Something critical changes when you become a boss. The most important thing in the world is no longer your success—it's the success of your people.
That concept is hard for both women and men bosses. After all, on the way up, you have to care passionately about your achievements. You have to raise your hand first and highest; you have to deliver the best and brightest answers. But when you become a boss, your personal performance is only as good as the performance of your team. You will do well—if they do. You will win—but only by basking in the reflected glory of their winning.
Almost no one makes this part of the leadership transition easily. But women have more trouble. It's hard to know why for sure. My best hypothesis is that by the time they are promoted, women have spent more time as individual achievers. They have an older, more deeply embedded habit to break. It could also be that women, once promoted, hold on longer to a sense of precariousness. They can't believe they've made it. And so they keep trying to raise their hands, so to speak. They keep trying to look good for their bosses. They keep thinking it's about their individual results.
There is nothing individual about being a boss. Many women bosses take too long to find that out, but they shouldn't. It's just a realization away.
Correcting each of the mistakes listed here is, too. Just understanding that emotional distances need to be managed with care and balance is the first step in doing so. The same goes for coming to see that there can be no Garden of Eden workplace in the all-too-human world. Knowing that women bosses tend to hang on to hiring mistakes too long is the beginning of the fix; the rest is taking decisive action. And when you hear the word mentor, just put an s on the end, and that potential error is averted.
As for the magic wand my boss gave me the day I was promoted, I dutifully taped it to the top of my computer. It didn't stop me from making mistakes. But it did remind me to pay attention to each of them so that I wouldn't make the same ones twice.
Suzy Welch, a contributing editor at O, is the coauthor of Winning (HarperBusiness).
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