‘If you’re trying to achieve, there will be roadblocks. I’ve had them; everybody has had them. But obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it or work around it’
– Michael Jordan
You’re smart, savvy, well credentialed and your list of accomplishments is extensive. You’ve worked hard to get where you are, and achieved great success to date so how have you wound up feeling so stuck?
Sound familiar? Many of the professionals that I work with are highly regarded performers both by their peers and the organisations that they work for, yet for one reason or another they seem to have hit a plateau and been unable to break through to new opportunities at the next level. They’ve spent lots of time trying to figure it out. They’ve made changes, engaged in 360˚ feedback, undertaken further study and yet somehow the breakthrough has eluded them.
There’s no question that they love what they do, are confident and comfortable in the choices they’ve made about the industries and organisations they are in. Yet for many, the inability to break through to the next level has left them riddled with self-doubt, frustration and lots of questions.
Identifying ways to manage these frustrations and overcome the hurdles is not only imperative to moving forward but also for protecting our brand and reputation for where we currently are. Failing to do so can see us not just plateau but stagnate and regress. It also limits our ability to recognise the right opportunities when they do come along.
Apart from simply not knowing what the next step is, often one of the biggest hurdles to overcome is a misalignment between your values and ambitions; and the values and demonstrated behaviours of your (potential) organisation. Failing to recognise this not only results in frustration but wasted effort and energy. Recognising it will allow you to position yourself for success by leveraging strengths and styles and a mutual exchange of value between you and your employer.
Take a moment to consider what the common skills and attributes are of the leadership team within your organisation? Typically companies that value high growth and innovation will promote or appoint individuals who demonstrate courage, energy, risk taking and nimbleness and highly collaborative communication. Conservative companies will typically be characterised by analytical thinkers, structure, considered decision-making and risk avoidance.
Ask yourself the following questions: What are the values of your organisation? What behaviours does your company value and reward? What type of person is promoted?
Once you have identified what they are, you need to understand how they align to your values, strengths, style and ambitions. Remember these may change throughout your career so it is important to know what they are today. Determining this allows you to either plan how to proactively engage in conversations and projects that showcase your skills and ambitions or examine alternative opportunities that are more complimentary to you and your skillset.
Once you have determined alignment you may wish to also consider the 6 steps below to help you look beyond the barriers:
- Determine why you want the path you are chasing: Ask yourself why you want to take on the next level of role. Is it simply because it’s the next step in the structure and it is what is on offer? There is great danger in relinquishing control of your career and allowing the organisation to simply dictate your career direction. Danger because there is no real exchange of value and you risk true fulfilment, engagement and growth.
- Examine your communication style: Our ability to grow as individuals and build purposeful and productive relationships is underpinned by how we communicate with those around us. How we listen, receive and provide feedback, manage frustrations, follow through on stated intentions and engage in day to day conversations is one of the biggest demonstrations of today’s leadership requirements: emotional intelligence.
- Engage in career conversations: Gone are the days where businesses and employees can check in with each other once a year for the obligatory performance review process. Not only do you risk complete misalignment, but also being overlooked for what it is that you really want to do. If the organisation doesn’t know where your interests and ambitions lie and you don’t know what the upcoming direction and opportunities are for the business you can easily find yourself missing out.
- Invest in your reputation: You need to position yourself for recognition. This is not about endless self-promotion. Rather it is about building up your portfolio of accomplishments and positioning yourself for more opportunities and achievements. Develop your skills and networks that highlight your potential. To do this successfully you need to seek feedback and input from your leaders, team and mentors both from within and outside your organization.
- Seek out a mentor in the senior leadership team: Having a mentor within the organisation is a powerful way to help you navigate the practices, biases and nuances that may exist within the organisation. Not only are they a great source of ideas and information, they can also help facilitate ways to connect with the right people and information sources to move forward.
- Be open: Don’t allow previous experiences or disappointments to ‘close you down’. Often when we have not achieved what we have wanted we ‘self protect’ or become cynical and jaded about how to identify or approach new opportunities. When we stay open we create openings for new opportunities.
Knowing that you have choices and that you can remain in or reclaim control by taking proactive steps is key. The reality is great leaders don’t get to the top because they are perfect and have not encountered hurdles along the way. They get to the top because they share a fierce determination to personally succeed, a passion for authentic communication and connection with people and a desire for life long learning.
As always I would love to hear your thoughts.
If you would like to explore ways to build confidence, clarity and purpose in your career direction please contact Margot on 0400 336 318.