Supply Chain Leadership Series Ep 11: Getting Your First Manager Position

By Published On: June 21, 2023

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Host: Chris Gaffney

Co-Hosts: Mike Ogle and Rodney Apple

In this Episode:

In Episode 11 of the Supply Chain Careers Leadership Series Podcast, we focus on how you get your first leadership position. This episode helps you understand how to continuously focus on the bigger picture of how leaders are measured, how the company is measured, and how to realize that you are essentially interviewing for your next job every day as you pursue your path to leadership. Learn how to differentiate yourself and get noticed for your leadership capability. We cover the best ways to position yourself as a future leader and get on the radar of existing leaders. Discover different leader-like experiences that can help you demonstrate your leadership capabilities. 

What is the Supply Chain Careers Leadership Series?

The Supply Chain Careers Leadership series expands its previous content format into a more in-depth focus on leadership development. This program is a series of 10+ episodes that are hosted by our very own supply chain executive, Chris Gaffney. These episodes explore subject matter and topics that relate to excelling as a leader in the business world, much of which Chris has gleaned as VP of Supply Chain at Coca-Cola. Familiar faces and fellow supply chain leaders, Rodney Apple and Mike Ogle chime in with their experience and knowledge, all of which can be used by supply chain leaders to develop and advance their careers.

[00:01:14] Rodney Apple: Welcome back to the Supply Chain Careers podcast. This is the leadership series featuring your host, Chris Gaffney. I’m the co-host Rodney Apple, and we’ve got our other co-host, Mike Ogle, joining us today. Today we’re gonna cover Episode 11, which is how to land on your first management role. And to be clear, this is moving into a people management or supervisory role, leading other direct reports.

This is one of the most asked questions that we get on the recruiting side as we’re coaching, younger, less experienced junior level candidates that are coming up the ranks. Everybody, well, not everybody, but most people aspire to move up and to lead teams. So, we’re gonna cover the various tactics, strategies for doing just that.

Quick recap though, if you go back to the prior 10 episodes that we’ve covered in this leadership series, it’s a good idea because they cover how to lead yourself. And as we’re moving forward, obviously we’re moving more into how to lead others. So if you want to catch up and get some really good advice, because you really need to understand how to lead yourself, before you lead others. go back and revisit episodes 1-10.

[00:02:39] Mike Ogle: Chris, how does this episode on becoming a leader of others fit into the leadership series? At this point,

[00:02:39] Chris Gaffney: Mike, in addition to Rodney’s clear kind of segmentation that our first chunk was about leading yourself and now we’re getting to leading others.

If I think about the four macro themes we’ve talked about with the series, how to work effectively, creating the space and time for development, how to differentiate, how to grow, and then build that career path. This episode will be a lot about the differentiators and how I grow. And I think this is one of those things that people aspire to. Once you’ve been in the professional world as an individual contributor, you have been led, most people see, the next big ladder, once you’re successful as an individual is to say, how do I ladder up to lead teams? And so, this is one, that our younger listeners are really fired up about.

And what we all know is getting that first leadership role is a huge challenge. It, it’s actually a big worry for those earlier in their career who aspire to leadership. And the why of that is, most first line leadership roles require prior leadership experience, which is, how do I compete for a job if I don’t have that leadership experience?

So a lot of what we’re gonna talk about here are the differentiators. So, aspiring people leaders likely got to that first leadership role because they deliver results, work well with others, and were self-directed. So, I think a lot of that Is what we’re gonna dive into today is how do you set yourself up to get noticed and get and compete and land that first leadership role?

So for me, if you think about our experiences getting that first leadership role, I go back to my time at Frito-Lay. I was part of a class of engineer hires, so when I came in at Frito across the country, they might have hired a hundred engineers who were in that logistics space that I was in.

And so we, in many ways were competing. And my first two roles as I was placed were as an individual contributor, and as an analyst, I was first in a region office. And then I was an inventory analyst in a warehouse. And I was nervous in that first, really, that second year I saw some of my peers get access to people leadership before me, so I was worried that I was already falling behind. Now, in retrospect, I know those first roles had gave me experiences that that have been really valuable down the line. I really got early exposure to the idea of network design and work to help choose the site of a new plant. I did some really cool work helping folks at a plant optimize their logistics service area for that plant.

I learned how to manage inventory in a warehouse. I got to be a flex supervisor and provide shift coverage for the warehouse and other supervisors were on vacations. But that didn’t matter to me. I was just super anxious that I wasn’t gonna compete. So I was working really hard to try to figure out how did I demonstrate that I was capable of leading others and it ultimately worked out for me.

And I think we’ll talk a bit about some of the things that I learned as we go further into this today.

So, Mike, and Rodney. How does my experience compare in contrast to your first path to leadership?

[00:06:11] Mike Ogle: Well, Chris, from my experience, I’m gonna go way, way back and talk about, while I was in college and during a summer job as a shipping clerk, I was thrust into a supervisory role when a shipping department manager went on vacation. It actually turned out to be quite of a disaster. My temporary direct reports pretty much did whatever they wanted to do. I had no experience leading adults. I had no plan. I didn’t pay attention to what really needed to be managed, didn’t pay much attention how the manager did his day-to-day work and didn’t have a clue about the mindset of the workers and really how to properly manage and motivate them. So, it was however, a great learn from failure kind of experience, and I vowed not to repeat it. So, I paid much closer attention to leaders from that moment on making mental, if not clearly paper notes about what I wanted to mimic, what I wanted to avoid. And I think that really served me well when I finally got my first leadership opportunity as a director in industry.

I continued to make side notes in my meeting notes about not just people that were in my own company, as I sat and watched them around the table, but I also visited people at their facilities, or I was at different meetings, whether it was industry meetings or nonprofit meetings when I traveled extensively.

And since I’m kind of the token academic in the group then regarding students, part of my advice for them is to look at for team leadership kinds of opportunities as early on as you possibly can. You know, you may have started even some things back in high school. But you also have to be a student of leadership while you’re being an individual contributing team member when somebody else has stepped forward on a team to be a leader. So, for many reasons, get involved in clubs, community work, volunteer to get something done as a leader and as a contributor.

So study others. You listen to advice like on this podcast, so you know it’s read, read, read, listen, listen, listen. Ask questions of your own team leaders about how they plan to manage and motivate their teams. You’re both learning. So, keep notes about the characteristics you wanna follow and avoid.

It’s one of those combination born with and developed kinds of arts. You don’t have to be a natural, outgoing, driven, decisive leader to be able to step up. So, remember to be the kind of leader that keeps everyone headed towards a goal, provides the support that’s needed to get the most outta the team. Keep good notes about leadership opportunities and what you learned, because at some point somebody’s gonna ask you to share it. They’re gonna ask you, so what kind of experience do you have being a leader? So that’s my experience. And onto you, Rodney.

[00:08:59] Rodney Apple: Thanks, Mike. That’s some, wonderful advice. I would certainly echo, I was with a company called Aerotech, and back when I joined they were under a hundred million staffing company. The different functions, especially with more your lower level type roles, high volume, if you will. And their model was to hire people right outta college. And everything was kind of in a bottled up recipe or a template. With a high growth company, they’re now in the, I don’t know, 12, 14 million range. The expectations were very high. They looked for a lot of drive and you, may start out recruiting for a year or so, give or take. And then from there you were, promoted. And so, I think their model was more of a throw you in the frying pan, sink or swim is what I learned.

And so, at the time, A lot of numbers had to be met, arbitrary numbers, you know, make x amount of calls per day visit with y amount of clients as you moved into kind of the sales leadership side. So, I had two recruiters, they were out of college as well. And really for me it was teaching, it was just bringing people up as quickly as possible. Treating them with respect. We still had to operate in a very micromanagement driven environment. Never really subscribed to that kind of leadership. So while I was forced to track the numbers, I’ve kind of had a kinder, gentler style more in line with that servant leadership style that we covered on a prior episode recently, and had two recruiters. Had the need to have three. And I got really lucky that I was sort of blessed with two rock stars. One, not so much. I definitely had to go through the learning experience of working with somebody who wasn’t hitting their goals, wasn’t hitting their numbers. Had a very laid back, style that didn’t quite mesh with the culture there that was wide open at all times. And so, tried to level him up. Clearly wasn’t happening. So that was, at an early age I had to let go of someone early on. But also learn, it’s better to do that early on than to have it fester on and on. It just leads to more problems. You have to sometimes acknowledge this, you know, you’re a great person, a likable person, but, this isn’t the role or the home for you. And encourage them to maybe go out and seek, something else that’s more in line with the kind of work they can do and have passion around. So, I was thrust into it early on and you know, like you said, Mike, kind of learning from trial and error. Wasn’t a whole lot of guidance, but, did pretty good all considering.

[00:11:34] Mike Ogle: Yeah, I think that’s a great combination of experience that you’ve had there. And so, Chris, where do we start on this discussion about how people get their opportunity to get into leadership of others?

[00:11:47] Chris Gaffney: Mike, the foundation of this are really the key skills if you are going to compete with that leadership role. There are variety of things that are must-haves to be effective as a leader and compete for those type of jobs. But I think we’ll start with a focus on kind of three big rocks and I’ll kind of take the lead. So these three are communication, project management, and kind understanding and adapting to trends within your industry. So, kind of getting that external awareness and focus.

So, for communication, you’re a focal point for communication. As an individual, in many cases, you are a receiver of communication. You may be providing communication upstream and downstream in a process. You may be working and listening and interacting with peers. But when you take that leadership role, you’ve gotta be able to listen to leadership above you. In many cases, you have a greater obligation in representing a team to clients. And then you’ve gotta be capable of translating that direction down to your team.

So, there’s a bunch of elements of communication that you will need to be successful, but in reality, that you can and need to demonstrate as an individual contributor. Communications a two-way street. So, a huge part of the communication skills necessary as a leader are becoming a much better listener. Whether that be active listening, whether that be empathy, elements of it, the soft side of, communication is watching the cues from other folks, right? In terms of the emotional intelligence side of it, reading the room, right, reading the non-verbal. So, there’s higher level communication elements that are critical for you to be able to bring in new information.

And then in terms of conveying that information to others, Rodney mentioned simple things. You’ve gotta be able to give people feedback on things they don’t want to hear. It’s always easy to talk about the nice things or to talk about the future or talk about things that aren’t related to people. They’re not emotional, you know, it’s about a project or something like that. But when you get to the tough stuff, there’s a certain type of skill to providing that type of feedback. And also in terms of how you convey information to others. There’s subtlety in the ability to learn how to simplify, different skill sets.

I heard somebody describe themselves as a translator, as a manager of others. You definitely have to be a translator up and down and sideways. Particularly if your team is working on more complex topics. Your client may be someone who is less technical, so you’ve gotta make sure that you and your team can take the outputs of your work and effectively convey it to someone else who may not be as deep as you are. And then I think also you’ve gotta start to have some type of motivational capability, a bit more storytelling type of skillsets in terms of being able to, engage, connect, get your audience kind of motivated and influence their actions.

So, a bunch in the communication space. So that’s kind of skill one. I suggested project management is skill two. Do you want to give us your thoughts on that one?

[00:15:14] Rodney Apple: Chris, that’s good stuff on the communication side and wholeheartedly agree. You know, you’ve gotta be a great communicator, both upwards and downwards, to motivate people and to really lead others.

Another is really around the project management space. And whether you’re a participant on the team or whether you’re leading the actual project, it’s a great way to get exposure. And a lot of this comes down to not only leading the project, but communicating, like you said earlier, Chris, to the stakeholders that are involved. And staying on track. So there’s that delegation and task management that comes in handy as well. But this is a great way to kind of sharpen that saw with leading others is simply by leading projects. And we’ve seen those projects can be, you know, very small in magnitude, or you can have some significant projects in the supply chain space spanning all the different functions, operations.

Volunteering yourself if you’re not being asked to join projects, is something that you should do over time as you develop these project management chops, you’ll continue to move up into a position to where you can actually lead and be accountable for the overall project.

Some great resources to dive into If this is your interest and passion, the Project Management Institute Is a great association, where you can join and get all kinds of learning opportunities. And of course, they have the PMP, project management professional. so definitely, I think this is a great way for the person that’s seen an individual contributor to get some real world experience as it relates to leading others through, leading these cross-functional project teams.

[00:16:56] Chris Gaffney: It’s a killer skillset and capability, and I mean that in the most positive way. I mean the ability to get complex pieces of work over the goal line is critical for any leader. So it starts at a small project that you might be part of. And then if you get to lead a team, your team is likely accountable for some projects. You get up to huge enterprise type of efforts and understanding how to break down, a big outcome into smaller steps. Understand the timing and the constraints around that, the resources required, and then the skillset set to manage that when it inevitably gets curve balls and pitfalls is just a fundamental, skill that it really, any supply chain professional needs to get to some level of mastery about.

And, If you have this, you will stand it in front of the crowd in terms of competing for these leadership roles. And if you don’t, you’re likely gonna be told to go back and work on it.

[00:17:55] Mike Ogle: So, for me, last week was project management week in my operations management class. And one of the things that I had emphasized was when you look at somebody that is trying to manage a project at the highest level, they may actually be the one holding the PMP that Rodney talked about, and then you’ve got sub-project managers that may also hold that credential, depending on how big the project is and one of the things that’s always possible is if you’re one of the contributors on a team is to step up to whoever that sub-project manage manager might be and say, Hey, how can I help? Is there something that you’d like me to, manage myself? And that may be one of the ways to be able to get into that kind of position.

[BREAK at 18:36] [00:19:15] Chris Gaffney: So, the last skill is gaining external awareness. And the ongoing means to understand and adapt to trends within supply chain in the particular industry you are in is really important when you’re going to lead a team.

There’s definitely a tendency for supply chain professionals to get consumed in their day-to-day work, and they become internally focused and they don’t make the time or have the time to invest in, whether it’s reading, consuming through whatever media, what’s going on in the field, what are other companies in your industry and around your industry doing that may have an impact on your work and your ability to kind of be on that market, be externally connected, and then intellectually think through what are the trends and what actions do I need to take on behalf of my organization and my team based on that is huge as an accelerator in both the results that your team delivers and be the kind of thing that gets attention from others. And I think it’ll help you. It’s something you can do as an individual and it would help you be successful once you get into that. And there are lots of ways to do that. The great thing about our industry is there are lots of associations, you know, CSCMP, ASCM, many other things where you locally can connect and they really support younger professionals getting involved.

So that’s an easy one. Where we are now with media, there are undetermined or almost infinite supply chain blogs, trade journals. So, you can get them, you could consume them through LinkedIn, you could consume them through podcasts, you could consume them through Twitter, you name it. Where you can stay current. And there are lots of aggregators that you can use if you don’t have time to get a hold of a bunch. So, there’s a lot there. So, I think those two things are pretty, pretty simple. I think also in the social, social media front, there are supply chain influencers, just like they’re influencers, influencers in every aspect of life these days, there are huge ones on LinkedIn and there are now some on Twitter and even Instagram. So, I think that’s an easy way to go.

And I think the last thing is you can conduct your own market research. You can be active, whether it’s your own customers, whether it’s suppliers, other people you work with to say what are you seeing and hearing, you can do that formally or informally. So, that’s a huge way to go out and get that information. And then I think the key is you’ve gotta do something with it. You’ve gotta determine which ones are applicable to you, your work, your company, then you’ve got to bring them in, talk to your manager, other leaders, and then use them to guide your team in different ways.

[00:22:15] Rodney Apple: Wonderful advice, Chris. And I think these are great things everyone should be doing to really help propel their career in general. Obviously gets recognized as someone that is innovative and, you know, supply chain’s all about adding value, enabling growth of a company. And if you can find ways, unique ways to help your employer do that, that’s definitely gonna get some good recognition. You’ve gotta get that visibility as someone that can lead, in order to get that shot as moving from, promoted from a individual contributor to that people supervisory capacity.

What are some of your thoughts in terms of how to get started on that path?

[00:22:54] Chris Gaffney: I think they’re two big ones in terms of getting on the radar. And this is where I can feel our audience as I felt is, how am I going to stand out. So, when there are discussions, behind the closed door and someone said, who should we consider when this leadership role comes up? How do you get on that list? And I think the first things we’re gonna talk about here in terms of getting on the radar are, when you think about ’em, they’re pretty common sense.  I think first things first is you’ve got to deliver in your current role. And find a way to go above and beyond. And the reality is that people who do that, evidence suggests they get moving up the ladder. And so, yes, it’s getting the basics done really well, and then it’s above and beyond. So when your boss says, I need a volunteer. I’ve got something more difficult. you could say, I’ll take the hard problem, not the easy problem. That registers very quickly and if you get the results out of that, you’re showing your track record that you can handle not just the rote stuff, but the more challenging stuff. I think in that mindset. If you can understand a bit more about how your team in total is measured and delivers, process outcomes through their key performance indicators. Do you understand how the work that you do contributes most to that and makes sure that you’ve prioritized the things that have the biggest impact? I think that’s huge. And I think you want to be proactive in doing that. So your manager understands that you’re thinking about how are we as smart as we can be as individuals to deliver against the overall team goals?

And I think that will all translate into your performance management discussions with your boss is if you can say, I’m proactively thinking about these things. I am delivering in my current role, and oh, by the way, I’ve taken on these other things, gotten them done. When you sit down with your boss for the annual review, you’ll walk in with a full list of those things. You will remind he or she of what you’ve already done. You will have quantified impact of the things you’ve done to kind of make your case both for a strong performance rating in your current role, but again, putting that point in your boss’s mind, that this person is a top performer and they over-deliver.

I think the second one, which is a kind of a corollary to the first one, is how can you make your boss shine? I mean, the reality is if you want your manager to be an advocate for you, if you can enable his or her success through your efforts, then that registers. And in most cases, your direct manager may not be the decision maker of promotions, but people will ask, hey, you know, I’ve got someone on your team, I’ve got on my radar. What kind of feedback do you have for them? What you want that manager to say is, boy, it would break my heart if I lost them because they are a key player for me. But, I can’t hold them back as opposed to saying, listen, I can’t give a strong reference for this person. They have not yet demonstrated they’re ready.

So they will be the first line of defense for advocacy for you. And so, I think that has to do with not just the what’s you do, but also how you interact, either in your direct interactions with your manager on behalf of the team, if you’re representing the team or speaking on behalf of the team. you’re projecting the brand of your boss on behalf of the team. So be thoughtful about that. And that means, be positive, be constructive, be proactive in all those things. I think you set your boss up to be more successful because of your efforts and to be a strong advocate for you.

[00:26:53] Mike Ogle: There are so many of these kinds of things that we react to as we see them happen as part of our path to leadership. But are there some additional things that you can do that are within your own control?

[00:27:04] Chris Gaffney: Yeah, there are three things and I think the first one is really investing in your future. Be that continuous learner. And I have found that there are always things that are out there and I’ve been in big companies and small, they’re different ways to get that learning. But if your employer offers some type of structured courses, whether they be self-directed or things that you can sign up for, you know, be the first one on the list to do that. Have a plan. We’ve had an episode on managing your development plan, but have that plan and be proactive around that and make the time and space for that. If you’re constantly learning, you will get that reputation as someone who is proactive about investing in their self.

I had plenty of first line analysts on teams that I were on who found a way to go back to school at night on the weekend. That always gets noticed and some employers help with that, will pay for that. And I think we’ve talked in a number of our podcasts around those certifications that you could get out there in many cases, not only do they again, give you additional tools in your bag of tricks, but again, they make you more marketable and more promotable. So I think that’s number one.

We’ve talked about, Covey’s seven steps, and no one is going to be confident in you taking on a leadership role on behalf of others if you haven’t already demonstrated that you’re really self-directed. So you think of Covey’s first three habits, which are be proactive. Begin with the end in mind, put first things first. There’s a lot there and a lot of that Covey work is very much open source, so you can go out there and get started on that. So I think that’s something you definitely can control.

And I think be early to the table about the concept of mentoring. In that first role, whether it’s first year or second year, but seeking out someone internally or externally who can provide that mentorship guidance gives you an early track on getting an independent voice beyond your manager who is in your corner and can give you the feedback that you need to calibrate, either to strengthen what you’ve been hearing from your manager or give you a different perspective that will help you.

So, I think those are three no regrets, things that you can control on this path to your first leadership role. And then you’ll have that mentor already in your corner when you get to the challenges of that first leadership role.

[00:29:40] Mike Ogle: Hey Chris. Those are some great ways to be able to get noticed. And do you have a few other tactics or creative ways to get the experience needed to demonstrate leadership capabilities?

[00:29:51] Chris Gaffney: Yep. Mike, as we are going through the list, and I was doing some of the prep for the podcast, I can recall mentees that I have had who said, well, I’ve done all the things she told me to do. I feel like I’ve gotten those good experiences. I’ve done all the basics of trying to get on the radar, and I feel like I’m still not there. So either what can I do or what could I have done that would’ve gotten me better prepared? So here are some other thoughts if you’re really motivated and fired up.

Lots of people say, how can I get some aspects of that people leadership while I’m an individual contributor? So here are some ideas that are out there that I’ve seen be successful. If your team has interns in the summer and or co-ops, you could say to your manager, can I provide those folks guidance and feedback? If new team members are coming on board, it’s always a burden for a manager, but could say, can I be a peer coach to the new team member? Help them come up. There may be a chance to take on an interim support role, either covering for someone who’s a peer or even stepping in for someone who’s a team lead of junior team members to say, can I cover for that leader while somebody’s on vacation? So, I think those type of things, are some good ideas.

Now, I will also say there are some longer-term things for our students that should be part of your thought process if you aspire to be a future leader. I have had a number of folks that I’ve worked with over time who gain their leadership in the military. They joined the National Guard while they were in college and worked. They got into the reserves, as part of their professional career. They were leading on the weekend before they ever lead in the workforce. And that clearly was an advantage for them because they had evidence. But I also know folks who got great experience during school, in leadership, either on campus or in the summer. And I know folks who’ve gotten great experience as camp counselors, in particular leadership roles. If you might have been a camp counselor after your senior year in high school, by the time you’re a sophomore, you might have a very significant leadership role if you’re working at a large camp that pays off. I think the same thing is true for campus leadership, whether it’s student government, fraternity and sorority work, or societies. Those things matter. You are gaining real skills and capabilities that will help you to lead teams of professionals, and that counts when you’re in the professional workforce.

I would never turn down the chance to lead on a senior project. Most of our managers who came through a supply chain curriculum had a capstone project, and they know what it means for folks to lead those. So, I think those are huge. And depending on your organization, if you’re in a physical supply chain, I know the aspirational leadership role is to lead professionals, but there’s always a need for frontline leadership. And so, if you’re serious, whether you take a turn, that might be an interim, but it might be a year or two, managing a shift in the warehouse, managing frontline workers. I really feel like my first job managing truck drivers was very foundational for me. It may not have been as glamorous, but it’s still counted as frontline leadership and was clearly an aid to me as I got that first role leading professionals.

A great friend of mine who’s been a great coach of mine over the years, Stan Ellington, who worked at United Coca-Cola for many years. I have heard him say this to me, and I’ve heard him say this to others, you interview for your next job every day. So, Rodney, given all your experience hiring, how does this concept come to life for the candidates that you’ve seen?

[00:33:53] Rodney Apple: Yeah, Chris, we hear this all the time from our clients, our employers and hiring managers that are looking for talent. I mean, everybody seems to be looking for people that have bandwidth to grow. From a individual contributor into a leadership take on more responsibilities.

Just like you said in the quote, interview for the next job every day, you’ve got to perform in your current job. I think we see a lot of younger folks coming up and they start focusing on what’s next instead of focusing on, mastering the job they’re in now and that, that doesn’t really bode well, when you’re in a place and you’re in maybe month two or three and you’re already focused on, where do I go next? It’s okay to think about those things, but you can’t really move in that direction until you master your current job.

Being accountable for the results. Not making excuses. You know, if you drop the ball, admit you drop the ball, you don’t wanna make the same mistake twice. So setting some realistic goals, expectations and holding yourself accountable is important. We know the supply chain is about creating value. And so, you’ve gotta go out of your way to do that. A lot of this stuff sits outside of the job description and sometimes it’s up to you to really find and discover ways that you can create value for your customers. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to be the end customer that you might be shipping product to or providing a service for. It could certainly be, internal and external.

Keeping a separate journal, you get accolades coming in from your project teams and internal stakeholders, suppliers, customers, you want to keep track of that and try to build that career progression. When we look for people, like really strong leaders, we’re looking for that track record of career progression, doesn’t have to mean they go for manager, senior manager, director, vice president means just taking on more and more responsibilities and achieving the results.

Identifying a sponsor, and we talked about mentorship earlier, but this could be someone that can advocate for you higher up in the organization. So it goes back to networking. We talked about the importance of networking. We naturally think of building networks externally, but you need to be doing those internally, get outside of your desk and, walk around sometimes.

We talked about going to your manager, just understanding what it takes, what boxes do I need to check to get into the people management role. That’s critical to do early on in your career. So, you’re both signaling the intentions and you’re also developing a plan that if you execute it go above and beyond, you’re putting yourself into that position. That’s hard to do that if you don’t know what needs to get done in terms of accomplishments and what those expectations are.

[00:36:46] Chris Gaffney: I’ll tell a story about a mentee of mine. They recently got their first leadership role and the person who hired them had actually worked close by them early in their career. So pre-pandemic and had observed this person show up on time every day, act positively in and around, bring energy to the room, and that was a data point that ultimately was a differentiator when the time came to interview for a leadership role, so, you know how you show up in every interaction. You never know the folks that you interact with who’s gonna be that future boss. And so, don’t take it for granted, handle every interaction in and out of the workplace with care. And, with the highest thoughts around how do I do this well and it will come back to your benefit.

[00:37:37] Mike Ogle: So, Chris, this goes back to something I referred to before during my advice to students, whether you have to be a natural born leader. And my answer was, no, I mean, you don’t have to be. Does it help? It absolutely helps, but you don’t really have to be, it’s almost, equivalent to me of being, could you have fun at a party when you’re not an extrovert? You might have to work at it just a little bit more.

So Chris, do you have thoughts on whether you have to be a natural born leader?

[00:38:07] Chris Gaffney: So my thoughts on this are pretty straightforward. I agree with you, Mike. I mean, if we only had room for natural born leaders, we’d have a much bigger leadership shortage than we do today. And I would say for our audience, the whole premise of this series is to give people, if you will, some cheat codes so that they can be thinking about this stuff proactively as they manage and guide their own career.

And ideally through this episode and the one that we’ll do next around, how do you handle the first leadership role, a lot of that leadership skillset and management skillset is learned on the job and your goal is to not have that cost you too much in terms of the impact of the team and your impact on others.

So, we would definitely say that this is learned. That yes, there are some natural skills and abilities that you can possess, but a lot of this you can learn. And I know a lot of people will say, I know what bad leadership looks like cuz I’ve seen it. And I would say super, you can know to do the opposite when you get into your own opportunity to lead.

So, I definitely think it’s, a lot of learning through experience and I think being well led is a great guide to leading well, but being poorly led can be kind of the one minus of things that you will keep in mind as you go forward. And I think even Rodney said it before, if this is what you aspire to, keep a notebook, digital notebook on this in terms of what am I going to do when I get to that first leadership role. So, I think my long answer is no. There may be some natural born leaders out there, and I think that’s wonderful, but there are lots of people who have become fabulous leaders over time by being self-aware and by being continuous learners.

[00:40:00] Rodney Apple: So Chris, this has been fabulous. What are we getting into with our next episode?

[00:40:06] Chris Gaffney: Well, we’re gonna stay on this path as we’ve talked about in terms of getting into the whole space of leading others. And we are going to be positive and proactive and say, now that I’ve done all this prep work to become a leader, and now I’ve gotten that first leadership role, how do I do the best job as a first-time leader?

[00:40:26] Rodney Apple: Thank you Chris. And for our listeners, if you find this content interesting or useful, we’d love for you to pop over to Check out the insights and career resources tab. We’ve got a wealth of information there to help develop and then advance your career in supply chain. If you’d like what you’ve heard on this episode, we would certainly appreciate subscribing to the podcast and drop us a rating. That’s what helps get this out to the masses. And if anybody could benefit, that individual contributor out there, that’s yearning to become a first time people leader, please forward this episode to him or her that could definitely get them promoted and onto bigger and better things.

Thanks again. We appreciate it, and we’ll see you on the next episode.


Who is Chris Gaffney?

  • Co-Founder, Edge Supply Chain, providing Supply Chain Services to the CPG Industry
  • 25 Years w/ Coca-Cola holding Supply Chain leadership roles:
    • VP of Global Strategic Supply Chain
    • President of Global Supply
    • SVP of Product Supply Systems
    • VP of Logistics for North America