Hello everybody. I’m Steve Nathenson, CEO, and founder of Strive For More. Today we’re going to continue our talk about leadership. Another common question that I get is, what am I missing to get to the next level of my career as a leader? At the core of this is knowing two data points. Where am I now? Where do I need to go? When I understand that, it helps me see where those “gaps” and how do I start bridging those?
One of the most common things that we should have in organizations, and I apologize for using that word should, but one of the things that we commonly do have in organizations are competencies. Those competencies do look a little bit different at each level. We may have say, five areas and the language for each of those areas will be a little bit different to show what is expected in those areas as we continue to grow and advance our career, whether it’s a frontline manager, to a senior manager, to a director, to a senior director, to a vice president, executive vice president, C-suite. There’s going to be differences in what’s expected of us. It’s the same thing with the individual contributor route from say, an engineer, to a senior engineer, to a subject matter expert, whatever the hierarchy is going to be. In our organization those competencies again, will look a bit different.
That’s one of the very first places that I typically help folks look to. Within your organization, do you have guidance to know what is expected of you, so you can see where am I now and where do I need to go according to the roadmap. That can help us understand a little bit more of, what do I need to strive to work on and what areas perhaps do I need to fulfill more? We can elicit feedback from looking inside ourselves, from our leaders, from other people around us, with the 360 instrument is a great way of doing that, or conversations simply with folks is a great way of doing that.
In addition to that, to help with those conversations we may go, “Oh, you’re doing fine. No, you’re on track.” We may get that kind of feedback. It’s not helpful. It’s too general. It’s not specific enough. A lot of times we go, what do I do with that? And if you’ve experienced that you understand, what do I do with that generality? There’s nothing really there that helps me work on what I need to work on.
Part of this conversation and understanding how do I get to that next level, what am I missing, is opening up the very specific feedback and being willing to have those conversations with people or being willing to put forward of, “I really appreciate the fact that you think I’m on track. If you don’t mind, I’d really like to get a little bit more detailed. Can we look at those competencies? Is there anything that you find trend-wise that helps people advance their careers?” There’s many different ways to approach that conversation and to start getting it to be more detailed and specific to give us what we need instead of that generality. That’s just one thing I’ll put out there that can help us start lifting the curtain and getting to what we really need to know so we can take tangible action towards.
Let me talk a little general now, instead of specific to organizations. There are a couple trends that do happen as we continue to grow and advance our careers. As we continue to advance upwards and get into different leadership positions, we naturally become more strategic and less tactical. In other words, we get out of the day to day work and we are more responsible now for planning in terms of mission, vision, roadmaps, where do we want to go? What do we want to achieve? We have metrics that we’re going to be beholden to. OKRs is one thing. KPIs is another.
Depending on what your organization uses, there’s going to be different things that we as leaders will be held to achieving versus say, a customer support individual maybe held to closing out 30 different incidents throughout the week or helping 30 different customers. That’s a very tangible tactical number of responding to questions that customers have around our website or around our product. As a leader, we step away from that. We’re no longer going to be in that doing day to day work, for the most part, of answering those questions. We’re going to help guide and develop others.
That’s another thing, in general, that we do as leaders and we develop as we go through our progression of stepping up the career ladder is really being able to develop and coach others. Can we impart our own wisdom around them to help them grow and develop the skills that they need to be successful in their jobs and where they want to go in their career? That’s another thing that we typically do.
As we go further upwards, let’s just focus on these two things for a moment, we start taking a higher view. If you’ve ever heard that like the 50,000 view, that’s typically what we need and that’s part of what goes into presenting to leaders of short, clear, high level information is what they need to know. Because as we progress, we do become more strategic and less tactical, meaning we become more responsible for financial planning, corporate roadmap planning, where do we want to go? Let’s say the new CEO of IBM, not saying IBM’s losing their CEO, just as an example, they want to take IBM in a completely different direction, because let’s say over the past two years, we’ve seen trends that we need to perhaps solely shift into machine learning and cloud services. That’s what the CEO is going to be responsible for is, this is where we should go as an organization, where I want to take that organization. How do we structure the organization then to achieve that goal?
From the top down, that starts becoming more and more specific. You may have one branch that’s going to be focused on the cloud services and everything that’s needed in there, so you’ve got sales folks, you’ve got marketing folks, you’ve got the technical side of the house to build all the infrastructure that you need to do the cloud services, knowing what that package is. And that boils down to the day to day folks that go out and say, sell that service, that market the service, that do all the research to create the product that IBM wants to sell and what that looks like and the infrastructure, the coding, the architecture.
So just an example of how we, from the very top, have a very high level vision that gets more and more specific or detailed and tactical the “lower” we go on the career ladder. And I don’t mean that in a sense that we’re beneath people. I just mean in an hierarchical sense, if we think of the CEO say, at the top and then we see the say entry-level personnel at the “bottom” of the just hierarchical pyramid. That’s one thing that we can grow and develop as leaders over time, and part of our question is, do I struggle with that? Do I have a problem getting out of the day to day and do I get that feedback of, we need to be more strategic, that can share is that one thing that we need to work on as leaders and develop?
The second thing we mentioned was developing and coaching others. We may be very success well as individual contributors, and as we get into leadership, we will then become responsible for helping grow and develop others. Can we help them build their skillset? Can we help them maximize their efficiency, their time, their productivity, the way they interact with others? Those are all elements of coaching people. As we continue to advance, we may no longer be managing and leading individual contributors. We may now be leading other leaders, other managers. The question becomes, how do we develop them? How do we take our management experience and our leadership experience and switch it around to help them grow and develop others? How do we teach them to do the same? Just one way that as we grow our career, the focus shifts of how we coach and develop others, because now it’s not individual contributors in their skillset, it’s managers and leaders that require slightly different skillsets and tactics and approach. Those are two of some of the common things that we can shift and grow and develops as we advance our careers.
Four other quick categories that I’ll throw out there to help give an idea of what may be “kind of missing” is the leadership skill. Can I truly inspire people? Am I not only able to say, manage time and tasks and get things done, but can I truly resonate with people and lead them to be a part of something? Can I communicate effectively? Can I switch my style as needed to the appropriate level the audience needs that I’m speaking to and go from say, a very high level snapshot to very detailed, perhaps with individual contributors? Am I dismissive? Am I too blunt? Am I someone who really resonates and tells stories or maybe rambles on for 50 minutes when I aim to cut it down?
That’s another thing that we develop as we grow as leaders in other areas, our ability to engage, inspire, motivate, and unite others and teams. As we can continue to grow as leaders that does again, look a little bit different, and it depends on the people that we lead. Can we really harness our ability and our approach to understand others so that we know how to motivate them, we know what inspires them, we know what brings them together, and they can trust us and they believe in us and that we unite them to be high performing?
The last thing is our own personal growth. Work life balance is a huge question, especially with being remote, and there’s not a lot of boundaries that happen there. Can I really maximize who I am and what makes me efficient, what makes me resonate with others, what gives me the mentality I need to be successful? All that personal development growth and work that we put into ourselves, it becomes even more important as we go up the ladder because more is being asked of us, more pressure or demands get put on us. Can we handle all that, and can we leverage what makes us successful, and then be able to impart that upon others? Those are four additional areas.
A quick recap, in terms of what am I missing? Competencies within our organization is a great place for us to start. Then having open communication with people to get their real feedback, specific feedback, can help us understand where we are and help us identify how to build to that next level. And then the six general areas that we develop and grow as leaders that can help us advance and take us to the next level, our leadership, communication, engaging, motivating, inspiring, and uniting others, our own personal growth, that’s our mentality, our wellbeing, our ability to be productive and master ourselves. Then we have thinking and acting strategically, being less tactical and then coaching others, coaching and developing and growing them, not only in skillsets, but in helping them do all the things that we’ve learned to do in our personal growth and development, and being able to help them grow and develop their own career and what they want and master themselves as well.
I’ve just shared those as six common areas that typically go into leadership develop to help spur any thoughts of, what areas perhaps stand out to you to continue to grow and develop?
If you have any questions on this, we’d love to hear from you. Please just reach out to us and ask. We always love talking about leadership development. So until the next time, be the movement in your life.
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