Congratulations if you’re in a new and bigger role or about to transition into one. Taking on a new role is an exciting time. This is your opportunity to make a greater impact and contribution to the organization.

But there will also be many challenges in a new role. And of all the challenges you will face, the most difficult is showing up as a leader at the next level.

As they say, what got you here won’t get you there, and what worked in your previous role may no longer work in your new role.

You need to show you can step up and lead at an advanced level to meet the more complex challenges, demands and politics you will now face.

So, what can you do to show up as a leader at the next level? Your success is far too important to leave to chance, and you won’t want to risk your hard-won reputation by relying on trial and error.

The single most important thing you can do to succeed in your new role

Put together or join a “brain trust”.

A brain trust is a group of people who you can trust to help you navigate your path so you can succeed in your new role and be seen as a next level leader.

With the support of your brain trust, you will find it easier to make an outstanding success of your new responsibilities while maintaining your sanity and well-being.

The benefits of being a part of a brain trust are tangible and they come in three areas: confidence, clarity, and courage. All three are essential for success in your new role.

For example, the members of my Next Level Leadership Program brain trust gained:

  • Confidence to get beyond their imposter syndrome, to reach out to senior stakeholders and to advocate for what they and their teams want and need.
  • Clarity on how to set their vision and strategy and on how to get their new boss on side when the old boss left during their transition.
  • Courage to confront a former peer who was undermining them and get him to change his behavior and the courage to make the tough decisions they used to kick up to their boss.

Who you need in your brain trust

You may already have people who are “in your corner” like mentors, sponsors and even family and friends who have helped you get where you are now. They are incredibly valuable and you’ll want to keep them in your inner circle. But they only form part of the picture because they have limitations.

To complete your circle of support for your new role and future advancement, you need a group of people with specific qualities that most of your inner circle won’t have.

Whether you put together your own brain trust or have the chance to join one, it’s essential that the group includes people who collectively provide the following three qualities:

1. Relevant experience

There are two kinds of relevant experience. The first is someone who has been at those next higher levels you aspire to and knows what happens “behind closed doors”. The second is people who have gone through or are going through similar challenges to the ones you’re facing in your new role. For example, people who have been recently promoted too.

2. Impartial advice

This means people who can be unbiased when they are listening to your situation and providing advice and counsel. People who have a “clean slate” because they don’t have a stake in your future and aren’t burdened by “knowing too much” about you or your situation. This allows them to ask the “naive questions” that make you think and provide input from a balanced perspective.

3. Keeps things confidential

In a new and bigger role, you need people you can confide in without the risk of letting things slip, even if accidentally. With more complex challenges, issues and politics that come at the next level, you can’t afford to risk your reputation and standing by confiding in the wrong person. And sometimes you only discover someone is the wrong person when it’s too late.

Look beyond your internal mentors, sponsors and colleagues

Given these three qualities, a key in forming your brain trust is to look beyond the people inside your organization.

Think of them as a complement to the people who know you and your workplace well. Just as organizations have an internal legal function, they also have external lawyers on retainer. Both serve an important purpose.

While you can find people with relevant experience internally, you may find it hard to get their time and attention when you need it. And it’s even harder to ensure you’ll receive truly impartial advice and be able to share your challenges confidentially without possible repercussions on your career.

Despite their best intentions, people within your organization likely have their own perspective and their own lens on your career and work matters. Like the well-meaning peer who advised me not to take an overseas role that ended up being the best move of my career.

And even if they don’t share your conversation with anyone else, what they’ve heard can color the way they perceive you in the future. For example, the teammate you commiserate with about your horrible boss, only to find yourself reporting to that former peer who now thinks of you as a potential troublemaker.

Become part of a brain trust to succeed at the next level

Set yourself up for success in your new role by forming or joining a brain trust to help you in the transition and beyond.

Your brain trust will give you greater confidence, clarity, and courage as you face the more complex challenges and demands of a next level leader.

If you'd like to know more about how you can be part of the Next Level Leadership Program and our brain trust, then stay tuned for my announcement in early November.

So how about you? Who’s in your brain trust? And who do you want to add to it?