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Q&A Follow-Up: Recruiter to Talent Leader: Lessons Learned

TalentTalk Glen Evans

Last week, TalentTalk DIGITAL presented Glen Evans, who described his career arc from an engineering recruiter to VP of Core Talent at Greylock Partners. He shared mistakes he’s made, lessons he’s learned, qualities he’s seen in other great talent leaders, and what he thinks our future talent leaders should think about as they carve their path to success.

If you missed the webinar and want to watch it on-demand, you can find it here. Some of the questions Glen answered during the event included:

  • Prior to being given the opportunity to work your way up the ladder, what did you do to present yourself as a good candidate for the job to your managers? 
  • How do you navigate peer relationships once you are promoted and your peer is now your direct report? 
  • Speaking of putting yourself first, at what point should you identify if you have hit a glass ceiling at an organization, or if you need to be patient for the business to catch up with your readiness for a new role?
  • What are those deliverables/qualities that define your top team members?

But a lot of our attendees had their own great questions; we wanted to make sure we got you those answers:

Q: How do you ensure your assertiveness and “acting like a leader” isn’t misconstrued as being too aggressive?

A: Hard conversations can be emotional and even charged. The key is to listen more than you speak, and then make a decision on how to respond. Responding with empathy and understanding the other person’s position is important. So I’d say if you can, diffuse it a little bit and say, “Hey, I don’t want this to come off the wrong way, but here’s what I’m worried about. Have we thought through XYZ?” Plant the seeds of why you’re concerned about it so that they can understand that you’re not trying to attack them. There also might be times when you have to be a little more assertive, but there are tactful ways to balance how you do that without coming off as being a jerk.

Q: How did you develop your leadership muscle/presence?

A: This is something that definitely develops over time with practice and preparation. Find people that you look up to and ask them for regular time if they’re open to it. Come prepared with topics, things you’re struggling with, or want to learn more about. Generally, people who are great leaders want to be helpful to others. Additionally, ask for feedback from your peers or other leaders and adjust to that feedback. Another big part of this was learning not to beat myself up when I don’t do it perfectly. 

But it’s an ongoing thing. It’s always developing, in my opinion. I’m still figuring it out.

Q: Who were your mentors as you were kind of coming up in your career? 

A: I generally have a view that I can learn from anyone. Be on the lookout for those opportunities to learn and not judge someone based on their experience. I don’t care if that person is the junior new grad hire on the team or the very senior leader that I get to interact with. I know I can learn from anyone just by having a conversation with them. However, I think a key thing here is once you identify the potential mentors, make sure you find ways to weave in the questions you have during regular updates or meetings. For me, it was found in conversations with executives in my career. Run through the agenda and topics you had planned and then towards the end bring up questions or challenges you are facing with your proposed solution and ask for their advice or opinion. This can organically lead to more of these conversations and help you develop more of the mentor/mentee relationship.

Q: What’s one of the biggest mistakes you made in your early days as a talent leader and how did you fix/come back from it?

A: It was probably letting my emotions get the best of me. Two particular situations that came to mind are miscommunication between me and my peers on a different team and a time when my peers were sitting around a table for a team calibration and one of my people came into question. In both of these situations, I became visibly frustrated and defensive. In these situations, I learned that even though you may be upset internally, don’t let that show. Stay as calm as possible because you can probably win more of those battles–or whatever you want to call them–by staying calm, collected, and listening. In the end, my boss gave me the heads-up that I could have been a little better; and reflecting on the situation, I owned it, apologized, and tried to do better. I think that’s how people come to respect you, as opposed to if you just sweep under the rug and move on.

Q: Tell us about the biggest challenge you faced in your first year of being a talent leader?

A: I’d say two things. One, being comfortable in my own skin as a leader and overcoming the doubt in myself, which we’ve talked a lot about. And two, learning to delegate. When you become a manager, it’s very hard to let go of the work that has led to that success that you’ve had. However, now you’re moving from being an individual contributor to somebody who’s responsible for a bigger strategy or a larger initiative, and that needs to become your focus. 

Q: What advice would you give for folks who are asking for a promotion after a track record of success? 

A: Generally, I think the best approach is to work with your manager regularly during one-on-ones and have the conversation earlier, as opposed to doing it at the last minute. I would approach and say, “Hey, I’ve been in this role now for a year. What are some of the things you’d like to see from me in order for me to take it to that next level? I want to make sure I’m on the same page right now. I feel like X, Y, and Z are going well. I know I need to work on these things, but want to just have that conversation with you.” Show self-awareness and a willingness to get feedback, because your manager might not be aware or believe you’re not ready for the next level. Be prepared to have that conversation and take the feedback to heart, learn from it, and improve on it. 

 

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Check out the TalentTalk page to view upcoming events, on-demand content, and subscribe to be notified when new events are released. Additionally, we’re always looking to highlight great leaders with diverse voices and backgrounds. If you’d like to be our next featured guest or if you’d like to nominate someone, please reach out to Marisa Benavente — marisa@gem.com.

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