take it in. Let me think about how I can go forward with it.” It’s very powerful. If you can get in the driver’s seat, own it, and ask for it, then you can empower yourself. It’s huge.
That is so interesting. Let me go back. You were afraid of getting feedback. Tell me a little bit more about that.
I tell a story in the masterclass where I grew up as a competitive tennis player. I was on the court getting lessons or clinics and all it was is feedback. Every shot, “Don’t do this. Don’t do that next time. Don’t do that.” I go into a match, “You should have done that better. You didn’t do that.” It was all the feedback about what I was doing wrong. Granted, I became a very good tennis player. I was a competitive tennis player. I won a lot of matches. I was ranked, but I felt that feedback equals negative feedback.
From that experience as a competitive athlete going into my career, I still had that same mindset. “I don’t want the feedback because it’s going to be negative and I’m done with it. I’m over it. I have been there and done that.” What I came to learn, coming into corporate, was I came to learn and I thought, “The smarter you were and the bigger your job title, the less feedback you probably want because you’re already successful or you already know it all. You’ve got the title. You’ve maybe got the degree. Why would you want feedback?”
Coming into corporate and working as a human resources leader, I had an a-ha moment. I thought, “The people with these big titles, the people with the education, or the people working on these big projects are asking for feedback about their performance, how they could do better, or how their team could do better.” I was such a light bulb. I’m like, “These people are so smart, but they’re asking for feedback. Maybe the smart people ask for feedback.” That was a revelation I had where I had to reframe and say, “I’m observing that these top people are out actively seeking feedback.”
I wanted to clarify that your story was a perfect point of how your interactions with your tennis coach impacted your belief that feedback was negative and when you finally realized, “It doesn’t have to be negative,” that was a turning point. You outline the fact that seniors, whether it’s managers or executives, still need feedback because they’re still people. They’re still learning how to become good managers. Those are all great observations.
That’s how we learn through observation but I think you and I would both agree that with our observations, it doesn’t have to take you as long to get from A to B. It’s like, “We’ve been there. We’ve done that. We’ve seen it. We can help you get to your desired goal faster.” As coaches and career advisors, let us help you fast-track your results.
We have communication and one-on-one. What’s next?
What Are We Doing?
The other thing is another W, which is, “What are we doing?” The other conversation that managers should be having with their team and we talked a little bit about this is, “What are we doing?” What’s my role? You had a great example of someone who was in a role. Are they sitting there wondering, “Is this even relevant? What are we doing?” These conversations are crucial where and this could tie back to making sure that your job and role descriptions are up-to-date, but knowing, “I know what I’m coming in to do and how it impacts. I got the coaching and the guidance to make sure I’m doing my job. I know what my responsibilities are.”
Your example is someone who’s veered way off track or the company’s veered way off track but we can just veer off track because we’re not getting those feedback and those coaching moments. It’s knowing what I’m here to do. I have clear roles and responsibilities. This also ties to performance reviews and feedback. Hopefully, by the time I get to a performance review or a feedback conversation, nothing is a giant surprise because we’ve been having these ongoing conversations about my role, my responsibilities, and what I need to be delivering. Clarity with that is another tip to becoming an admired boss. It’s like, “I know what I’m doing. The team knows what they’re doing.”
Now, along with the clarity is where you can start having those conversations about what’s next for you as well?
If I’m a manager and I’m doing everything in my job description, it makes sense. It’s clear. I’m delivering on it, but then I want to be a senior manager. It’s like, “Let me look at the senior manager job description. What do I need to do? What are the gaps between the manager and the senior manager? How do I get there?” I’m such a big advocate also of great job descriptions because it’s so important for clarity of knowing what I’m doing and for making sure I’m delivering. If I’m a manager, I want to be a senior manager. “Those are the things I need to do.”
How To Do It?
Next on my list is the how. How will we do it? The team knows, “What’s the plan? What’s the strategy? What are we doing?” It’s knowing not only what your department’s doing, but knowing what the company is doing. How does what we’re doing ladder up to the company? Having clarity with the team about what’s the plan of action and what are we doing can be achieved in team meetings. This could certainly be a one-on-one meeting, but this is more about getting the team together to have clarity about the planning and the strategy.
As a boss, you need to have clarity with your team so they understand what your vision is and what they're working for. – Kate Walker Click To Tweet
How often would you recommend for those kinds of meetings to take place?
It depends on how deep you want to dive. If you’re doing strategy planning, those could potentially be 4 times or maybe even 2 times a year. As far as strategy planning goes, I know personally that I love to get up on a whiteboard or have Post-It notes and talk about brainstorming sessions and all those kinds of things. Those can be more brainstorming types of meetings, but certainly, after you brainstorm, you want to get to, “Here’s what we talked about. Here’s the plan. Here’s the go forward.”
I hear that mind mapping is the new brainstorming now.
I like mind mapping.
The how is important because this is where you have to have standard operating procedures. You have to have written the information down on how to do the job. A lot of times, people don’t remember to update those standard operating procedures and that’s another thing that I think would be good. If you’re trying to be an effective boss, you need to have at least a framework for what the job is and what they do because there’s a lot of on-the-job training and with on-the-job training, it’s like telephone.
If I come to work and feel like it’s only a game of telephone and nothing’s clear, it’s like, “What are we doing? Why am I here? What’s the point? What was that meeting even about? What’s the plan of action?” I’m going to go home and I’m going to be like, “My boss is completely unorganized. This is a joke. What am I even doing here?” When the recruiter calls me, I’m going to be tempted to say, “I will take that call,” because I don’t know what’s going on here. What I’m talking about now is shoring up those communication pieces.
Maybe someone is the manager and they want to be the senior manager. You’ve had all the conversations, but the opportunity just isn’t there. That’s fair for someone to perhaps pursue something outside the company because there just wasn’t, but we talked about it. To know that as a manager, I delivered communication. We were clear. We had a plan. We were sitting down. We were talking. I can feel good about being that admired boss and if someone has to leave the company due to that there just wasn’t an opportunity, then I get that. That does happen.
I can tell you that disorganized managers are very real. They exist because I know some folks are working with their manager and the manager is all over the place. The person that I know is a very good employee and they’re trying to do a good job, but the manager can’t get out of their own way. I’ve had a conversation with them. The employee is left thinking, “I have to be here until the end of a certain time and from there, I’m going to start looking because the manager is so disorganized and doesn’t know how to keep anything together that it’s awful.”
It’s a perfect example. That’s exactly what happened. For anybody out there that’s reading that is this boss, and they’re like, “I don’t know if I’m quite hitting these marks. That sounds a little complicated to get out ahead of that.” I’m similar to you. I have clients too that are like, “I don’t have the time to do some of this stuff, especially the one-on-one meetings. I’m too busy. I can’t sit down and have the meetings. I’ll meet with them once a month.”
I’m like, “Once a month?” That’s a lot of time in between meetings. Hire a coach or even go to a qualified individual in the HR department to help you get a communication plan together and I’m giving you five tips. You don’t have to do every single tip right off the bat. If you can do one, master it, and then maybe move to the next will help.
Managers are busy. They have their own work to do, but this is the thing that managers fall short of. Their primary job is to lead their team to success, profitability, or whatever. If they don’t make the time to meet with their team, they’re already failing regardless of what they have to do during their day. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Michael Hyatt. He’s a very big leader and coach. He has this thing that he calls the Big 3. Every day you come in and you write down the three things that you need to get accomplished that day.
You don’t start doing anything else until you’re done with these three things. Sometimes, if you have a big project, it’s a big one. It’s almost like during your week you have to have one timeslot where you meet with one person on your team every week and keep the conversation rolling so that you don’t feel this overwhelmed that you have to meet with them every day or all of them in one week.
For some leaders, some of this can feel counterintuitive. “I’m the boss. I got to go drive the sale. I got to go get into a client meeting. I got to go close the deal. I got to bring in the money.” Those are important things, I get that. As leaders and executives, we need to be out with the clients and get the revenue, but these tips I’m sharing are so essential. As we’ve already talked about, if we’re not hitting on some of these things, people start to lose interest. Again, the phone rings from the recruiter or it’s like, “Once I hit this milestone, I’m out of here.”
Leaders might think, “I don’t have time,” but you do need to make the time. Going back to the one-on-one example, I’ve had people come to complain to me or whatnot, employees, where their manager does set up a one-on-one, but then they got too busy. Maybe they got stuck in the client meeting. The one-on-one got delayed and then the manager needs to travel for business so the one-on-one got delayed and six weeks have gone by.
This person continues to do their job. Business goes on, but those touch points and that communication. Resentment can start to build and maybe I’m off doing a project in a certain way that it wasn’t supposed to be done. I’m spending time on that and by the time my boss gets with me, it’s like, “I got to spend the time getting back to what I thought the project was going to be.” There are so many opportunities for breakdown when communication’s not happening.
We have one more.
The last one is visibility or accessibility. A couple of stories here. There was a company I worked for and the boss, the head of the division, was a very busy individual. Talk about admired bosses. I had watched him. I’m like, “Take those tips.” He was very admired. One thing he would do is, even though he is the head of the division and very busy, he would walk around the office and there were multiple different floors. He was knocking on the door, knocking on the window, peeking in, peeking around the cube, and being visible.
I honestly think I should have asked him one time, “Do you put this on your calendar?” I feel like I’d see him about the same time every day at maybe 11:00-ish and I worked in an office with the door, but I had a big glass window. He would come and knock on a glass window, poke in, and chat for a minute. This is an experience I still remember as a head of the division being visible.
Many of us have remote workers. As the boss, you can’t walk around. I’m on Zoom. How do I do that? We can still create opportunities to be visible and accessible and check in with our people. Give those little knocks on the door or maybe just a message like, “Just checking in. How’s it going? I hope your day’s going great.” Those little acknowledgments of, “I’m here. I’m thinking about you.” My tip number five is visibility or accessibility to you as the boss.
That’s my favorite tip because now we’re in a virtual world and it’s never going back. We’re never going back to everybody in the office 100% of the time the way prior to the pandemic. It is important for you as the head of the department to have those skip meetings that you go to your reports or whatever. That gets you talking to the people doing the work because a lot of times, you’re enveloped in all these managers, but you never have time to talk to the individuals that are producing the work and that’s so important. Again, to your point as far as keeping and people retention, that would go a long way.
It’s so interesting too that everything we’ve talked about doesn’t cost anything. It costs zero dollars and zero cents. It does cost effort and time. I know those are valuable things, but it doesn’t cost anything to be an efficient and effective communicator. To go knocking on people’s doors, people remember it. People appreciate it and that’s what keeps people engaged and retained.
Talking and interacting with your team, as a boss, costs $0 but a lot of effort and time. – Kate Walker Click To Tweet
Speaking of engagement, you and I probably both know this, but not everybody knows that according to the Gallup poll0% of people are not engaged in their work. That is so sad because the management and executive team could do so much more to keep the team engaged, but in our day-to-day, we lose the big picture and we’re so in the weeds of like, “What tasks do I have to get done?” that we forget the forest and to develop those relationships from the top manager all the way down to the individuals.
Everything I just talked about under this communication umbrella would address those things. Are you touching your people? Do you know what’s on their mind? What’s bugging them? Is this bugging them? Is that bugging them? Do they need a day off? It’s about engaging, talking, and communicating with your employees. If you haven’t done it, it’s like, “I don’t know how to do it.” Help is available, but these are things that people are looking for and it might seem too simple, but it’s not.
Communication also goes back to treating the individual as a whole and not just as an employee because we’re talking to people, not employees. We can ask them, “How’s your family doing? What’s going on? Any vacations coming up?” and things like that. Those little things can build those relationships and you can retain people by asking them, “How’s your family?”
It seems so simple, but people do appreciate it. “My boss my boss cares.”
I used to manage people. It’s been a while, but a few years ago, I had a team and I did what you were saying that your manager did before. I would go out specifically maybe once a week. I’d go out and say, “How’s it going?” I would purposefully have nothing business-related. I would go around everybody’s desk and like, “How’s it going? What’s going on?” I felt that went a long way.
It does. It’s surprising and effective.
Those are five tips to become an admired and effective boss.
I can summarize them quickly. Again, under the communication umbrella, “Why are we here? What are we doing? How will we do it? How can I help? What’s important for you and then the visibility accessibility?”
Now you talked a little bit about coaching. Let’s talk about coaching. When we grow up, we have all our coaches like Little League, whether it’s basketball, all our sports, music, and instruments. When we go into the workforce, we never talk about the word coach again. Let’s talk about that.
I feel like the tide is turning a little bit. I feel like human resources departments are becoming more versed in being able to help employees with their development and having career conversations. Bosses, as they’re learning these tips and information, can have those conversations with their employees but it’s so fascinating in the workplace that we don’t have coaches unless you are extremely aware, go out and hire your own coach. We do hear about executive coaching where it’s like, “The big bosses get the coach.” Why don’t the others get the coach too? Maybe the CEO has a leadership coach. Does the leadership team have a coach? Do the managers have a coach? Who’s coaching the rest of the people?
I have started to think that there should be a career coach and I’m not talking about HR because HR does its HR things. They have all their functions and whatever but we, as in the corporate world, need to start thinking about hiring an actual career coach with a permanent position within corporations so that this career coach can meet whoever wants to meet with them, but they’re there to support the staff and its part of their benefit. I have a career coach and their objective so that they’re not working directly with the manager, but I think that position is such a necessary position in the corporate world. It’s not a thing.
No, it’s not a thing and it can be a thing if you outsource it. One example is I’m working for a very creatively-based company, and they’ve hired me to coach all of their leadership team, but again here, we’re focused on the leaders. Hopefully, we will cascade down to others as well to have the opportunity but they had to go outside. They went outside to go hire someone and it’s interesting because I’m in these coaching conversations and some of these individuals who have had very long successful careers, I come in and they hired me to talk about their performance reviews and how the performance review coaching session after they’ve done reviews.
I stayed on board to continue coaching, but by way of my first coaching conversation with some of them, they’re like, “I’ve never had this kind of conversation before. I didn’t know I could talk about these things.” There are a lot of light bulb moments like, “I haven’t been able to explore this with anybody or I thought it was safe to talk about what’s on my mind as far as my career or what’s next, or all of those things.
That’s why it’s important to have a career coach. Your manager can help and guide you, but they’re also going to be thinking about how to position that individual in the company. They’re not necessarily going to be thinking about that only individual’s long-term career throughout. The career coach will be very objective and will be able to do that for that one individual that is not the manager.
If you’re going to be an admired boss, you would probably do that and not feel threatened. You could probably open up and explore like, “Let’s talk about the big picture of your career.” To your point, managers were looking to focus on the company and the company’s needs. Maybe that’s tip number six. If you want to be an admired boss, open up a big career conversation. I love your idea about companies hiring a career coach to have those specific conversations. As we know, people want to advance their careers. People come into companies looking for development opportunities, so why not have someone that can satisfy that need and someone who can have those specific conversations?
The other thing too is that having a career coach can give you so much intel. The career coach isn’t going to divulge any specific information, but it’s a counselor. The funny thing about specifics is that I can give you the trends. That would even be helpful to the company because if they know what the trends are, they can be proactive instead of reactive. Let’s talk about how to hire and use an effective coach and be an executive coach.
This is interesting because I feel like the coaching industry is booming. Anybody can walk out on the street and be like, “I’m a coach,” which is fascinating and there are a lot of different niches where one could be a coach. We look at people that are weight loss coaches. I heard about a coaching niche where someone needed to fall asleep at night so they hired a sleep coach. There’s probably every kind of coach out there. You do need to know what you’re looking for. We’re here talking about career and leadership, so I think you want to look for people that are well-versed in those areas and experienced not only calling themselves, “I’m a career coach. I worked for a year.”
We’re looking for people that have been around the block a few times. You need to look at someone’s credentials, their background and know that they can engage with you in those conversations. There are a lot of different ways to find coaches. One way I would suggest is referrals or coming onto shows like this and hearing about people that can help you in these different niches.
Referrals are a great way to get to know a referred and respected coach. LinkedIn is a good place to go and look at someone’s profile and perhaps ask them for a discovery call. Ask them to have a chance to chat a little bit to see if there would be a mutual match. There are a lot of paths to find coaches, but my recommendation would be to know what you’re looking for and then find someone that can support that, someone who’s been there and done that.
Referrals are a great way to get to know a respected coach that has been there and done that. – Kate Walker Click To Tweet
I know you and I have both been there and done that. With that, I want to talk about your story a little bit. You were in the corporate world and you left the corporate world a few months ago. Tell me about your career, what you did in corporate, and why you decided to exit.
I dreamed of being in corporate. When I was sixteen years old, I dreamed of, “I’m going to work in a big building one day. I’m going to go have this glamorous career and work in the city.” I always knew working in corporate was my goal and fortunately, I got there. The start of my human resources career was coming into ad agencies in downtown San Francisco.
When I came into the ad agency in my early twenties, I’d come from a job in the music industry down in LA where it was a lot of older, more seasoned workers but coming into the ad agency, it was a vibrant, energetic and all kinds of people that were so creative. I thought, “I’ve completely found my spot.” I began my human resources career in a couple of different ad agencies and loved working with all of the people in the company. I felt like HR was the only place where I could work with everybody instead of being in one department.
Maybe being an art director where I was working with the creatives and that. I thought, “I want to work with everybody.” I enjoyed a career in human resources. I got the opportunity at a very young age to work with leaders and to go up to the C-Suite and see what that was all about. That’s a whole other story on finding my voice in those kinds of meetings. I spent about two decades working in human resources and leadership roles.
I have done all the different functional areas of HR but knew toward the end of my career that I wanted to be doing something more specific. I love coaching. Speaking of coaching, in HR, I’ve been in probably thousands and thousands of coaching conversations helping people with their careers, with their questions about their boss, or with the boss about their team, and all those different kinds of things. I thought, “These are the conversations and the interactions that light me up.” It’s the coaching. It’s small group facilitation. It’s helping people.
We talked a little bit about strategy. I helped teams in facilitating strategy sessions. I knew for me that working on, for example, COVID policy, probably just wasn’t lighting me up. I did leave my corporate job during the pandemic as well. Again, I was working on the COVID policy, which is fine. It’s all interesting and good work but I knew that I wanted to go and coach full-time. I wanted to work with leaders.
I wanted to work with leaders and their teams. I wanted to work with individuals that were maybe looking for a promotion but couldn’t quite crack the code on how to get that done. That’s my wheelhouse. I did leave corporate several months ago to launch my own business where I could deliver those specific things and help those kinds of people get results on their career journey.
One of the things that I want to make sure everybody heard was that you figured out what lights you up. When you were having those coaching conversations and you felt full of life, that’s a good indication that you’re going towards the work that you love. That lights you up. That’s your passion for work and how you get engaged in the work that you do.
That’s an amazing conversation and that especially, we, as women, can do the work that lights us up. We’re doing something where we feel like we’re making a nice contribution. We’re doing something that’s in our wheelhouse. We’re still learning and growing. Sometimes you do have to pause, take a time out, and say, “Let me sit down and think about where I am right now and where I want to go. Am I on the path? Am I not on the path? If I’m not on the path, how do I get to the path? Is it going to be potentially scary pivoting over to the new path,” and that’s yet another conversation. It can be scary pivoting over to the new path, but once you get over there and get yourself grounded, it can be rewarding.
What was the catalyst for you? Do you remember the thought that you were like, “I can’t be here anymore because this doesn’t light me up?” What was that like?
I knew I wanted to be in corporate. I knew that was the right structure for me or the right container for me. After I’d been there for so long, I knew that I also wanted, as far as life design and what’s next for me, my pivot. I knew I also wanted a more flexible schedule. I needed a little more freedom. That also drove my decision and I didn’t want to be connected to my laptop from 9:00 to 5:00 on call, waiting, and then getting in the meetings. I felt like I wanted to restructure my day in a little bit more flexible way. That was a big driving force for me as well to make that change. It was knowing that I wanted to design my schedule for my day.
I had a great job at a great company. There was nothing wrong with it, but knowing that instead of doing these 20 different things every day, I want to do the 5 and be clear with myself. I want to do these five things and I want to do it on my own freedom of schedule. I knew I had to go out and design that for myself.
I like the fact that you recognize the things that you love to do. You went out and you made it happen because so often, people in the corporate world stay in a job that they’re not happy in and that’s what this whole conversation is about. We want people to be happy and fulfilled in their careers. I always say, “My mission is to eradicate the gender gap in the corporate world by women in their career development.” That is what this whole show is dedicated toward. If you find yourself in a job that you’re not happy with, do something. Take action.
Hopefully, you have a savvy admired boss and you can have these conversations in a very safe space or go out and find a coach, someone like us, who can help you have those conversations and help you explore them. Also, support you as you make decisions for your life so you don’t have to be stuck but you do need to engage in communication and do some self-reflection. Also, be honest with yourself.
Now that you talked about self-reflection, that’s a good pivot point for us to talk about how to set powerful intentions and achieve goals. What you just said as far as doing some reflection work goes into that conversation. Let’s talk a little bit about it.
Achieving Your Goals
At the end of the day, if you don’t have a target, what are you aiming for? Sometimes, it can feel overwhelming. Again, hire a coach or someone to help you with that. It’s knowing, “What are you going for?” and then setting some small steps to get there. I was talking to a client who has the opportunity to go out and get a gigantic certification. To get the certification, there are seven different tests. Each test is about 3 to 4 hours each. He has been in his industry for many years. He probably could go out and pass a test without even studying or any of that and he sees it as this gigantic thing. He’s like, “It’s so overwhelming. It’s seven tests. This is huge. This is major.”
Know what goals you're aiming for and then set some small steps so you can get there. – Kate Walker Click To Tweet
I said, “What if you were just to focus on a reasonable study schedule? I’m talking 30 minutes a day. Just do a little something for 30 minutes a day. What if you were to potentially focus on 1 test for maybe 2 months? Sign up for one test and just do that.” He’s like, “That feels so much more realistic to me. I hadn’t thought about it that way.” We can’t have these giant goals, but if we break them down, they can be more achievable but you’ve got to have a target then it’s like, “How do I get to the target in a realistic way?”
Talk to me a little bit about a powerful intention.
A powerful intention, you’ve got to name it and then you’ve got to go claim it, is how I would describe it. It’s like, “Here’s my intention. My intention is I want to go to the gym three days a week.” It’s like, “Now, I’ve just named it. I got to go claim it. I have to commit to my three days. I’m going to do it.” It’s as simple as that. Again, the client example I gave you, the 7 tests and 4 hours each. You can break it down so that you do name it. “I want the certification. I got to claim it.” For 30 minutes a day, focus on 1 test and then take those steps to claim the bigger vision.
That’s a perfect example of how to set powerful intentions and achieve those goals because you have to name them. You have to claim it. You have to set your schedule to do whatever it is that you’re trying to do, whether it’s weight loss, a career promotion, or whatever but you need to have those steps. When you’re trying to fly a plane, you can’t take off without a flight plan. A flight plan has to be filed. It’s a federal law that you have to have a flight plan. The plane can’t take off without it. That’s the same thing that I say. Your career won’t take off without your focus strategy, but it’s the same thing. You need to have steps to be able to achieve those goals and it has to be done in a very methodical way.
I like how you gave the example earlier about Michael Hyatt and his approach to the three things. If we could do the three things every day, Monday through Friday, or even Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, it’s amazing how much progress you can make if you just commit to it. The three things don’t have to be gigantic. They can be three things that continue to move your career down the road or move whatever goal down the road. Chipping away at is helpful.
Everything that we talked about has been fantastic, Kate. I do want to ask you if you can provide two actionable tips that women can use to continue to advance in their career development.
Last Two Actionable Tips
The two tips I have in mind are number one, you need the information to advance your career. We talked about all these different ways that your boss should be communicating. If you’re not the boss, that’s fine. As the employee, go to your boss and try to engage in these different conversations, especially when we’ve talked about feedback, especially to get feedback or to course correct or it’s like, “I’m doing this. Am I on the right track?” You need the information to know how to move it forward. “Am I on track? Am I not on track? I want to be on this track. How do I get on that track?” Go out and seek information.
To that point, I have on my website a freebie that will help with this mission to go out and find information. It’s called a Personal Brand Audit. It’s at KateWalker.com/freebie. When you download the Personal Brand Audit, it gives you a list of about 70 different positive attributes and you would self-select 10 of the attributes that you feel best to represent how you show up your brand. “What am I known for? What am I seeing for? How do I show up? How do I think I’m delivering my job?”
If you are feeling bold and courageous, you would give the other sheet, the peer audit to a peer, a colleague, your boss, a friend, or whoever. I have teams do this. This is something that a team can do, but for purposes of individuals, you would give your peer audit to someone or a group of people to say, “Can you fill out how you think I show up? What do you think I’m known for? What do you think my brand is?”
They would fill it out and here’s one example. If on the sheet you check the box Analytical, you feel like you’re analytical. You’re proud of your analytical skills. You think that’s how you show up. That’s your track. What if you get back five peer reviews and no one has checked the analytical box? You’re like, “What? I thought I was analytical. I guess no one is seeing me that way.” I put together this very easy and simple personal brand audit worksheet where you can start to explore how you think you’re showing up and how others think you’re showing up.
This is a simple exercise. It’s a self-awareness exercise. It’s great, but it’s not super technical. It’s a way to dip in and get information. If you’re looking for something super technical, email me because we can go down a super technical road for getting your feedback but this is a great awareness exercise for, “How am I being seen? How am I showing up?” Again, getting that information and then maybe getting information from others so that you can start to build the bridge and say, “I thought it was analytical. I am not being perceived that way. What do I need to do to turn up the dial in that area of my career?” Those are a couple of thoughts.
One of them is information and the second one is your personal brand audit. Everybody, go straight to Kate’s website. Kate, this has been a wonderful, enlightening conversation. Everything that we have talked about here will give someone ideas on what they can do to continue to advance in their career or maybe they feel they’re stuck and they’re trying to figure out how to pivot, change, or do something. All of the information that we’ve talked about is going to be great. Do you have any final words that you want to share before we close?
What’s coming to mind right now is the support of women or individuals that do want to advance their careers and feel like they’re maybe not getting that support from their boss. Hopefully, you have that savvy admired boss, but that sometimes isn’t always the case. Reach out for help. In my coaching conversations with different clients, I love it when I get a, “I hadn’t thought about it that way. I didn’t know that.”
We have that insider information. We’ve been behind the curtain. We’ve been in the offices where the decisions are getting made. We can help you fast-track your career. Don’t be afraid to reach out. It is a sign of strength if you need help and if you want a coach. My last words are that we have so much information to share and empower our clients with. Reach out if you need help and fast-track yourself.
Those are powerful words right there. Kate, thank you so much for coming to the show. Again, everything that we talked about is right up our wheelhouse. We hope that our readers enjoyed it but thank you again for your time.
Thank you so much. I loved the conversation. Take care.
I am so pleased with the conversation that Kate and I had on how to become an effective and admired boss. Everybody knows that people leave bosses, not jobs for the most part. Implementing these five tips that Kate and I spoke about is going to help you elevate yourself as a manager. When you elevate yourself as a manager, you are going to be able to retain those individual contributors, which is going to help the company in the long run.
Another thing that Kate talked about is the secret weapon, which is hiring an executive coach. As we said in the episode, when we’re in school and even through high school, we’re constantly talking about our coaches, whether it’s coaching sports, coaching music, or anything like that. When we get into the corporate world, we don’t talk about coaches anymore and that’s so silly because everybody needs a coach.
Coaches even need coaches, just like therapists need therapists, to continue to give you ideas and explore new things so that you can advance in your career. Also, we talked about how to set powerful intentions and achieve goals. It was a great conversation with Kate. One of the last couple of things that I wanted to do is share with you Kate’s two tips. Tip number one, she says, “You need the information to advance in your career. Have conversations with your manager on what you need to do.”
Tip number two is to work on your personal brand and she has a freebie on her website, which is KateWalker.com. This is a personal brand audit sheet. You can go to her website. It’s titled freebie right there. You can download it and you can go through and from all the words, from all the attributes on the sheet, you can pick your top ten. You can give that same sheet to anybody on your team, your peers, maybe even your boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, or partner and let them pick out your top ten attributes and then compare.
Kate had said on the episode that if you think you’re analytical, but nobody comes back with analytical, then maybe you’re not as analytical as you thought you were. That’s a great way for you to figure out and this is also something that I talk about where you uncover your blind spots because people see you differently than the way you see yourself. Again, you can find that information at KateWalker.com. With that, again, this was a great conversation with Kate. I had a great time talking to her and she provided some fantastic information. As always, remember to be brave, be bold, and take action.
About Kate Walker
Kate Walker is a human resources expert and renowned thought leader on leadership, business insight, team dynamics and mindset.
Through her client engagements, social content, media contributions, and podcast guesting she empowers business professionals to design businesses, teams, and people processes that positively impact their professional success in a way they can be excited about.
She has over two decades of senior-level business experience working with thousands of individuals at various stages of their lives and careers. She has worked for notable global companies such as The William Morris Agency, JWT, TBWA Chiat Day, Publicis, USTA Nintendo and more. She offers executive coaching packages to support ambitious career professionals.