How to Advocate for Yourself as a Leader with Meredith Nichols

In this episode of The B2B Leadership Podcast, best-selling author and leadership coach Nils Vinje speaks with Meredith Nichols, Director of Human Resources at Knowland.
In this episode...
 

0:57 - Meredith's background - Meredith explains her role at Knowland.
2:29 - Post-pandemic survival - What challenges did Knowland face as a result of Covid?
5:59 - Meredith's first leadership role - How did her first role come about?
10:47 - Navigating a new world - Part of that new world was building trust with team members.
13:04 - Advocating for yourself - Meredith shares some stories of how she's exemplified advocation.
16:13 - B2C to B2B - A shift out of retail and into HR and leadership.
20:38 - Leadership principles inside of Knowland - What does Meredith look for in an individual?
23:05 - Leadership advice - For aspiring leaders who want to get to the next level.
28:24 - Finding a peer group - Who can you confide in that's not a part of your work team?
30:54 - Meredith's advice to herself - What advice would Meredith give her younger self?

Connect with Meredith Nichols: https://www.linkedin.com/in/meredith-nichols-shrm-cp/

Learn more about Knowland at https://www.knowland.com/

Learn more about your own leadership style at:
https://www.30dayleadership.com/

 

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There are quite a few ways on how to advocate for yourself at work.

Being an advocate for yourself, especially as a leader, is an incredibly important thing to do but it's not always an easy thing to do. Thankfully, Meredith is here to break it down for us.

Meredith's background

Meredith Nichols is the Director of Human Resources at Knowland, a company providing data and analytics to the hospitality industry to help them achieve their sales goals.

Post-pandemic survival

The hospitality industry was one of the most affected industries when the pandemic happened. Knowland had a very tough time during the pandemic because a lot of their clients were struggling to get by.

Currently, Knowland is on the other side of the pandemic and the hospitality industry has bounced back a lot faster than most people thought it would.

Knowland is part of the reasons why they're coming back as fast as they are. The data that Knowland provides for group meetings in marketplaces has been a great way for the hospitality industry to bring in group business to make up for the lost revenue during the pandemic.

Meredith's first leadership role

Meredith majored in Broadcast Journalism and minored in Human Resources in college. Right out of college, she was hired by Target to take on her first leadership role as their front-end team lead. She was in charge of running a Target retail store.

When she first started, one of the challenges she had faced as a first-time leader was how to motivate her people to come to work because on her first weekend, she had 6 people who did not show up for their shift. Meredith's goal then was how to get them to want to be at work. This was the time when Meredith really started to put on that leadership role cap.

Meredith started showing her people that she's there, advocating for them, and giving them a simple cupcake during team meetings. She was really passionate about it. These were simple little things but it made a huge impact because she started seeing her people actually showing up to their shifts afterward.

Navigating a new world

How did Meredith navigate her first leadership role successfully?

Meredith was taught from a very young age that you have to advocate for yourself and you should not be afraid to ask questions even if it may sound silly. So she took the opportunity to really get to know her people.

She knew that she could be successful in her role if she could get them to work with her.

Meredith was able to establish a relationship with them, so her people believed in her and supported her.

Advocating for yourself

Meredith shared some stories of how she's exemplified advocacy at Target.

In her first leadership role, there were quite a few times where she would have to go into the store when the alarm went off in the middle of the night. The reason the alarm is going off could be any reason. The first time she went in, she did not feel comfortable being in the store by herself.

So she talked to the managers and told them that they need to have two managers show up to the store to take care of the situation if the alarm goes off in the future. It was not appropriate for one person to be putting themselves in harm's way.

This is where Meredith advocated for herself. She made sure that with this, she will be given the opportunity for promotion. Since she did not have enough experience, she was told that they will give her the opportunity in six months to move to the next position. However, Meredith's manager left. So she didn't have somebody to advocate for her anymore.

What Meredith did was take the initiative and went to the head of their store to talk about her promotion that's supposed to happen in six months and the head of the store was surprised. Meredith had to advocate for herself, because if she didn't, she could have stayed stagnant in that role for a few more years.

That's why it's important to advocate for yourself. You don't have to wait for other people to do it for you. You have to be the driver. You have to be in the seat.

B2C to B2B

How did Meredith shift from the B2C to B2B space?

Meredith went into a government contracting role after Target. She applied for a business manager role at a company called Orbis but she was offered an HR role instead during her interview.

She was asked to start their HR department, so Meredith built the HR department from the ground up, and stayed with them for eight years.

Meredith then realized that she wanted to try something else. She enjoys Human Resources because she's passionate about people, however the government has a lot of restrictions. So she started looking for other companies and that's how she came to find Knowland.

Leadership principles inside of Knowland

The core leadership characteristics that Meredith looks for in the individuals inside of Knowland are those who have the courage, who are passionate, competent, committed, confident, goal-driven and who are adaptive.

As a leader, you have to be able to change with whatever might come in front of you. You have to be able to quickly switch tracks, but also be able to provide guidance.

There are a lot of people that are content in their role and don't want to move into a leadership position but there are also individuals that do and take the initiative to be able to inspire and provide their co-workers with direction.

Leadership advice

For aspiring leaders who want to develop the skill of being adaptive, learn to acknowledge the fact that change is inevitable.

Most people don't like change. Meredith used to despise change as well. It was something that she had to really work on. She had to figure out how to adapt and how to be able to change with the times.

It's important that you understand what it is that's triggering you, what it is that's making you feel anxious, and then take a step back and think about it. Ask yourself why are you resisting change so much? How can you actually take this change and grow from it?

If you can't look at something in a positive light and make the necessary changes to be successful and grow in that situation, it's going to be hard to be a leader, because every day, leaders are put in challenging situations.

Take a step back and realize that there are things that are out of your control. And sometimes you just have to continue to move forward in order to get to the other side of it.

You have to be willing to continue to be adaptive. It's all about perspective. If you shift one question, you can see the exact same situation from a completely different perspective.

Finding a peer group

Meredith said one of the most challenging things as a leader is finding a peer group.

If you're in a leadership position, you need your own network that understands some of the situations that you're going through. So when things are a bit stressful, you have a safe place where you can air some of those things to express yourself.

Build relationships with the executive team if you can to have someone to talk through different situations with. Have mentors outside.

It's important that you're able to talk to people who can relate to what you're going through because as leaders, you have so much on your shoulders.

Meredith's advice to herself

If Meredith could advise her younger self, she would tell her to believe in herself. Don't let other people's opinions define who you are. Don't let their words bring you down.

Keep on going because there's always going to be a place where you belong if you're able to push yourself and if you're able to make the changes that are needed.

Feedback is key to being successful whether it's positive or negative. Let yourself absorb it or give yourself a timeframe. Despite it sometimes being difficult, focus on what you can take away and learn.

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