Having an Executive Mindset

213. Executive Mindset

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Ep. 213 – There are multiple inflection points throughout our careers, but one of the most significant is the move from an IC to a management role. Another critical juncture is when our technical expertise becomes less valuable, and our leadership skills and executive mindset become paramount.

And that’s what this week’s episode of The Manager Track podcast is about. Ramona outlines 7 key elements of cultivating an executive mindset that will change the way you lead, strengthen your confidence, and better position you for higher level leadership roles.

If that sounds like a compelling promise, then don’t miss this episode.

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Episode 213 Transcript:

0:00:00 Ramona Shaw: This is the manager track podcast, and this episode is all about developing an executive mindset.

0:00:06 B: Here’s the how do you successfully transition.

0:00:09 Ramona Shaw: Into your first official leadership role?

0:00:11 B: Build the confidence and competence to lead your team successfully and establish yourself as a respected and trusted leader across the organization? That’s the question, and this show provides the answers. Welcome to the Manager track podcast. I’m your host, Ramona Shah, and I’m automation to create workplaces where work is not seen as a source of stress and dread, but as a source of contribution, connection, and fulfillment.

0:00:34 B: This transition starts with developing a new generation of leaders who know how to lead so everyone wins and grows. In the show, you learn how to think, communicate, and act as the confident and competent leader.

0:00:47 Ramona Shaw: You know who you can be. Welcome to the Manager Track podcast. I am glad you’re tuning in or are watching this on YouTube. This week’s topic is something that I see all the time, and I even when I hear other people talk about their career and their career goals, it comes up all the time. And I want to emphasize in this episode, as we talk about developing an executive mindset, that there are multiple transitions and sort of inflection points that we have to go through in order to level up in our careers.

0:01:20 Ramona Shaw: One of the biggest, if not the biggest, transition is moving from an individual contributor, an IC role, into their first management role. Moving into leadership is, and I often describe this as like two fish balls, one ball, one fish in it, and another bowl, and there’s just water in it. If you’re the fish and you are an IC in order to move into leadership, you’re literally jumping from one fish bowl, the fishbowl of employees, into the fishbowl of leadership, because now you’re representing the company’s leadership team.

0:01:53 Ramona Shaw: And that not only means a lot of different responsibilities, that you carry the responsibility for people. The things that made you effective as an IC are no longer the things that make you effective as a leader, but also your mindset and how you think about your job, how you think about the business, the decisions that you make will have to change. And after that, after you’re in that leadership role, there’s another inflection point that you’re going to come up against, which is when your expertise is now less valuable than your leadership skills, and specifically your executive mindset is starting to become.

0:02:32 Ramona Shaw: So imagine there is a line that goes down from the top left to the bottom right, and then there’s another line that goes from the bottom left to the top right, and where they cross this is that inflection point. The one that goes down is the importance of your expertise in your role. Again, this is assuming that you’re in a people leadership role. So that expertise is really important early on in your career.

0:02:59 Ramona Shaw: And then as you progress as a leader, your expertise, technical expertise, will actually become less important relative to your leadership skills and your executive mindset. So that second line that goes from bottom left to the top right, that is where leadership, the soft skills, the executive mindset, the way that you make decisions, the way that you influence, that all becomes more and more important because everyone simply assumes that you are in this position and with this set of responsibilities because you’re good at what you do.

0:03:38 Ramona Shaw: No one is questioning your expertise and technical understanding in your profession or in your field. What they will be looking for is, how well does this person lead? How do they represent the company? How do they drive results? How do they bring a team along and align with other departments? How do they influence? How do they show up in challenging, stressful, or emotional situations? That is what they’ll pay attention to. And those are the things that will determine when and what kind of opportunities you’ll get to level up in your career.

0:04:14 Ramona Shaw: And that is why developing an executive mindset is so important. So in this episode, I’m going to keep this concise and to the point, but I want to list a few of the things that I see many leaders challenge, bid, or are not paying enough attention to while they’re looking for that next level or while they’re aiming for a promotion and are eager to develop the executive mindset. Now, all this is to say that if you’re not good in your job, technically, this all matters a lot less. So I’m working with the assumption that you’re good at your job. You’re a high performer, you get good performance reviews in terms of your tactical understanding or technical understanding.

0:04:57 Ramona Shaw: And now, again, that is becoming less important. What’s becoming more important is leadership skills. Okay? So the first one is to be able to pick up your head from the busy work, actually look up and ask yourself, not once in a while, but on a regular basis, what is the purpose of my role right now? What’s the purpose of the projects that I’m leading or that my team is leading? Are we clear on this? And with that in mind, are we having the right conversations?

0:05:31 Ramona Shaw: Are you allocating the right amount of time to the right things? Making sure that your roles purpose and the projects that you’re managing or leading or overseeing on your team, that they’re still aligned with the strategy of the company. Those are all things that you can’t think about while you’re doing busy work and trying to get stuff off your to do list. This is the time to level up, to look up, to raise your head, to look around and slow down.

0:06:07 Ramona Shaw: And when we’re constantly in this hamster wheel of trying to cross off tasks and get through the inbox to reach inbox zero, then we likely miss the point. So if that’s the case, your attention needs to shift away from getting tasks completed to looking ahead, becoming more proactive, and becoming more strategically minded. And that cannot be measured with to do’s on your to do list. That’s a different kind of work, a different kind of thinking.

0:06:41 Ramona Shaw: And for most people getting to that level, it’s a very different type of muscle that they need to sort of train. And that muscle can feel a little bit weak. I noticed this even personally in my evolution as a business owner, how I find myself having a harder time thinking strategically and forward looking when I get really busy with client work and projects and things that we do operationally. And even though I know I have this and I’ve done this in the past, I notice how that muscle gets weaker and weaker if I don’t pay attention to it.

0:07:14 Ramona Shaw: And then it can feel awkward, uncomfortable, confusing, and there’s a lot of uncertainty involved as we try to lift our head back up to say, okay, hold on a second. I know this is busy work, and it kind of may feel good and rewarding, at least it does to me and to many of my clients. That’s not really why we’re doing what we’re doing so consistently. Training that muscle to pick up your head. I’m going to link in the show notes, a video that I recently saw.

0:07:42 Ramona Shaw: It was something posted on LinkedIn, by LinkedIn, but it was a great example of this woman who used to work with Jeff Bezos and Marissa Mayer. And she describes how she was very caught up in work and then recognized she was not actually aligning with how she can uniquely add value to the team. And recognizing this by some feedback that she received changed the way that she showed up at work. Now, the reason why I’m bringing this up is watch it and don’t wait to get some feedback or to miss out on opportunities, but really start to challenge the way that you operate and how you spend your time.

0:08:19 Ramona Shaw: The next aspect of having an executive mindset is the ability to cast a vision. And sometimes that sounds pretty bold or big, and we may think of businesses and corporations having visions. Or we might have a personal vision, but me as a team, you know, you might just feel like, oh, we’re part of this big constellation. And what does that really mean for me to have a vision? Well, if you can have a personal vision and there’s a company vision, there’s a lot of layers in between.

0:08:50 Ramona Shaw: You can most definitely create a vision for your team, and you should. That is what allows you to practice this muscle, again, of casting a vision that inspires other people. And a vision is not the same as goals. So if you have okrs, for example, or just annual goals, that in your organization, you said, and then you promote those as a team and work on those, that’s not the same as having a vision. So you really want to emphasize with your team, where are we going? Why do we exist and what are we doing? How are we uniquely adding value, and what do we want to be seen as and stand out for, and what is the driving force of why we do all these projects?

0:09:35 Ramona Shaw: And if you can’t answer those questions, it likely means you don’t have a clear vision. Or the vision that you used to have may no longer really align with the work that you do. And that means it’s time to update or time to just really think about it, be able to write that down and then articulate this and communicate it with your team and do so on a regular basis. Okay, but that’s the second one. The third one is the ability to make decisions without validation.

0:10:05 Ramona Shaw: I know everyone can make decisions, and you’ve made tons of decisions, probably hundreds of decisions in the last week or weeks. And I don’t have any doubts that you don’t know how to make decisions. But what I often see for people who are trying to level up, and they’re sort of in the middle of the struggles and that growth journey is that they’re trying to make bigger decisions, bolder decisions, but they’re still looking for validation. They’re still looking for someone else more senior, or for the team to put that stamp of validation on it, like approved. And once they feel, okay, this has been approved, then they feel ready to own it.

0:10:44 Ramona Shaw: Having an executive mindset means that you can make bold decisions without that stamp of approval. Of course, I don’t mean overstepping your boundaries and making decisions things that you shouldn’t be making, but within the scope of your responsibilities. And sometimes, like, pushing the edge a little bit, make decisions even when you know not everyone has. Has approved it, and you might get some pushback or there’s some people who are not going to like the decision that you made. That is normal, that is part of the game. And the further up that you go in your career and as a leader, the more you’ll be dealing with these decisions, and you need to build up that muscle to be able to deal with it as a leader. Understanding and harnessing the power of AI is not true, just an advantage anymore.

0:11:32 Ramona Shaw: It’s becoming a necessity. If you want to rise in your organization and you have 510 20 more years to go, there will be no way around but to get involved and to embrace AI as a way to achieve business objectives. And that applies to the vast majority of departments and professionals. And if you’re in a role where you think, yes, this is likely going to impact me too. Get started and download our Chenai quick start guide for leaders.

0:12:05 Ramona Shaw: You will not only learn more about AI as a technology, but more importantly, we’ll address how it’s going to impact you as a leader, what skill sets you’ll want to develop in order to be well equipped during this time and ultimately become AI fluent and AI savvy. This is an easy way to get started. Familiarize yourself with the concepts, learn some practical tools and frameworks to leverage it right now in your role as a manager, head on over to arkova.org

0:12:36 Ramona Shaw: free toolkit or check out the show notes or captions for the link. We’ll see you over there. Next up with an executive mindset. You understand that even though you might be assessing a certain problem in a certain way based on how you look at the problem or your tendencies or your motives. But when you communicate that initiative or that decision or that plan or that project with other people, with stakeholders, it’s no longer about what you see, but you need to pivot and adapt your messaging in order to speak their language.

0:13:16 Ramona Shaw: And you understand that for most senior executives, or most people, senior leaders, what matters are three things. It’s time, quality, and dollars. Dollars meaning like revenue or cutting costs. And if you are not able to quickly and concisely get to the point on how it’s impacting the things that matter to them, then you probably will not get the attention that you want and need. And when I say quality, time, and dollars, it’s not that every single executive pays attention to all three of these things.

0:13:51 Ramona Shaw: There are some people that are keen on the quality, and they care a little less about dollars and then others that care mostly about dollars. And quality of time might be second. And then there are situations and times where the time is the number one priority. So for you to be able to identify what matters to what person, at what point in time, that is working with an executive mindset, you know that just because you’re looking at a problem a certain way, that is not mean that that’s how you’re going to present that problem to everyone else.

0:14:26 Ramona Shaw: Okay? So you understand that you need to message and speak differently in order to address other people’s preferences and angles. Then how many do you have? So there are a couple more, but let me quickly recap. One, pick up your head. Two, create a vision. Talk about where your team is going, why it’s existing. Three, make decisions even without validation. Four, adapt your message. Then we got three more.

0:14:54 Ramona Shaw: Next one is manage your emotions. Don’t let emotions get the best of you. And I’m not saying don’t have emotions, because we all do, and it’s important to recognize them. Emotions are signals, and emotions come from our thoughts, a way of thinking and our interpretations. And it’s natural to have emotions, and it’s something that we can leverage, but we need to manage it. When emotions take the best of us, when we start to be defensive, when we start to blame, when we get stressed and we show that we make rash decisions, when we’re disrespectful to someone else, when we procrastinate because of insecurity or doubt, all of those ineffective behaviors typically show up because we’re not managing our emotions.

0:15:47 Ramona Shaw: And so having an executive mindset means that you have to become more aware of how your emotions influence your behaviors and then be able to recognize when and how do I leverage my emotions. And if I choose not to leverage the emotions, what is a different outlet and how do I process it? So the whole, this whole wheel, in a way, is sustainable, and I’m not bottling things up and I’m building up resentment or internal stress.

0:16:18 Ramona Shaw: So that’s something that we work on in our leadership development programs at Arkova because it’s such a critical point. In most cases where we see a downfall of a leader or when employees lose trust in leaders, it is often so often because that specific person let emotions get the best of them. They had unmanaged emotions and hence behaved in a way that was ineffective and eroded trust. This is particularly important when you are in an environment where it’s high pressure, where there’s a lot of stress, there’s tension when things don’t go well, which they do at times. And that’s part of the journey.

0:16:57 Ramona Shaw: When you get negative feedback or when things change. So understanding that resistance to change, even though in our heads we think it’s logical and rational, often has to do with underlying fears and doubts that are unmanaged. So again, high pressure, stress, failure or negative feedback. And in times of change, that is where you want to pay particular attention to your emotions. The next one is having a sense of ownership.

0:17:25 Ramona Shaw: That means you’re listening, that you’re taking accountability for your behaviors, for your team, that you’re coming at it with this mindset of curiosity, looking for solutions and being resourceful to creatively problem solve. So that all falls into that bucket of ownership. And then, last but not least, is being a learner and never really think that you know it all, but always looking for ways to learn more, to challenge your own opinions, perspectives, sort of with this idea of, I have strong opinions held loosely right, you can defend your opinions, but you’re also willing to be challenged and to change your mind if you have better or more information at hand.

0:18:12 Ramona Shaw: And also to know that workplaces, economies, countries, cultures, generations are constantly changing. So even if you knew something yesterday and we could say that was absolutely accurate, today is a new day and things have changed or things are changing, and when you find yourself thinking, well, but it’s always worked that way, or we’ve always done it that way, and why can’t we just keep doing it that way?

0:18:37 Ramona Shaw: Or, I know this already, I know how this works. When you pick up that that’s what’s going through your head, pause for a second, challenge yourself, like, huh? Okay, I know that’s what I think, but could I be wrong? What do I maybe not know? What, have I not paid enough attention to what may have changed since that was actually true, since I have proof that that was true. So that’s this idea of constantly learning to be a constant learner.

0:19:08 Ramona Shaw: Okay, again, pick up your head, think ahead, have a vision for your team, and share that often make decisions without validation. Change the way that you message your project, your initiative. So change that angle, then manage your emotions, take ownership and be a constant learner. So those are the categories that I personally see most often come up in conversations and in coaching and when talking to leaders who are looking to elevate and grow, where we recognize, like, ah, this is what we’re in, where you need to go. And this is what I see senior leaders and executives demonstrating, and we’re having to sort of have to train those muscles to get better at it.

0:19:51 Ramona Shaw: Very few people are great at all those things. It’s for you to figure out, okay, what am I already good at? From the all the items that I listed, what do I do really well? And then how can I lean into that more and demonstrate that more visibly, or just leverage it to create better results? And then two, what are a couple areas that I just mentioned that you think, oh yeah, I don’t do that yet. And what kind of opportunities are in front of you where you could start to practice it?

0:20:19 Ramona Shaw: Really look at it as muscles that you haven’t needed so far, but that you will need at the next level? And we can’t start training the day of the competition. We have to start training and building up those muscles in order to prepare for the competition. That is what I wanted to share with you about developing an executive mindset. I hope you found this helpful. If you have other people on your team or co workers friends that would benefit from hearing this as well, please share it along. If you enjoyed this episode and found this valuable, we’d so appreciate if you could give us a five star review or if you’re joining us on YouTube here, a quick wave to you.

0:20:56 Ramona Shaw: Thanks so much. Drop a comment subscribe to get alerted for future videos that we post. Thanks so much and I’ll see you next week in another episode of the Manager track podcast.

0:21:06 B: If you enjoyed this episode, then check out two other awesome resources to help you become a leader people love to work with. This includes my best selling book, the confident and competent new manager, which you can find on Amazon or@ramonashaw.com book and a free training on how to successfully lead as a new manager. You can check it out@ramonashaw.com masterclass these resources and a couple more you’ll find.

0:21:33 Ramona Shaw: In the show notes down below.


  1. Why is it crucial for leaders to embrace a mindset of ownership and continual learning in their leadership journey?
  2. How can leaders adapt their communication to effectively engage different stakeholders, particularly senior executives?
  3. What strategies can leaders employ to manage their emotions effectively in high-pressure situations?


  • Watch the video of Ann Hiatt’s “lightbulb” moment working for Marissa Mayer here
  • Get your copy of the GenAI Quickstart Guide here
  • Learn how to turn your 1-on-1 meetings from time wasters, awkward moments, status updates, or non-existent into your most important and valuable meeting with your directs all week. Access the course and resources here: ramonashaw.com/11
  • Have a question or topic you’d like Ramona to address on a future episode? Fill out this form to submit it for her review: https://ramonashaw.com/ama



Learn more about our leadership development programs, coaching, and workshops at archova.org.

Grab your copy of Ramona’s best-selling book ‘The Confident & Competent New Manager: How to Rapidly Rise to Success in Your First Leadership Role’: amzn.to/3TuOdcP

If this episode inspired you in some way, take a screenshot of you listening on your device and post it to your Instagram Stories, and tag me @ramona.shaw.leadership or DM me on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/ramona-shaw

Are you in your first manager role and don’t want to mess it up? Watch our FREE Masterclass and discover the 4 shifts to become a leader people love to work for: www.archova.org/masterclass

Don’t forget to invest time each week to increase your self-awareness, celebrate your wins, and learn from your mistakes. Your career grows only to the extent that you grow. Grab your Career Journal with leadership exercises and weekly reflections here: ramonashaw.com/shop

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