Strategic Skill Building with Alex Damgaard

In this episode of The B2B Leadership Podcast, best-selling author and leadership coach Nils Vinje speaks with co-founder and Chief Education Officer at Sales Impact Academy, Alex Damgaard.
In this episode...

0:21 - Introduction - Alex introduces who she is and what she does.
1:58 - Highlighting differences - What's different about SIA that didn't exist in the market before?
4:35 - First leadership position - What happened for Alex to land her first leadership role?
6:39 - Learning the leadership ropes - Alex details the characteristics of things she did in her position.
8:07 - The buddy program - How did this system impact Alex early on?
10:03 - Transition to people management - How did this transition to having increased responsibility happen?
15:30 - Alex's team lead position - How was the training and support for this role?
17:47 - Comparing leadership - Everybody has experienced some form of leadership working for somebody.
23:40 - The big balancing act - How did Alex juggle the demands of a team and growth at the same time?
26:41 - Transition to co-founder - This area takes on a completely different leadership perspective.
30:14 - Leadership in your own organization - How is being a leader in your own company different from being a leader in someone else's?
33:49 - Advice to your younger self - What would Alex tell her younger self?
36:13 - Advice to others - How would Alex recommend others grow their leadership skills?

 

Connect with Alex Damgaard:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexandradamgaard/

Learn more about Sales Impact Academy at https://www.salesimpact.io/

Learn more about your own leadership style at:
https://www.30dayleadership.com/
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This episode was brought to you by B2B Leaders Academy

The cost of not consistently developing your leadership skills is enormous. At the B2B Leaders Academy, you can gain access to monthly leadership training and live coaching.

Being a great leader isn't hard, you just need a guide and the right set of tools. Head on over to b2bleadersacademy.com and become the leader you have always wanted to be.

Click here to learn more about B2B Leaders Academy.

Are you looking into building your leadership skills? This episode is for you.

Our guest, Alex Damgaard will talk about how to build strategic leadership skills.

Read on to know more about her leadership journey.

Introduction

Alex Damgaard is the Co-Founder and Chief Education Officer of Sales Impact Academy, a learning platform providing live online courses for B2B go-to-market and commercial teams.

Highlighting differences

Each online academy has their own way of teaching their students. Some academies require their students to finish their courses first before applying what they have learned to their respective jobs.

Sales Impact Academy or SIA on the other hand, allows students to learn while working at the same time. SIA encourages their students to apply what they've learned to their jobs as soon as they finish their class. They want the students to integrate the tools they got from the program into their jobs so they can get the maximum amount of benefit.

SIA is not the standard e-learning tool where you've got lots of recorded content made to be consumed on demand. What separates SIA from other online academies is that they teach everything live. Their content is made to be consumed live, as you would do if you are there in person.

SIA courses are delivered remotely, so they can reach as many people as possible to provide flexibility for both the coaches and the students.

First leadership position

Alex considered being a buddy for somebody as her first leadership role. The first time she became a buddy was when she was at Amazon. That was her first incremental step towards becoming a people manager.

Learning the leadership ropes

The buddy system allowed Alex to build some leadership skills which she has carried through her career. As a buddy for somebody, you should be there for them. You should support them with their onboarding process, answer all their questions, have training sessions with them and guide them around the company and around their role.

If you are starting out or not sure and you want to see what it's like to be a leader, a buddy is a great first step for anyone who is interested in leadership.

The buddy program

Alex continued to be a buddy and started running training sessions for new employees. The buddy program gave Alex more inspiration to pursue the people management role.

She's been building skills over time in the buddy program and continues to express her interest in the people management position so that when the opportunity shows up, she can showcase her skills and get promoted.

Transition to people management

Alex's first official team lead position wasn't at Amazon. She found it difficult to progress in Amazon because there were fewer people management opportunities available at the time. She moved to another company and got into a team lead position there.

She wasn't fully promoted into a team lead straightaway. There was an opportunity for her to become sort of like a peer manager, which is a bit more than a buddy.

She had a little bit of increased responsibility where she started managing some of her manager's one-on-one coaching sessions which became her next opportunity to be almost a recognized people manager.

Alex's team lead position

The experience Alex had with her manager in Amazon helped her handle the team lead position in the new company. Alex had to draw a lot of experience from the challenges they faced and use it as her own.

Everybody has experienced some form of leadership working for somebody at some point in time. Sometimes that experience was good. Sometimes that experience was bad. Sometimes it was somewhere in between.

Use the experience that can help and support you in your new role. Don't just follow blindly. You don't have to adapt all the leadership principles from your manager just because you respect him/her.

Comparing leadership

The power and influence of a leader have a big impact on people's lives.

When Alex was in Amazon, she was pushing for her own career development all because her manager told her that she had to do it herself because nobody else will.

Your manager will not push it for you. They will only facilitate whatever you're trying to achieve. You've got to own it yourself. You need to be the one driving forward and tell them what you want, so they can help you with it.

Everybody is in charge of themselves. Be the CEO of your own career. Don't wait for people to tell you what to do.

When Alex was just starting in her new role as the team leader, she created an environment where it was safe to discuss the things her team members wanted to achieve with their careers.

She wanted her team members to own their careers. She wanted them to know that they could take many different directions.

She wanted to support her team members just like how her then-manager supported her. So she spent time getting to know her people to know which direction they want to go. Spending time to connect with your people is different from spending time working on projects.

The big balancing act

How did Alex balance the demands of her team and their growth at the same time?

Alex carried over the culture she experienced in Amazon where as long as you're delivering the minimum expectations of your core role, you can work on other projects with other teams to develop your career.

She wants her team to gain enough experience and be eligible for a promotion or join other teams in their company.

She thinks that if her team will stay with her forever, she will fail as a manager.

If you are a manager, you have to support the growth and development of your team, so they can grow their career way beyond what they're doing today.

If they choose to go to another organization that adds value to themselves, let them grow. You have to acknowledge that you're not going to be together all the time.

Transition to co-founder

When Alex left the company where she held her first people management position, her SIA co-founder Paul contacted her and proposed to work together on a project.

They worked on the project together and it went really well. They decided to make it into a company. Then, COVID happened and catalyzed everything because everything went remote online. It forced all their prospective customers to start working from home and having to find remote solutions.

Alex became the co-founder of the company, Sales Impact Academy, and has also been the acting head of people and culture until recently because they hired a new VP of people.

Leadership in your own organization

How is being a leader in your own company different from being a leader in someone else's?

Alex said it helps to have both sides of knowledge. There's a level of visibility that she has into the gaps and why they exist. For somebody who's in a position where that visibility isn't there, the gaps can create friction, tension and frustration.

She doesn't have that disconnect between her people management self and the super senior leadership. She knows where the gaps are, and fills the gaps in her day to day role in people management. As a co-founder, she knows why those gaps are there, and knows when the gaps are expected to be filled.

Visibility can take away a lot of frustration and tension, because you know why a gap exists, rather than going up against a wall knowing nothing.

Advice to your younger self

What would Alex tell her younger self if she could go back in time?

Alex said she would tell herself not to stress out about being a leader so much. You should relax a little bit more but don't give up completely. Accept that maybe you're not always ready for the promotion you want.

Advice to others

Alex started to feel bad about being a co-founder and having that dual role because she became so busy. She's starting to feel like she wants to put more time just into her direct reports because she feels she's not spending time on their one on one career coaching.

One of the most important things for Alex as a leader is to reflect on how you're approaching this and being really supportive to your team's career progression plan.

Go back to spending that simple career development time with your team and discover where they want to go and how you can help them get there.

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