The Road to Executive Level Leadership

The road to executive leadership

With there being a lot fewer executive positions than mid-level management roles, the road to executive leadership is highly competitive. Therefore, it’s abundantly more difficult to climb to this next rung of the corporate ladder. 

However, with the right attitude, work ethic and connections, you can prove your value and earn that coveted executive title and responsibility.

Understand And Embody ‘Executive Presence’

It seems as though the concept and practices of executive presence have tremendously increased in value over the years.  Last week we dove deep into what EP really is and found that, at the roots, executive presence is the powerful ability to inspire confidence.

Executive presence includes first impressions of appearance, interpersonal communication skills, and body language.  EP consists of effective listening, effectively maneuvering through office politics and exuding authentic charisma. 

Technical skills might have landed the job, but an executive presence moves a manager up. 

 Develop Your Strategic Thinking Skills

Lower levels of leadership focus on the day-to-day execution of the strategy. Executive levels focus on developing a broader view of the organization.

The development of strategic thinking allows you to become aware of the big picture.  Develop more skills in seeing the interconnections between the operating systems and long game strategy. Lean into thinking more strategically and from a systems perspective.

Maximize your Influence.

Given that great leadership is about influence, and not authority, you have to learn how to maximize your influence. Your ability to influence others is impacted by how you are perceived. Therefore, you have to figure out how to increase the perception of your value. The single best way to do that is to solve important problems for influential executives. 

Step Outside Your Comfort Zone – Network with the Entire Team

To lead at the executive level requires comfort outside of usual routines.  It’s relatively easy to limit our office interactions to those inside our sphere of expertise, however, to build confidence as a leader you’ll want to connect with the entire team.  Start expanding your tribe outside your core area.

Network with people from different parts of your organization in order to learn different business functions or program areas.

Build your reputation outside your comfort zone.  This way if/when opportunities open for advancement, decision-makers already know your name, and know it well.

Work With A Leadership Development Coach

As professional athletes know well, a trusted coach can soften the learning curve dramatically. A coach will guide you to clearly see your strengths, blind spots, and competencies. They will also show you how to identify the people and roles that will enable you to thrive.

Some coaches are focused on skill development, others are sounding boards. Find a coach who can do both and make the investment. 

Build Self-Awareness For Growth

This is a big one. It can also be the toughest one to chew on. Building greater self-awareness about one’s leadership presence and effectiveness is a key piece to preparing for an executive-level position. If possible, participate in a 360-degree feedback process.

This process can uncover your leadership strengths to build upon, as well as, identify others’ perceptions of your efficacy.  Disparities included.

Be Clear in Your Goals.

If you have a clear goal for your career, let it be known. Ask your immediate supervisor to craft a skill plan for you on exactly what you need to do to get to the level you want. Then start executing. It will take a combination of building relationships, professional training, results you’ve achieved, and lots and lots of emotional intelligence. If you really are in it for the long haul, let it be known.

Develop Executive Courage

It’s usually the tough decisions that move the needle. Therefore, executive courage around action, communication and trust is a critical leadership skill. Like any muscle, the more you flex it, the stronger it becomes. You cultivate executive courage by trying new strategies (even if some fail), engaging in crucial conversations and confronting challenging situations that trigger discomfort.

Manage Up

Managing up is a common challenge for emerging leaders. It’s important to manage your own boss, as well as extended relationships with your boss’ boss, board members, C-level executives, etc. These relationships directly correlate with the level of influence you have. Knowing what to communicate, when and with whom, will increase the visibility of your impact as a leader. 

Think About What The Company Needs

The end result, on the road to executive leadership, you want to build your business acumen. By showing you can make good judgments and quick decisions, you show preparedness toward the next step in career growth.

An executive is accountable at a whole new level. If a manager wants to move up, they need to think about what the company needs. Have the team you manage to be outstanding. Be known as someone who helps other people succeed. Be someone whose word is impeccable.

How To Choose a Career Coach

Choosing the right career coach

With the closing of the decade, we’re seeing all sorts of 10-year reflection content on social media right now.  Have you seen it?  Perhaps it’s the end of an era that sparks the human interest to compare and assess using time as the main reference. Whatever the reasoning now is a great time to check in on career goals. Here are our tips on how to choose a career coach, should you be so inclined.

What A Career Coach Can Do

Some of you would have been in school at the crack of 2010 and are now well seated in your chosen careers.  Others may have changed directions several times and are looking back at an intersection of self-discovery and career interests. Looking forward, consider the benefits of sourcing, vetting and connecting with a career coach who can help you identify goals for the next 10 years of career growth.

6 Tips for Choosing a Career Coach

1. Define The Problems.

Ask yourself: Why do I need a career coach? If you’re not clear, take out a piece of paper and write down every question that comes to mind about your career transition.  Once you understand your needs, you can identify the best type of coach for the job.

If you’re interested in changing career directions: Find a coach who is experienced in career reinvention.

If you are looking to stay in your field but need help navigating the job search process: Find a coach who has strength in resume writing or has exceptional referrals to a professional resume writer.  Additionally, this coach should also have good tactics for job searching via social media and other job-hunting avenues.

2. The Interview

Yes, of course, it’s recommended to interview potential coaches! This is your career. You’re in the driver’s seat so vet ay potentials and set up some meetings.

Keep in mind, some coaches offer a free introductory call, while others only do so unless you sign on for three months or more. Also, it’s common for people to work with career coaches on a shorter-term basis, such as three sessions for job-search coaching or six sessions to complete a career exploration package.

Smart questions to ask during the interview:

  • How would you describe your coaching style?
  • What should I expect from our work together?
  • What are your fees, packages and/or recommended routes?
  • Can you share some of your success stories? (Listen to see if the coach tends to work with people like you.)

3. Choosing The Services Best Suited to You.

Coaches charge in a variety of ways: by the hour, by the month, by the task or some combination of all three. Some ask for a multi-session commitment; others go session-by-session.

Some offer full branding packages that include reworking a resumé, LinkedIn profile and cover letters while others offer each of those services a-la-carte.

Ask a lot of questions and be sure the coach is clear about what you’ll get for your money before you start work together.

4. Ready Yourself to Win.

Coaching sessions are generally about an hour long and to the betterment of both parties, you want to go in prepared.  Ready any questions or specific topics of direction.  Organize relevant documentation. Speak your mind. Be honest about the process, if the coach is doing (or not doing) something that doesn’t sit right, share and help the relationship achieve full potential.

Additionally, maintain open lines of communication regarding any personal challenges impacting your career plans.  The goal is to craft a realistic action plan.  To do this, all facts should be on the table.

5. Respect The Process.

To achieve a deeper understanding, many coaches use one or more industry-specific assessments.  Techniques such as personality tests and interest inventories help you identify your strengths, interests and best work options.

Now, while these are helpful, they can’t always provide you with “the answer.”

All career changes involve a process of assessment, reflection, research, and testing. As well as hard work and patience. This all takes time before you gain real and lasting clarity. 

6. Manage Timeline Expectations.

There is no clear timetable for a career change. It truly depends on you, your goals, the state of the economy and a thousand other variables. From a coach, you may only need a couple of brainstorming sessions, or you may get into the process and realize you’d prefer a few months of support.

Just know, you are going to hit plateaus and they will be frustrating. Be patient and loving to yourself.

Ultimately, the key to a good coaching relationship is finding the right coach for your specific needs and then working together effectively.  Some coached are available to advise clients in person; others use a mix of phone, video conferencing and in-person meetings. 

Ideally when vetting a potential coach think about what best suits your style of work ethic and daily practices. On our team at PWU, we have exceptional career coaches available. Reach out if you would like a recommendation and contact details.

Whether you are anticipating a new career direction, seeking advice on the job search or planning for semi-retirement, a good coach can help you reach goals faster and more successfully than by going it alone.

Professional Affiliations & Community Relations

Resume Writer

We are active members of the Professional Association of Resume Writers & Career Coaches and the National Resume Writers’ Association, and have been since 2015. Not only does the annual membership help to validate our company and brand as trustworthy and legitimate, but it helps support the industry as a whole. We are always excited to read the monthly updates and columns sent by both organizations. Members and resume writers alike contribute to the stories, which helps drive industry success through continuing education, new trends and research, and open communication. The better we are as resume writers, the better our clients do, which is really, our sole purpose.

 

How does this relate to you? The Regional Territory Manager for a nationwide pharmaceutical sales brand? The nurse who travels every 3 months to a new hospital? The Network Admin who manages Fortune 500 enterprise IT systems? Everyone, regardless of the industry you are in, has an association of some sort. And guess what? They are fantastic to get involved with. You get so much out of it, professionally, and you are supporting those who support what you do. Some associations will include a listing of your business info on their website, some do annual conferences, free webinars, continuing education, email blasts, hiring help, networking, community initiatives, and more!

 

What am I saying here? Get involved. Pay whatever annual fee these guys charge (make sure it’s a legitimate organization first!) but they are typically $75-$250 per year, and come with a long list of benefits.

 

Where do I start? Google search your “profession” and “state” or “professional (nursing) association. You’ll get tons of results right away.

 

Plus, this is yet another credential to add to your resume! See? It all comes back to resumes in the end