- On January 17, 2017
Is one of your 2017 goals to get promoted?
Do you feel you are doing a good job, getting good reviews, and yet the next level seems to elude you?
I have a couple of young professional clients who are feeling this frustration. They have ‘followed the rules’ at their company, gained expertise over the last few years, yet the upward mobility and responsibility they desire doesn’t seem to be following.
This concern is not limited to Millennials. I have also talked with more senior managers of their frustration with advancing to positions of greater responsibility.
As I listen to their stories, one thought comes to mind–they may be spending so much time doing their job well that they haven’t made time to look up and across. Not uncommon in a world characterized by information overwhelm. We are so busy doing the here and now that there seems to be no energy left to look over and beyond.
If you’ve decided you need to do something differently, here are two suggestions that will enhance your value to your company and prepare you for higher level positions.
1. Look up. Way up.
Many of the clients I work with built their street cred from their technical skills–IT, accounting, engineering, marketing, sales. They figured out how to do that skill really well and they are really good at it. They are busy making things happen.
But the next level of responsibility will rely less and less on technical expertise and more on your ability to align with larger business objectives. Start by building a strategic perspective.
Strategic perspective…sound kind of nebulous?
Start by asking for a copy of the performance plan for both your boss and your boss’s boss.
This was standard practice when I was in the Army, an organization that must be aligned up and down if it is to do its national defense mission effectively. I gleaned a lot from what my boss and his boss’s performance objectives were. I found reviewing these helped me understand how the many technical and functional things I did contributed to the overall mission and I learned to articulate that in discussions. I asked my boss, “What else should we be doing to be sure we contribute to success of the organization mission?” This question inevitably gave me some high level insight from my boss which I would not normally be privy to and prompted me to think of new ways my section could contribute to the overall mission.
If you are in career transition, one of the more creative questions to ask of your hiring manager is “How do the responsibilities of this position help you do your job better?” Another: “When you look back a year from now, what will I have accomplished in this role?” Both questions ask the interviewer to put a strategic spin on the job requirements.
2. Build relationships outside your team.
The ability to build cross-interest coalitions and work through multiple perspectives on complex problems is a key function of leadership at all levels.
Find ways to interact with people from other sections. Seek to be part of a cross-functional work group. Be on the lookout for someone in another section you have something in common with. It could be over a common work interest (you are both DBAs in different corporate functions) or personal interests (you are both new dads). Developing respect for different approaches, even if it just starts with understanding a how a different department views the same problem (I’m talking about you, Sales and Engineering!), is a first step to become more adept at this strategic skill.
If you are really uncomfortable with ‘small talk’ and tend to avoid anything but technical problem solving conversations, you might find it helpful to work with a coach to find and practice ways to have a more natural ‘leadership presence’ that fits your style. Exploring Emotional Intelligence with a coach is one active measure you could take to begin to change your impact.
Reaching out to other sections shows you are willing to expand your own mindset and builds your own foundation for complex understanding. It supports the ‘strategic alignment’ intention of the first suggestion. Nothing gets done at your boss’s and her boss’s levels without the efforts of multiple departments working towards the same goal.
What ways have you used to gain a more strategic focus?
Photocredit: Shutterstock / 104881961
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