You want to get to the next level of executive leadership in your organization or perhaps you are working towards a Vice President role. Either way, you need to start preparing for your next steps. What does it take to be a successful Manager of Managers? What kind of growth is needed to effectively contribute as a senior leader in your organization? I am fascinated by the mindset shifts and the growth a manager must work through to be successful at the next level. Senior Leader progression is one of the most common areas of development I work on with my coaching clients.
Transitioning to a world class Executive is not an overnight process. It takes a great deal of self-development, emotional intelligence, and a compelling purpose to get there. You need a strong desire to learn, grow and take the courageous steps of letting go of some of your past success factors, while reapplying your key strengths in brave new ways. Think of a child transitioning from a bike with training wheels to a two-wheeler. Children are usually a little afraid, unsteady and may fall several times before getting their balance right. The same is true for executive transitions. It takes courage and motivation to overcome fear and inertia.
For example, the doer mentality that made you so successful at the Manager level could be your Achilles’ heel at the Director level. Are you a Speedy Gonzales at work? Slowing down before you speed up may be necessary for you to be successful as a thought leader. Do regular pats on the back and consistent feedback motivate you and guide your radar for performance measurement? What if you suddenly stop getting feedback and recognition, how would you know how your doing? It is not just a change in behaviour that is needed, rather a deeper change in awareness and mindset.
It is highly unlikely that you will be able to work effectively on all the areas of leadership growth at one time. What you need is an action plan. A good strategy is to first build your next level leader vision. To build vision you may want to study other executive leaders whom you respect and admire. You may also discuss and brainstorm with your coach what your values are and how you would like them to show up at work. What has been your observation of weak leaders and what experiences will turn you into a better leader for your organization? What will your day look like? Who will you interact with? How will you feel before, during and after work? What impact would you like to make on others?
Once you have started to craft your executive leadership vision and define your values as a leader, you may select the top few things that can have the biggest impact on your current work today. What shifts needs to take place for you? Start with some “experiments of change”, reflect on the results, and adjust as needed. There has never been a better time than now to start upgrading your leadership operating system. Your current job is your start point. Not only will you prepare for your next role, but the act of up levelling now your Modus Operandi may just get you noticed and may help secure that Vice President seat.
Expect to not feel right away like a super star, have patience and this will come! At the beginning, inertia will kick in and you will feel inadequate and uncomfortable approaching work and leadership in new ways. Manage your expectations: expect first to have a hard time letting go of past mindsets and behaviors that once served you. Those strengths worked well for you at various points in your career and/or life. They were equally needed and useful, otherwise you would not have become so great at them. For your next level though, the trick is to take your existing strengths and create new ways to put them to use.
Steps to Vice President
About a year ago, Samantha, a Senior Director in sales, came to me for executive coaching. Her primary outcome-based goal was to become a Global Vice President within a year. She was known as a talented sales leader who ran her operations like a well-oiled machine. Executive leadership relied on her to consistently outperform her goals. Throughout her history and career, Samantha always worked hard and gained trust by being reliable and dedicated.
Samantha disliked the idea of self-promotion. She relied on her strong work ethic to speak for itself and eventually propel her to the next level. She had been particularly good at building high performance teams rich with diverse talent. She had done well as a Sr. Manager and then as a Director, running relatively small geographically based organizations. Samantha was not well known outside her direct sphere of work and geography. In addition, her heads down approach often led to little or no outside collaboration and influence across the company. As a result, a lot of extra time and effort was needed to build those missing bridges. In the past, she had applied and interviewed for two Vice President positions, with no success. The feedback from her interviews left her feeling that getting to the next level may be unrealistic and out of her reach. Samantha was told that she was not influential and lacked the seasoning needed to run a large global sales organization. This is when Samantha and I met.
We got to work right away! We started by understanding her concerns around reinventing her personal brand and honing her relationship building capabilities outside of her immediate circle of trust. Her main concerns were that she would have to basically become someone else to reach this next level and leave behind her work ethic. Our next step was to define a clear, detailed picture of how Samantha would like to be in her future role of impactful and influential leader. The process of uncovering the inspiring details completely reenergized her! Authentic leadership, trust and diverse talent builder were the brand hallmarks that Samantha had envisioned for a Global Vice President role. Her confidence to do the growth work and ability to self-reflect grew by leaps and bounds. Eventually, a VP role became available in her organization. Samantha went through several challenging weeks while riding on the executive interview journey. Her patience, emotional regulation and self-confidence were all stretched thin. The process itself created an opportunity for a concentrated growth spurt. In addition, Samantha began to understand the executives above her from a different vantage point, which gave her another round of insights on strong and weak decision making, executive politics and influence. Finally, Samantha was offered the VP job!
Victory may be just a few steps down the road, but the way to get there is an intense self-discovery process that transforms you each step of the way. In the chart below, I outlined a few common leadership mindset shifts. You may use it as a cheat sheet to self-evaluate and plan ahead. Add to this list when you identify new areas of discovery!
Jennifer is a certified Executive Coach specialized in leadership development, career advancement and strengths-based coaching. Discover Jennifer’s coaching engagement programs and approach at www.jenrichconsulting.com
JRC’s Executive Growth Cheat Sheet
|Strength Shift||Leader Mindset Shift|
I get things done fast and well! Working fast and finishing things give me a strong sense of productivity and accomplishment. I often feel unmotivated when faced with a longer initiative.
I slow down to speed up. Reflection time, pausing, focusing on priorities are my imperatives.
My value comes from transactional output and hard work. Saying no may disappoint people. I am recognized as someone who responds to everything and gets done whatever is thrown at me.
I delegate, give others visibility, and spend most of my time on strategic planning, relational activities, and foreseeing future opportunities. I am ok not attending to every request.
Employees heavily rely on my guidance. I often am the smartest person in the room.
I maintain a learner mindset while building a team of experts. I look for people with greater experience and expertise. I hire talent that is often smarter than me, with diverse backgrounds.
to AUTHENTIC INFLUENCER
My work speaks for itself! I communicate about things I am directly working on and hate the thought of marketing my personal brand. I focus on what is assigned to me by leadership.
My strong work ethic and values define my brand and team’s culture. I often consider how I influence others, how I can make a bigger impact and I think broader about opportunities.
I thrive on recognition. Feedback from others is critical for me to determine how I am doing. When starting something new I rely on others to determine if I am on track.
Feedback from others is useful data. I am the final decision maker for myself. I reflect on experiences and performance to determine how I did against my own success metrics.
I automatically admire high titles and powerful people. I would rather buy into existing company practices and feel perpetual pride than to see the cracks in the organization.
I maintain a healthy psychological contract, while putting my values first. I can challenge the status quo and norms that need an update. My organization has a culture of reflection.
My feelings define who I am. If I am emotionally triggered, I need to take action to correct it.
I spend time and effort building self-awareness and awareness of others. I continue to expand my capacity to hold and identify uncomfortable emotions and choose logical reactions.
I take great pride in what I own. I work hard on “my” initiatives that I can become emotionally attached to. Sometimes I am territorial. Work is a higher priority than relationships.
I look forward to including others and gaining perspectives. Giving others visibility is rewarding.