3 Career Advancement Pitfalls of Senior Managers
So you’re a senior manager with an eye on reaching the executive level. You’re reaching for that next rung, thinking that it is only a matter of time before the next promotion. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but unfortunately, no, your current position is not a waiting period. You’re there to grow to learn skills and leadership behaviors that will be critical for the next level.
“Hold-up,” you say. “I’m doing things right. I’ve been promoted several times.”
I have to object. What got you here, won’t necessarily get you there. You may have all the knowledge and skills needed for your current position but the next level will require much more and if you want to be selected for the next rung, you better start exhibiting such behaviors now.
1. Learning what your stakeholders want
This seems simple. Of course we know what our stakeholders are looking for. We are still in business, right? But sometimes our assumptions our wrong. I once worked for a manufacturing company that took great pride in our product. We had a long-lasting relationship with one critical customer and had paid a small fortune to establish a rigorous inspection process to ensure that our product would always be exactly what they were looking for. The relationship with the customer was fantastic so we must have been right about they were looking for, right? We weren’t. Almost by chance, I asked the customer how they measured our quality. The answer not only shocked me but our entire executive staff. The whole process we had established for them was to ensure our product had qualities they cared nothing about.
The bottom line: ask. Whether the stakeholder in question is a customer, your boss, a manager in a different division, ask. Find out exactly what matters to this person and what they are looking for in your deliverables to them.
2. Taking an organizational perspective
We all came from somewhere. To get to your current position you rose through a specific division, through specific positions. You’re probably proud of where you came from. I’m not going to tell you not to take any pride in your former area of expertise but you might want to take a little less.
Think about how much time you spend with each of the managers under you. Think about how much you talk about each area’s projects at your staff meetings. Is there any bias there? It’s only natural.
Do you understand the challenges of these other areas as well as you do those of your former area? What they’re proud of? What causes them pain?
You might have some work to do. Schedule time to get to know each of these areas as well as you do the one you came from. I guarantee your managerial team will appreciate it.
3. Strategically saying “No”
When someone comes to you with a request that is not part of your strategic plan, do you ever say “No.” Probably not often enough. It can be hard. We want to be helpful. We want to be accommodating. And we think we can do it all. No matter how tightly our teams’ schedules are packed, we have faith they can do a little more. We’ll be the heroes, right?
At the senior manager level, you need to be able to weigh the needs of each project against the resources that you have at your disposal. Before saying “Yes,” ask yourself how the project ties into the company vision and strategy. If it doesn’t, say no: it’s a nice to-do and your team really doesn’t have the time.
Even if the project does tie into company strategy, you might want to hold off on giving a committal yes.
Consider a “yes, if.”
If they can get your additional staff. If they can get you more time on an existing project. If they can increase your budget.
I don’t mean you need to deny every request. You just need to consider each in context of the budget and resources you have available.
Why it Matters
At the next level, each of these skills will be far more important than they are now. You will be overseeing areas further removed from where you started and will be responsible for their performance. You will be bombarded with far more requests and hold far more control over valuable company resources. And as controller of greater resources, it will be that much more important to direct them towards achieving what stakeholders actually want. If you aspire to move up the ladder, it is critical that you develop these skills and display them at your current position. Not only will you perform your current position better, you will show that you are a candidate for advancing.