Ever faced a moment in your career where you felt stuck and wondered how to evolve into a leadership role? Have you ever thought about the monumental shifts required to transition from just doing to leading? Join us in an inspiring conversation with the remarkable Joe Miller, an internationally recognized women's leadership speaker and author. Joe, with her captivating tales and experiences, shares her personal 'shift list', a set of five fundamental leadership shifts that can guide us from being mere doers to effective leaders. She also unfolds the story of her life-altering mid-career moment, a cancer diagnosis, and how it led her to unearth her standout strength, thereby driving her deeper into her work.
In the heart of our conversation, we delve into the profound exploration of the five leadership shifts that Joe proposes for those in the middle of their careers. These shifts encompass the transition from being a tactician to a strategist, from delegating tasks to developing talents, from optimizing processes to transforming visions, from being an autotaker to a risk taker and rule breaker, and, finally, from a 'me' centered attitude to a 'we' focused mindset. We dissect these concepts, understanding their significance, practical implications, and the indispensable role of 'de-velegating' in preventing burnout and fatigue while maintaining work quality.
In the concluding part of our episode, we touch upon the crucial aspect of shifting mindsets for mid-career success. Joe illuminates the transition from an Optimizer to a Transformer, stressing the significance of being a transformational change leader rather than merely optimizing what is demanded of us. She also underscores the importance of taking calculated risks, both in terms of career and business, encouraging listeners to assess potential risks and rewards. Tune into this riveting episode to gain insights on how you can elevate and shift your leadership skills and set up your mid-career GPS. Come, let's embark on this journey together.
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When you think about whatever is next for you in your career, you know there are certain shifts you need to make, or you've been told to make, to elevate your career. But how do you do that when you're juggling everything else in your work and life and your professional success depends on making those shifts? Well, I've got someone to join me on the podcast today who has great answers to those questions. Today you will meet award-winning women's leadership speaker and author, Jo Miller. Jo's shift list has five leadership shifts to help everyone go from less doing to more leading. In this episode, you'll learn Jo's five leadership shifts, including why you shouldn't be delegating more, but rather developing. Let's get started. I've had the privilege of hearing Jo Miller speak on several occasions at NextUp's Rising Stars Conference. This is an annual event for mid-level leaders and I'm honored to be one of their coaches for the program. Jo's captivating keynote and workshop helps mid-level leaders think about how they can take their work from where they are to where they want to be. Joe is the author of the number one bestselling book, women of Influence Nine Steps to Build your Brand, establish your Legacy and Thrive. Jo's personal mission is to give women a clear and proven path for how to step into the leadership pipeline and present yourself as the talented leader you are. Based on her work with hundreds of thousands of women, Jo developed a pragmatic and powerful roadmap to guide you from where you are in your career to where you aspire to be and men make no mistakes. These are game-changing things for you as well. I'm sure you'll enjoy our conversation, and it's my pleasure to introduce you to Joe Miller.Jo Miller:
Hi everyone, I'm Jo Miller and for the past two decades it's been my personal mission and passion to help new and aspiring leaders. Frequently, women advance their careers by leveraging their authentic leadership strengths. I'm the author of Woman of Influence Nine Steps to Build your Brand, establish your Legacy and Thrive, and I travel the world in person but also via Zoom a lot doing programs for corporate women's employee resource groups, and I also speak at a lot of women's leadership conferences, which, john, is where you and I met.John Neral:
We did. We met through NextUp's Rising Stars program. We got to see each other in person back in Austin, Texas, in early June and it was that moment when I saw you passing me in the hallway and I grabbed you real quick and I was like I'd love for you to be a guest on my podcast. Would you be willing, Joe? You immediately said yes and I'm so glad we get to spend some time together today. So thank you for who you are and what you do and all of your work here on the Mid-Career GPS podcast. We define mid-career as typically there's some kind of moment when everything shifts. It changes our perspectives, be it how our career path is headed or how we lead, and I'm wondering if you can begin with us today by sharing with us what was your mid-career moment that shaped your career to where it is now.Jo Miller:
I am going to share two, and the reason is I've been doing what I do for about 20 years. However, there's been two inflection points, two big shifts that have occurred in the last seven years and, as frequently happened, I was not in the driver's seat for either of these. So the first was that, around seven years ago, I was diagnosed with a stage one breast cancer, which in and of itself, was disruptive to my life, but it was hugely disruptive to my work and to my career because, it turns out, one of the outcomes of some of the treatment was that it impacted my ability to process language, to be concise, to speak articulately, to have the brain connect with the words that were coming out of my mouth, and so it really disrupted my ability to do my job, which is about being a trainer and a speaker. So I had to rethink from the ground up my approach, stop creating so much content and instead start to go even more deeply into the programs I'd been developing and delivering and memorize every single word, and so I went from doing a whole lot of different things to identifying that standout strength, which, of course, is what I would encourage every mid-career leader and aspiring leader to do. To narrow down to your core strength, that thing that you know you can do so well. And then the second thing, of course, is one that happened to all of us. It was the pandemic, and so, for me personally, it meant being grounded, quite literally no more travel, no more in-person speaking engagements or conferences, and so, having had one or two employees supporting my work for the past decade, I had to make the heartbreaking decision to lay off a truly treasured and trusted employee and sat down and started to realize how much of what we were doing was the little things, the busy work stuck in the weeds, the tactical to-dos, and so I went through my own shift from doing to leading, identifying so many little tasks to let go of, and then the things that I could do more of to be even more impactful in my role. So, from embracing your strengths to shifting from doing to leading, I think ties quite nicely into what I would encourage any aspiring and new leader to think about.John Neral:
It absolutely does. And when you mentioned about the pandemic and I was thinking gosh, that's a little more than three years ago and it feels like it was yesterday and it feels like it was a decade ago. It's such a weird point in time in our history, don't you agree?Jo Miller:
Yes, it seems like time went more slowly, but also more rapidly than it ever had before.John Neral:
So true, well, joe, you have five leadership shifts that you speak about and you help people with. Can you tell us what those five are, please?Jo Miller:
Yeah, absolutely. And, by the way, I was listening to a podcast earlier in the week where this woman repeatedly apologized for making puns, so I'm going to announce that this is called the shift list. It's about getting our shifts together and I will never apologize for the cheesiest of puns, because you know what shift comes at us fast. Especially at mid-career.John Neral:
I appreciate a good pun, by the way, so on my shift list.Jo Miller:
We're going to look at moving from tactician to strategist, from delegating to developing and, john, I know that's one that you probably want to drill down into a little during our conversation. So, from delegating to developing, from optimizer to transformer, from being an autotaker to being a rule breaker and a risk taker, and then, finally, the one I call the grandmama of them all, shifting mindset from me to we, and so, as we grow in our careers, we want to move from being the one to do the work to leading with influence, and I find these are five key shifts in mindset and behavior to move us from doing to leading, but also that we can lead with influence, not necessarily positional authority.John Neral:
And for many mid-career professionals. Joe, you hit the nail on the head where it is this shift from going, from doing, to leading. And for us to jump right in, let's talk about this whole concept that you have about developing. So we know that for many mid-career professionals, they are told on performance appraisals, feedback with their leadership in various check-in meetings, even feedback from peers and colleagues, that they are told they need to delegate more. Why do you believe it is so hard for mid-career professionals to shift from doing to delegating or, as you say, to developing?Jo Miller:
You know, I think it goes back to what we're rewarded for doing early on in our careers. We think about it. When we bring a high-performance mentality, we are always the one to do exactly what's asked of us, never color outside the lines of our job description. We get rewarded for moving mountains and getting stuff done, and yet there comes this moment where so much of what got us to where we are today is not the stuff that will get us to our next leadership milestone. I think Marshall Goldsmith says that what got us here won't necessarily get us there, and if we grasp on too tightly to those early career competencies and success factors, we might hold ourselves back or you know, heaven forbid even derail, and so we really need to reevaluate what are some of the competencies and skills to let go of and what's there to do more of instead, so we can shift to expanding our impact and leading with influence.John Neral:
I loved what you said about there being a reward tied to the high performer, if you will right the recognition that they get for doing a great job, and that's saying well, I just need to keep doing this. I'm just going to work harder, I'll put in the extra time, I'll work on the weekends, I'll put the kids to bed and I'll go back to work for an hour or two, because that's who I am. It gets tied so closely to our professional identity in some way. You offer a concept that and I love the word and whenever I've been so fortunate to hear you speak in person and you share the word de-velegate, there's this ooh and an aw from the crowd, because they definitely want to know more. Talk to us a little bit about why de-velegating is essential to mid-career success.Jo Miller:
Well, I would say that, in addition to puns being essential to who I am, the made-up words are as well, and de-velegate it's one of my favorite. What often happens is we have this tendency to put our heads down and we work, and we work and we get tied up working on the little things and the busy work and those messy tactical to-dos when we could be focused on the more big picture, strategic, high-impact stuff. But that doesn't happen unless we're able to enlist support from others, which is going to be crucial to anyone's success as a leader. Because as we grow in our career and we take on larger projects and new responsibilities and bigger teams, it becomes increasingly difficult to juggle all those responsibilities and maintain the quality of our work. It's a recipe for burnout and fatigue and quitting and walking away from our roles if we fail to make that shift and to let go. The most successful leaders don't just delegate, they de-velegate, meaning they will pause before simply handing off a task or a project or even a role to someone else. Pause to think deeply about for whom in this team or organization around me could this represent an opportunity and next step up in that other individual's career or leadership development, so that now we're taking the opportunity to make that investment to coach someone, to mentor them, to build them up and to help them grow. So we're not just delegating, we're developmentally delegating or de-velegating.John Neral:
The word that you used, investment, is one that I want to lean in with you for a minute, because it is about someone's investment in somebody else to develop their talent and their skills. When aspiring or rising leaders are stressed and overwhelmed and overworked and they're having that mental battle or tug of war between do I do this myself or do I truly pause and take the time and invest in developing somebody's talent now that's going to yield, anticipating greater results down the road, how do you help or how do you see people make that mindset shift that the pause to develop someone is truly worth that investment?Jo Miller:
I think you hit the nail on the head in that it's so easy to fall for this instant gratification of just getting a task done ourselves. We've all fallen for the intoxicating buzz of just checking a task of the to-do list. Yet in the longer run, when we delegate, it frees us up to focus on the bigger things, to make our leadership impact, to do the stuff that feels more gratifying, that gives us that sense of a real win. I think part of it starts with just admitting that there are things that we need to let go of. The comedian, sarah Val, has said everything I let go of, I leave Clormax all over, and I need to remind myself of that from time to time. It's okay to let go. In fact it's necessary to let go, because I would say, for anyone that's at that mid-level, mid-career point, from this moment forward it will be the tasks that you, as a leader, let go of that define you and your leadership so much more than the things that you hold on to, the things that you say yes to, the things you take on. Really growing as a leader isn't about doing more. It's about making that shift from doing to leading, and that shift from doing to delegating, or even up-leveling from delegating to delegating, is absolutely crucial if we're to grow as leaders.John Neral:
Well said. I hope for everybody who is listening they're taking some time to really challenge some of their thoughts here around where they can implement this concept of delegating more into their work life or bring that into their team to really help people do that. Joe, as we continue to look at your shift list, there is one about going from tactician to strategist. That I know specifically for the people I work with. They talk about that as well, but it is admittedly a hard lift for them to get into that strategy type mode. Talk to us a little bit, please, about that shift mid-career professionals can make from being a tactician to being more of a strategist.Jo Miller:
I think it goes very much hand in hand with this shift from delegating to delegating, because we also want to look at what are the more tactical items for us to let go of so we can focus on our bigger picture strategic vision or our overarching goal or that cause or that end game that we're driving towards. Yet I think most of us have had some feedback that goes a little like this in our careers Someone said you need to be more strategic. Maybe you did a presentation and someone said great job, but I want you to be more strategic. Or maybe your manager sat you down in your review and said you're doing well and your goal now is to be more strategic. I can see this collective scratching of heads to go okay, great, we've all heard this, but what does it mean? What does it really mean? I always love to come back to the definition I heard from Ellie Humphrey, one of the strategic leaders I interviewed. She said strategy is just a fancy word for coming up with a long-term plan and putting it into action. I just love that. It's nothing but a fancy word for having your long-term plan and putting it into action If you're approaching your work every day, coming up with that longer-term goal or vision or cause or mission and you're scanning the landscape, taking in the broader business environment, to come up with a good plan and you're checking off milestones on the way toward that end goal. If you're approaching your work in a way that's future-focused and forward-thinking and planful, that's it. You are being strategic.John Neral:
That's a great definition from Ellie. It does drive it home in terms of being a little clear about what strategy is. The other thing I just wanted to mention was when we have a leader, a supervisor, an executive that says to us you need to be more strategic. My question sometimes is always do they know how to be strategic? Are they demonstrating that as well, or are they just pushing the ball along as well and being like OK, I've been told this, you need to be doing this too? That can really make people confused as well about, like, I just don't know what strategy looks like. So that definition was super clear. Thank you. Well, joe, let's keep going down your shift list, because there are three others that we can absolutely get to. The next one is from Optimizer to Transformer. What does that mean?Jo Miller:
I love this one because when we hear that it's important to shift from Optimizer to Transformer, a lot of us will ask OK, what's wrong with being an Optimizer? And the answer is absolutely nothing. And yet, early on in our careers, when we bring this high performance mentality, we will optimize the heck out of any task or role or process or project we're given to make it the most productive, effective, efficient, successful it could be. And yet our leadership impact gets limited unless we shift from optimizing what is asked of us and what we're given to do to being a transformer, a transformational change leader. And I'll share a definition of what it means to be a transformer. That I learned from someone who is just the quintessential transformational change leader, Leila Pohashemi. So she said two things. She said, firstly, the change you lead doesn't need to be big or impressive. It just needs to be important and meaningful, All right. So size doesn't matter, but it does need to be important, and the change you lead should be the type of change that can't be easily undone. That's what it means to be a transformer. So think about driving the type of change that can't be easily reversed, and I like to encourage people to think about a pickle. What's a pickle? It's a cucumber that's been through transformation and the pickle can't go back to being a cucumber. It's an irreversible change. So I would just say be the pickle you wish to see in the world.John Neral:
It's a great visual, without a doubt. Thank you for that. The next one is order taker to rule breaker. This one always makes me think a little bit more specifically, so talk to us a little bit about what that means.Jo Miller:
Well, you know, early on in our careers again, we get praised and rewarded, and possibly even promoted, for doing exactly what's asked of us. You know we'd be this good order taker and yet our impact and our influence as leaders has a lid put on it, unless we shift to being that rule breaker and that risk taker. And I would encourage people to think about two types of rule breaking and risk taking and think about which one might be next for you, because there's career risks but there's also business risks. And so I think, early on in our career journey, it's good to think about taking the type of career risks that could potentially derail us in our careers, like raise your hand for the high visibility, risky, high profile assignment or write a proposal for a role that fits your strengths or speak truth to power. So early on we can develop this appetite and tolerance for rule breaking and risk taking that then, as we hit that mid-career inflection point, we can then build on that by becoming a business risk taker, taking risks on behalf of your organization that might have make or break consequences for the business as a whole. So it could be things like investing in a new technology or starting up a new division, or making a risky hire, or making the tough decision to close down a struggling product line, for example. So, early on, think about taking career risks, then build into taking career risks so that you can really make a wider impact. And one of my favorite quotes comes from Nora Denzel, who said if we don't take risks, we'll always work for someone who does.John Neral:
I will tell you personally, joe, that the whole idea of risk taking rings very true to me when I think about some moves I've made in my career, but also as a coach. There is a part in the coaching relationship where there are times when you risk it with a client to say the things that they need to hear versus what they want to hear, and I know there have been there in steps in my career where I have done that risk. Some have turned out well, some have not turned out well, like when I got kicked off a senior leadership team meeting because I took a risk and I never got invited back again. But you learn to take those risks, and what I love about the idea of risk taking is we assess how great the risk is and so, whether it's a career risk or a business risk, together we want to challenge people who are listening to think about if there's a risk you're going to take, what is it, what's the benefit of taking it, what's the benefit of not taking it, and how does it ultimately help you or move your career forward. So thank you for sharing that whole idea of risk taking with us. Your last shift, joe, is for us to go from me to we. What's that shift look like?Jo Miller:
Well, I call this one the grandmama of them all the shift from me to we, because when we're starting out in our careers, we're all about our own performance and our own learning and development and success and our own future. And yet our leadership impact gets limited unless we shift our mindset from our own productivity and performance and success to thinking about the we, the team, the organization, and this is great concept of the force multiplier. And a force multiplier is someone whose presence within a group or a team raises the collective intelligence and productivity of the group as a whole. So they're a catalyst for a team to accomplish more and to even think better. And I love to think about that in terms of early on, we strive to be the one to have the best idea or be the smartest in the room, when really we should be striving to make the room and everyone in it smarter. One of the leaders I interviewed, Pam Stewart, whose chief customer officer with the Coca-Cola company, said when you move your mindset from me to we, everything changes, and I just love that. She said if you aspire to lead boldly and courageously, this is the most powerful shift you can make.John Neral:
Well said, yeah, and I know that for a lot of mid-career professionals that is a big one. So it's trying to think of that larger vision. So everybody is transformed because of your leadership. So so good. I'm a huge fan of your shift list. I love it. I'm so glad we got through all of those. But as we start wrapping up, one of the questions I always ask my guests is what advice would you give to help someone build their mid-career GPS? So this might be your favorite career tip piece of advice you want to share, but something to help them navigate toward whatever is next. You've given us all five components on your shift list, but what else could you share with us to help them build their mid-career GPS?Jo Miller:
Well, John, working with women, especially in this mid-career phase, is very near and dear to my heart. It's at the heart of my personal passion and mission, and one of the places I see them so frequently get stuck is not that they're lacking in leadership ability or the desire to lead, but it's how much they already have on their plates. And so frequently what happens is we become indispensable for doing all of the little things and the busy work, the work that downplays our potential and really holds us back from becoming the leaders that we were born to be. So I would say don't become indispensable for doing the stuff that holds you back and belittles your leadership potential, and also that you don't have to be this best kept secret in the organization. It is really more than OK to step up and shine.John Neral:
Yeah, so important for us to hear that, and it's one of the reasons why we connect so well with NextUp and all their work that they do to support women in the workplace. But there's a huge component of NextUp that is about allyship, so men are certainly encouraged to be involved as well, and we saw a lot of male allies at the Rising Stars event this year. But we certainly know that elevating the importance and the role of women in the workplace is more important than ever. So thank you so much for the work that you get to do, joe. I want to turn the microphone over to you. Please share with us all the wonderful details about how people can connect with you. Get your book, follow you, my friend, the mic is yours.Jo Miller:
Thanks, john. Well, look, the easiest place to find me is at joemillacom, and from there you can find your way to my LinkedIn profile. I would love to connect with you and stay in touch via LinkedIn, and you'll find me sharing regular snippets of information, just like some of your things that John and I have discussed. And if you'd like to get my book, well, you can absolutely do the obvious thing, which is go to one of the big online stores, or you could call up your local independent bookstore to request it, or request it through your library as well. So sure, order it online, but if you really want to earn extra gold stars from me, go with your library or your local independent bookstore.John Neral:
Well, big shout out to the independent bookstores and libraries in our neighborhoods. Absolutely so, joe Miller. And, by the way, everybody, if you go to Joe's website, joe Miller, his is J-O-M-I-L-L-E-Rcom, so I will make sure all that's in the show notes. Joe Miller, thank you for being such a wonderful guest today on the Mid Career GPS podcast.Jo Miller:
And thanks to you, john, for all you're doing to support and elevate aspiring leaders and new leaders through that mid-career crunch. I appreciate all that you do and I appreciate this conversation too.John Neral:
Thank you so much. Well, my friends, here's the takeaway for today. Joe shared with us five key shifts on our shift list, but the one that we spent the most time today talking about was going from doing to delegating and elevating that up to delegating. Your challenge after this episode is to think about who do you work with, who's on your team, who do you want to actually hit the pause button with, to help invest more time in them and helping them grow their career. That not only helps them, but it helps you elevate and shift your leadership so you can go from less doing to more leading. Until next time, my friends, remember this we build our mid-career GPS one mile or one step at a time, and how we show up matters. Make it a great rest of your day. Thank you for listening to the Mid Career GPS podcast. Make sure to follow on your favorite listening platform and, if you have a moment, I'd love to hear your comments on Apple podcasts. Visit JohnNarrowcom for more information about how I can help you build your mid-career GPS or how I can help you and your organization with your next workshop or public speaking event, and don't forget to connect with me on LinkedIn and follow me on social at JohnNarrowCoaching. I look forward to being back with you next week. Until then, take care and remember how we show up matters.