Fortunately, despite the events of the past couple of years, career coaching isn’t just about crisis, redundancies and panic job search. Transition coaching can happily be more routine and measured: brainstorming for the next stage, setting some goals, making a plan. So with any executive working on this career management phase, we always start with a gentle chat about themselves and what they’re looking for. Essentially and almost imperceptibly, what we’re doing is a career health check.
This process establishes where they’ve been, what’s going on right now and where they’re headed. What I call the “know thyself spectrum”. Then I ask them to draft a short mission statement. Not a big deal you would have thought for rising captains of business and industry. But many are astonishingly resistant and some in fact even struggle. They don’t see this as necessary to the process. They have a great job already and don’t need to produce what they perceive be part of a new CV . They’re completely fine. Just need a bit of fine tuning. Still I insist!
The range of excuses I hear to get out of this exercise warrant an “A” for creativity. Kids – listen and learn from the best!
- It’s on my office computer, not on my lap top ( ooooh….and vice versa!)
- Backberry/iphone/ other electronic gizzmo is down/crashed
- Meetings: Wall to wall / Back to back
- Deadlines : Year end /Q end/weekly/daily
- Flight / trip: delayed / bought forward
- 3 kids: that one came from an executive with a stay at home wife
- Crisis: Personal/ family/professional/ national/ economic /global
Trust me – there is nothing I haven’t heard before! There is seemingly a whole breed of executives who don’t have the following words in their vocabulary: beer mat, pen, 15 minutes, plane, airport lounge, taxi – plus some other obvious ones. This type of inventive procrastination comes even from people who on the surface of things are leaders in their sector, perhaps in the top percentile of their professional and academic fields, or have achieved significant business successes and are outwardly brimming with confidence. But despite this, there is something holding them back from putting a name to these signficant achievements and the skills they needed to call on to facilitate such great results.
There is a reason why we all need to do career health checks on a regular basis.
Personal insight, knowing your strengths, weaknesses and achievements and being able to articulate those to yourself , is important for managers to excel in their current roles. It is not just those executives who find themselves unexpectedly on the job market. A high percentage of executives I coach, who have been “let go” admit to being unhappy in their jobs before the redundancy was made. They also suspect that their bosses were possibly aware of it. Harsh though it may seem, companies generally find a way to retain high performing, motivated managers, no matter what sort of crisis they’re in.
So why is it important to understand and articulate these skills and achievements, to know well how we have dealt with any challenges in the past and be relaxed about any future ones? It gives us all a sense of control.
Feeling in control, having that unshakeable self-belief that we have the resources to successfully deal with anything that comes our way, generates self – confidence. Self confidence is that indefinable , intangible quality that effective managers possess in spades. It’s not a flashy showman leading from the top or an over bearing arrogance that won’t listen or consult. It is something else all together.
Confident managers know what they’re doing and their teams can see that. This is highly motivating and leads to better results. Because confident managers have recognised their own successes and achievements, they have no problem endorsing the success of their peers or reports. They instinctively set in place recognition systems to foster and support self belief in those around them. This inspires greater team effort and even greater success. People gravitate towards them. Success breeds success.
Confident managers are great mentors and don’t feel threatened by new talent. They generously encourage and develop.
Strengths and weaknesses
Because they know what they do well and how they do it, they also understand where and when they don’t do so well. Confident managers are happy to consult and are comfortable looking for opinions, advice and support. They are open to unsolicited input. Astonishingly, true confidence can even admit lack of confidence and say ” I really have no clue what I’m doing, but I’m going to find out. ” And they do. They process criticism positively.
Truly confident managers know that it’s important to get it done, rather than get it right and will motivate and support calculated risk taking. They rise to new challenges. They get out of the way. They give themselves and their teams permission to fail, but still keep a watchful eye on the score card. They support, not blame, during the failing process and takes steps to manage any fallout if that’s what needs doing. They see mistakes as part of a learning process. They take steps to avoid repeated bad habits.
Confident managers are positive thinkers, solution driven and not problem focused. The first thing they want to know “How can we get that done?” not what the barriers are. Confident managers have goals and if they are off target they realise that they have to change … so they sit down, re-assesss and make new goals.
Sometimes on beer mats in airport lounges. They don’t need a perfect time, environment or location. They just get it done.
So when was the last time you gave your career a health check?