Some people are happy – joyous – to never make it to a management position. But others see taking on that responsibility as a career goal. Here are tips to help you to move up the ladder, starting with consultant Lolly Daskal's list of attributes where emerging leaders often need coaching:
- Self-identification of leadership: You need to develop and identify your own leadership framework. Leadership is a difficult role and you can’t leave it to instinct. You need to clarify in advance how you will approach it.
- Development of emotional intelligence: Taking that first notion further, she says on her blog “an older generation may consider leadership to be all about being the boss and guarding the bottom line, but happily the field has changed since those days. Emerging leaders need to be able to explore who they are as a leader, which includes developing and managing their emotional intelligence.”
- Communication and feedback: You need to communicate with clarity, embrace feedback and influence the potential of others through your own messages to them.
- Effective decision-making: In today’s fast-paced world you must be decisive. Dithering doesn’t work. She notes there are tools and approaches you can learn to help you.
- Motivation and effectiveness: When times get tough, you may find yourself flagging unless you understand your personal source of motivation. Don’t wait for hurdles to arise before finding out. Plumb your depths, perhaps with the help of a coach.
- Identifying your leadership gaps: You need to know your strengths and weaknesses, including blind spots and triggers. Then hopefully after you own up to them you can make the package work for you. “What you don’t own ends up owning you. Emerging leaders in particular can’t afford to allow blind posts or other areas of weakness to get in the way of their authentic, honest, courageous leadership,” she says.
- Manifesting character: Trust, respect and integrity are keys to effective leadership. You must display those characteristics to receive them in return from others.
- Lead from within: You need confidence to lead yourself and others to success. Again, she feels a coach can help develop this leadership prowess.
On The Ladders website, journalist Jane Burnett offers five ways to show you might make a great leader one day:
- Be someone your co-workers like to talk to: Listeners are loved. Lend an ear to others, listening actively, which she defines as “genuinely engaging in conversation by really hearing what the other person has to say …. So don’t scroll through your phone, constantly check your watch, or let distractions steal your attention instead.”
- Don’t just focus on yourself: She notes that there’s more to work than your job and so you need to understand the bigger picture. Erika Andersen, founder of the Proteus International training firm, has written in Forbes that “if you want to be seen as a leader, make it your business to understand the larger organization: How does your business work? What are the factors, in your organization, that lead to growth, and what gets in the way? What other functions does your part of the business interact with most, and how do you support each other? Take a step back from your particular job and look at how everything fits together.”
- Don’t get caught up in office drama: You want to have your finger on the pulse of what is happening in your organization but be removed enough so that you aren’t what Ms. Burnett calls “the keeper of all questionable office secrets.”
- Show that you can delegate effectively: Managers need to know how to supervise effectively, checking in but not micro-managing and nitpicking. Leading a project team may allow you to practise that balance and show your stuff.
- Have a knack for getting the job done effectively: Make sure your work speaks loudly for you. “Being a reliable employee isn’t just showing up on time and not causing trouble – it’s about scoring highly in the performance department, plus thinking of ways to constantly improve,” she writes.
None of that is easy. It's quite varied. And it doesn't come with a guarantee. But it's worth considering each of these items and evaluating where you might need to improve.
2. How to stop three top toxic time-wasters
We often moan about distractions such as smartphones and social media that divert us from work. But toxic time-wasters are part of the mix. Here are three common ones that consultant Marlene Chism, consultant and author of Stop Workplace Drama, identifies on the SmartBrief website and offers solutions for handling:
- The Blindsider: They ambush us, using the timing to their advantage, be it smiling before offering vicious gossip about you or inviting you to a friendly lunch where they pour out a hidden agenda. She recommends probing for this individual’s intention before any conversation. Ask: “What is our objective for this meeting” before agreeing to one – even a phone call – and then when The Blindsider starts to stray, respond: “I thought our agenda was to discuss …” Take control.
- The Monopolizer: This individual is long-winded and can’t get to the point. “Caller ID was created for those who want to avoid The Monopolizer,” she notes. When calling this person, begin with: “I only have five minutes and I have a question that requires either a yes or no.” If interrupted, fight back: “I can’t talk right now. Can I call you back at 2 p.m.?” And then, of course, again state you only have five minutes.
- Negative Nellie: This individual always has a complaint about what isn’t working or what somebody is doing wrong. “Stop feeding the beast,” says Ms. Chism. “Simply say, ‘I’m sorry. It sounds frustrating.’ Avoid the urge to make it better or to listen more than five minutes.”
3. Ignore these three overhyped trends
Being in the know does not mean celebrating every new idea and trend. Innovation consultant Greg Satell warns against three trends that are being inflated beyond any realistic assessment of value:
- Robots taking our jobs: We have heard similar warnings about technology in the past, although some argue this is different because machines are replacing cognitive skills, as well as physical labour. But so far, he says, there is no indication it is happening and some contrary evidence.
- The Platform Economy: We’re told that successful companies must follow the path of Uber and Airbnb, shunning ownership of physical assets for providing a platform others can use. But so far such firms are struggling – even Amazon, he argues, has been earning subpar margins.
- The Retail Apocalypse: Major retailers are biting the dust. But Amazon, supposedly their ultimate competitor, is moving into retail by buying Whole Foods. The key is to find an effective model for this era.
Next time you find yourself repeating these myths, think twice. Maybe not all is as it seems.
4. Quick hits
- Make a list of the five to seven things that distract you – write those down right now, insists consultant Kevin Eikenberry – and then identify what you can do to remove, eliminate or defer the distraction.
- The big question that Jeff Bezos asked before starting Amazon was whether in 50 years he would regret taking a gamble on the venture or avoiding it. Journalist Drake Beer notes that Mr. Bezos feels our biggest regrets are acts of omission, not paths taken. Indeed, they haunt us.
- In a similar vein, entrepreneur Seth Godin asks: What percentage of the work you do each day is devoted to items where the process – the right answer – is known? We can create the most value, he argues. when we do something that’s not been done before, something that might not work.
- Want to improve your resume? J. T. O’Donnell, CEO of career support site WorkItDaily.com, recommends using white space to improve readability for busy recruiters and to focus their attention on key items. Accentuate this with a comfortable type font (11 point or larger), even if both ideas go against the instinct of trying to cram everything in.
- Auto text can help you when e-mailing on your phone, The Muse website reports: Type a customized abbreviation and it expands into a complete text blurb. For example, “rl8” becomes I’m running late.