Today’s world is an all-out battleground for customers and you know you have what it takes to create a competitive advantage for your business — so why aren’t you able to take that next step in your career? There may be an unidentified “something” that’s holding you back from greatness. Just as you’ve tackled every other challenge throughout your life, it’s time to dig deep and see yourself from a new perspective, so you’ll be ready when an opportunity for a promotion becomes available.
Find Your Inner Strengths
Even if you don’t aspire to the c-suite, advancing up the career ladder often requires you to retool your style to be less of a hands-on manager and more of a quarterback — leading the charge and coaching your team to greatness. This is exemplified by the new paradigm that includes remote staff and project-based teams. These working styles are radically different than a more structured, team-based approach. The ability to work from any location is compelling for superstar knowledge workers but can be difficult to support from a management perspective, so it is important that you continue to expand your skillset.
While your boss should share feedback with you on what you need to do to get promoted, if she isn’t, you need to take the initiative to discover what’s holding you back. Whether it’s a perceived lack of focus or a mismatch in communication styles, blasting through those barriers may require some work on your part.
The Most Essential Career Skill: Leading as a Coach
As a leader, it’s your job to help your direct reports design careers for themselves that are fulfilling both personally and professionally. Why? Well, the vast majority of people don’t quit their jobs — they quit their managers – and if you don’t support the folks on your team, they may leave you. This sad fact requires leaders to exemplify a higher level of professionalism and trust in others according to Harvard Business Review. By protecting your employees, offering opportunities to safely fail and treating everyone respectfully, you’re creating life-long supporters who will help you reach your goals.
Senior executives often need to soften their communication styles in order to expand their career horizons. This doesn’t come without an amount of introspection and self-awareness, however. Knowing that your team isn’t relating to you as well as you would like is a critical first step in finding that space where you can relate to others.
Creating Ongoing Wins
It may seem counterintuitive, but the best way to make yourself look promotable is to have your staff excel. That means coaching them through any challenges that they’re experiencing, helping focus their energies where they are able to be most successful, and openly giving them credit for their wins.
Becoming the type of leader who is known for giving credit where credit is due and supporting your staff makes it that much easier when you do have to have difficult conversations. People are more comfortable knowing that you’re coming from a place of wanting them to be successful — and not simply trying to be negative. It takes time and effort on your part to build the kind of rapport that you need to be able to effectively share criticism and opportunities for growth in a way that leads to a positive result.
Have Difficult Conversations
While no one likes to have difficult conversations, it truly is an art form to be able to create a positive environment of forward motion while delivering bad news. This is particularly true with a distributed workforce as you may not be able to have an in-person conversation around a delicate topic. There are definitely nuances in body language and tone that can be missed over Skype!
The same is true of receiving feedback from others. If you are not receptive to suggestions for improvement the first few times, your colleagues or mentors may begin to feel that you’re unapproachable. This can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and you may be damaging your chances for long-term success without knowing it. If you find that you’re having a hard time accepting suggestions from others on how you might be a more effective leader, you might want to consider getting some help. Working with an executive coach allows you a safe sounding board for unpacking your interactions with others. Here are some tips from Hewlett.org from a non-profit perspective that apply to everyone, especially looking below the waterline.
Perceived Lack of Focus
Regardless of your career stage, it’s important to be able to articulate what your desired future state looks like. Work closely with your peers and executive coach to hone in on the opportunities that will leverage your innate strengths. You may discover that you have been working too hard to overcome some aspect of your personality instead of finding what makes you truly special and unique. Uncovering your passion and strengths allows you to unleash your personal superpowers to make a difference in the world. Not working with a coach yet? Check out the latest CliftonStrengths 34 assessment to help discover your strengths — and map out a plan for how you can contribute in your organization and in the world.
Do the Work
Senior executives coming to you and asking you to take on a load of new responsibilities can strike you in one of two ways. It can either be a good indicator that there’s a promotion on the horizon or as a groan-worthy incident that someone else is falling down on the job. It’s no secret that how you approach new opportunities can have a long-term impact on your career potential. How you continually handle the pressure after the first blush of excitement may be what your superiors are trying to see before giving you the keys to the kingdom.
Getting that big promotion takes more than hard work, it takes smart work. That means being engaged in company events, taking the time to support your co-workers in their initiatives and showing up — every time. Being a role model means coaching your staff on how to be coaches themselves, helping find mentors and provide growth opportunities. This proactive engagement commitment to the success of others may be the final tipping point for your next big career challenge.
- Do you need more maturity and professionalism — such as allowing your employees the space to safely fail?
- It’s crucial to provide timely and proactive feedback to your team members.
- Communicate actively and often with senior leadership and peers to ensure that your career goals are crystal clear.
- Taking on a tough new project isn’t enough. Staying the course (with a positive attitude!) may be what gets you to the C-suite.
Coaching your teams to greatness is the step that helps others take notice of your efforts. How you show up in good and in not-so-good situations is more of an indicator of whether the C-suite is in your future, however. Provide your teams with the chance to safely fail when taking risks and help onsite and remote staff find their place in the organization by staying fully engaged.
My strengths-based approach to coaching helps identify your top talents and those of your team by measuring what you’re naturally good at doing and then building on those strengths. This powerful focus on what makes you a unique and successful leader provides you the confidence to be the best version of yourself.
When you’re ready to take the next step in your career journey, contact me via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 206-393-2392.