Leaders fail when intimidation gets in the way of demonstrating strengths and expertise - Susan Justus, BettermentFeatured

What are the skills you feel are essential to succeed in your role?About 15 years ago, I decided to follow my passion and step into talent development as my chosen career path because of a few areas of passion. I enjoy enhancing skill sets to help individuals reach their full potential and increase awareness of what is possible. I also enjoy developing leaders -- to enable them to lead their teams with intention and to design career path curriculums. Curriculums aligned to help individuals have a clear understanding of how to develop within their chosen career journey. As I reflect back to why I chose this path, I realize it is a result of my participation in mentorship engagements throughout college. I gained an immediate sense of fulfillment with each engagement, having the opportunity to share my knowledge, skills and personal experience. Fast-forward 15 years down the line, three essential skills that I must continuously use are strategic thinking, interpersonal skills and collaboration skills.Let’s begin with strategic thinking. This is being able to observe, assess and identify trends by asking tough questions. The questions that will get you to the core of the matter. For example: What does success look like a year from now? What are the early signs of success? Or failure? Questions like these have a way of displaying thoughtfulness, a strategic mindset and increasing engagement with HR partners, leaders and employees very early along the way. They also help with identifying the low-hanging fruit. Next are interpersonal skills i.e. social skills. These are defined by your ability to understand and relate to others through empathy, active listening, respect and authenticity. Having this skill set enables you to to talk to and work with all types of people, including managers, leaders, and direct reports. You can not allow yourself to be intimidated by title or level as a growing leader. Leaders sometimes fail when intimidation gets in the way of demonstrating their strengths and expertise. The more individuals you can connect with, the more influential and impactful you can be. Finally, there are collaboration skills. These also align with interpersonal skills. One must learn how to relate to others and balance personal achievement with team goals. It is a mindset shift from individual to team objectives. Placing team objectives above personal satisfaction or recognition. Most of the work that is done in the talent development space requires collaborating with HR, leaders, people managers and vendors. It is crucial to be able to learn how to bring people together to work towards a common goal because talent development initiatives often need others to be involved to increase awareness, drive engagement and reinforcement. I have experienced dynamic and not so dynamic teams along the way. It happens to all of us. The common reasons things tend to not be effective or efficient on teams are working style clashes, non-effective communication or individuals not executing on a timely fashion. As the lead in this area of work, you have to over communicate and keep people as aligned as possible by being proactive and getting ahead of these risks. This means establishing collaboration ground rules and keeping everyone accountable along the way.Keeping these essential skills in mind, I do not consider myself a master in any of these areas yet. I remain accountable to refreshing my skills by leveraging Harvard Business Review articles, online learning tools like Lynda (LinkedIn), Jhana (FranklinCovey); and staying up-to-date on best practices across industries. I need to ensure I am leveling up my skill set as well as my team's! Susan Justus is the Director of Talent Development at Betterment and has over ten years experience creating employee training, leadership development programs and building curriculums that help learners achieve specific occupational goals. Prior to Betterment, Susan worked at global consulting firm Alvarez & Marsal where she led the learning and development team and for the global insurance company Metlife where she designed and managed the leadership onboarding programs. Susan has been awarded her M.S. in Human Resources Management from New School University and is currently finalizing her Coaching Certification at New York University.
Hi Elphas – as a reminder – this is part of our new #spotlight public posts series sharing conversations with women across tech on the topic of #careergrowth. Please share your perspectives and thoughts in the comments below.Susan, thanks for reflecting so thoughtfully on your career and experiences and sharing the skill sets that empower you to excel in your role.