I knew immediately something was wrong. Her shoulders slumped a little, she was walking slower than normal and as I looked into her eyes you could start to see tears beginning to form. I quickly pulled her aside and asked, “Can you tell me what’s going on?” Before she could even get out a word, the tears began to stream and her head dropped. As I gave her a hug, I sensed relief as she let it all go.
After a couple minutes she composed herself and opened up about the situation. “I just don’t know what to do, I feel unappreciated, I don’t feel challenged here at work, the team members who are more senior than me treat me poorly. I know in my heart I am capable of doing so much to help this team be successful, but nothing I have done up until this point mattered. I just don’t know if what I am doing is right, but I love this company and I want to help more.”
Before I responded I chose my words carefully since she wasn’t on my team. “You are such a talented professional who has so much to give not only to this company but to the community. Just a year into my own professional journey I was sitting at a conference table surrounded by 5 people and not more than 30 minutes into the meeting I was in uncontrollable tears. It was one of the most embarrassing days of my career to date. So let’s start by saying you are already way ahead of me by pulling it together and crying just between us and not in front of 5 high level executives. Next, you’re still alive, you weren’t fired, and you will learn a lot from this. Look at this moment as a positive.
Your professional career is a journey, think of the long game -- what doesn’t kill you, will only make you stronger.”
She looked up at me and she cracked a smile. I continued, “Everything you experienced and will experience at this company can and will make you a better professional throughout your career, but only if you want it to. If you can keep a positive mindset, you will always be growing and helping your career’s long game. Your career is a long-term investment, not day trading. Most people who believe in overnight successes are foolish. If you show me someone who has achieved great things today, I could easily show you they were working for 5-10 years before they ever were recognized.”
Her response was perfect, “Thank you, that’s exactly what I needed to hear.”
I finished by saying, “There is an important concept and framework that helped me progress faster in my career and be better prepared to be a leader worth following. Would you like to know what it is?
“Absolutely! Is it that F.M.L. thing you’ve mentioned before? I hope it doesn’t mean what I think.”
“It sure is… and no, it doesn’t mean what you think.”
What I described to her that evening is what I am going to share with you now. F.M.L. is a framework you can use that includes a collection of best practices and ideas that follow a natural progression. Unfortunately, professional progress and leadership aren’t destinations you can pinpoint on a map. There aren’t step-by-step or turn-by-turn directions to ensure you are in a leadership position at a certain date. But having these fundamental concepts in place will help you stand out and move up. If you use this framework and the elements within it, you will create your own unique path to leadership and be better prepared to effectively lead others.
The best part is, the framework is simple to remember. It’s “F-M-L”! No, it’s probably not the first thing that came to your mind… but I bet you’ll remember it now. F.M.L. stands for “Follow My Lead” and here’s what the framework stands for:
Most people think of a follower as someone who is weak or unable to lead. Quite the opposite is true. In order for you to be a great leader, it starts with first being an active follower. The key word there is active. Active followers understand this stage of their professional journey is about learning, gaining experience, and ultimately turning these two things into expertise. I don’t know one person who has become a great leader without first being an active follower.
A focus on your personal growth will help you become the best possible professional and person you can be. Once you take ownership of your own development, you will have the opportunity to truly turn the corner and perform at levels you can’t even imagine. Being tuned-into your development is critical to aligning yourself with people and activities that will enhance your professional progress and potential impact.
The choices you make every single day will be watched and judged by others whether you like it or not. This means you have the ability to earn credibility and build trust through your actions. At the end of the day, you have to earn the right to lead and you can do this through leading by example. People will create a perception of you based on how you lead by example and it will have an enormous impact on your ability to create traction and momentum in your professional progress. Most people believe they don’t have control over the perception others have of them. While it’s true you can’t control someone else’s brain, you have much more control over people’s perception of you than you probably believe.
As a by-product of implementing the F.M.L. framework, you will also improve your personal and professional life. So I am putting the ball in your court and challenging you to put it into action.
This was taken as an excerpt from the brand new book F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader, which outlines a simple three step framework to elevate your career the right way.
John is the CEO of LearnLoft, author of, F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader and host of the 'Follow My Lead' Podcast. He writes or has been featured on Inc.com, LinkedIn Pulse, TrainingIndustry.com, eLearningIndustry.com, CNBC Money, and more. John completed his education at the University of Maryland College.