Owning Your Leadership with Jay Nathan

In this week's episode of The B2B Leadership Podcast, best-selling author and leadership coach Nils Vinje introduces Higher Logic's Chief Customer Officer Jay Nathan.
In this episode...

1:01 — The size of Higher Logic and what being a Chief Customer Officer entails — Jay breaks down the organization from when he joined, what his role comprises, and how he landed the position.
5:46 — Sticking your nose in business you have no business in — What outcome can you expect by asking questions and getting curious in your organization? How can talking to your CFO, your boss, and other people in your organization benefit you?
8:37 — Preparation tactics in addition to curiosity — What kind of preparation tactics are recommended for a leadership position?
14:33 — Impactful promotions prior to leadership — Jay chronicles some promotions he received early on that he didn't feel completely prepared for but took a great sense of pride in due to the challenges and understanding of what true leadership entails.
19:34 — You don't need to have all the answers — Why your direct skill set no longer matters as a leader.
21:35 — Working yourself out of your job — Being confident as a leader can also mean lifting other people up to take your place while you go on and do other great things.
27:28 — What advice would you give your past self? — Jay explains what he would have told himself back in 2006 with the 15 years of experience he has now, which starts with getting out of the constraints of your day job and being a people leader as well.

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In this episode, we have Jay Nathan from Higher Logic to share his leadership experiences, advice, and expertise.

Learn more about how to own your leadership through Jay's leadership experiences. Keep on reading to find out.

The size of Higher Logic and what being a Chief Customer Officer entails

Jay Nathan is the Chief Customer Officer at Higher Logic. Higher Logic helps B2B SaaS companies and other types of organizations drive engagement with their customer bases. The company has about 400 people.

As chief customer officer, Jay is responsible for the customer experience organization which has about 155 people.

So how did Jay earn his first leadership role?

Timing played a big role in Jay's first promotion. He had a good boss who saw potential in him to be a leader and gave him the opportunity to step up and become an official manager.

Jay said learning how to become a manager had a lot of failure and success along the way.

Timing, preparation, circumstances, and a good boss taking interest in his development were the elements that helped Jay earn his first leadership position.

Sticking your nose in business you have no business in

Jay started as an engineer in a hands-on technical role. His interest in other people's business brought him to where he is today.

He has always been hungry for knowledge and information. He wanted to know how things work. So, he stuck his nose in business that he had no business in.

He started learning and doing new things in their organization by asking other people. Jay said you have to start asking questions and be curious if you want to get into leadership.

Nothing is off-limits. Go above and beyond the scope of your role. Have the desire to learn and understand how things work at different levels so that you can have a bigger impact.

Was Jay kicked out when he stuck his nose to a business he has no business in?

No. He was welcomed with open arms.

If you're going to step up and help, keep an eye on things and suggest improvements to the business.

Preparation tactics in addition to curiosity

There's more opportunity than meets the eye. In any role that you're in, step into it, take it, and find it.

Don't wait for somebody else to tell you what to do. Be the CEO of your own career. Take initiative. Exhaust all the efforts. There is an opportunity where you are today, and in the role that you're in today.

If it doesn't work out, take a step away and go to another company where they have those opportunities available for you.

Leadership and management are a combination of two things - opportunity and preparedness.

Do the things that you can control which you can get yourself prepared for. When an opportunity shows up, be ready to step into it. And if that opportunity doesn't show up here, be ready to step into it somewhere else. Personal drive and execution can bring you to places.

How to get yourself prepared for possible leadership opportunities?

Be a student of business if you want to succeed at it. You don't have to read a lot of books a year, but pick up a couple of books about leadership. There's no shortage of content. Learn new concepts, and listen to podcasts.

Let people know you have the skillset, aptitude, interest, and curiosity to grow your career in the company. Don't just stay within your team and your management. Get to know people in other organizations. Grow your network.

Get yourself known to the people who can help you succeed. Do your current job to the best of your abilities.

Don't get so focused on the future that you forget about your current job. When your boss moves to promote you, think about the fact that they didn't have to defend that decision to their peers across the organization.

Make sure that you are seen as somebody who can be a team player across the business. You have to effectively network, communicate and tell other people what it is that you do.

These relationships are your responsibility. They're not your boss' responsibility.

Impactful promotions prior to leadership

The most impactful promotion for Jay was when he got promoted to be a practice manager in a consulting business.

He started managing one team where he was closely working with the team members and then it started growing.

As a practice manager, he had the opportunity to build multiple teams. Then multiple managers started reporting to him. He wasn't ready for the transition from direct people leader to leader of multiple people leaders.

But over time, he was able to pull it off. Then he got promoted to the director level.

Jay was proud of that promotion even though he wasn't ready for it when they gave it to him.

You don't need to have all the answers

It was a challenging transition for Jay because he no longer had direct control. The first realization that he had to make was to do this completely by influence.

You have to find the right balance between being directive and being collaborative.

He had to lean on his knowledge of the different functions, his ability to influence to communicate well, a strategy, a plan, and get people rallied behind.

The number one skill set that he had to build was the skill set of being a coach.

As a coach, you don't need to have all the answers, instead, be the person who asks questions to help others discover the answers without giving them the answers.

Working yourself out of your job

As a leader, you get an opportunity to multiply what you know, the values that you have, and the principle that you want to espouse as you interact with your customers.

You are coaching other people on how to do it and making sure that they do it to your standards.

How to work yourself out of your job?

People think if they don't have the answer, they're not valuable enough.

If you're confident enough in your value, you're going to do a better job as a leader.

Being confident as a leader means being confident enough to know that if you are able to find someone else that can one day grow and take the position that you're sitting in now, you could do something else even more valuable for the same company that you're with.

Have confidence in yourself and know that you're good enough, wherever you are. As long as you have a growth mindset, you're learning.

Don't be afraid of lifting other people up to be able to take your role so that you can go on and do other great things. Don't be afraid of automating the things that you do in your role to make you more efficient.

Build a system that will work even without you. A system that will work for you and anybody else in the organization. Don't be afraid of not being the only one who can do your job.

If you're always adding value to your organization, if you're always adding value to yourself, you will always be in demand, no matter what.

What advice would you give your past self?

Jay's first year as a manager was terrible. He had some leftover work from being an individual contributor. He spent a year trying to balance that work and learning how to be a manager, which completely stunted his growth.

Jay doesn't want that to happen to his team. So today, he tells his team that he's going to hold the leader accountable for their team's performance, not their individual contributor performance.

When you're making that transition for the first time, find a way to make the transition. Get out of your day job and get into the people leader job. Take it seriously because it is new and it is a different job.

If your company's not supporting you, you need to figure out how to make that happen. Come up with ideas, and then have a constructive conversation to make a change.

Take complete ownership. Take responsibility. Talk to your boss if you're stuck. You can work through it together. Be collaborative.

If you're promoted within a company, at any level, there is going to be leftover work from the previous role you were doing before that needs to be dealt with.

If how to deal with it is not delivered on a silver platter, you need to come to the table with ideas and recommendations to have a constructive conversation with your manager.

If you're unsure about your plan, come up with a recommendation and have a discussion with your manager.

You don't need to have all the answers even in the position of bringing things to the table, but you can always make a recommendation and ask somebody, Hey, what do you think about this recommendation? And they will always have an opinion.

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