What Critical Experiences Would Help Me Progress My Career?

The economic and business environment is changing rapidly. This has a big impact on jobs and careers. In such a dynamic environment jobs are changing too. Some jobs won’t exist in the future. Other jobs will have requirements that look quite different from the requirements of today. How can you prepare yourself for the future?

  • By experiencing a variety of different environments and organizational challenges. Being flexible and open to different opportunities and situations is the best way to develop career-building experiences. When you work in different areas you learn how to manage change and adjust effectively to new situations and the challenges they bring. You learn to look at the world from different perspectives.
  • By assessing your skills, capabilities, experience, strengths and weaknesses at different points in your career. And then figure out which types of new experiences are needed for further career development. These experiences are often full-time jobs. In addition, task forces, special projects, short-term assignments and other opportunities can all contribute to your depth and breadth of experience and build your capabilities. The sequence of experiences is often not critical.
  • By having a technical capability as a foundation on which to build. This could be an expertise in sales, marketing, operations, IT, finance, change management, people development, human resources, strategic planning, the law.
  • By building relationships with people throughout the organization (for example, within your function, across-functions, and across business lines). This will provide you with new insights and exposure to other talented people. Learning first-hand about the challenges they have faced increases your in-depth knowledge of the organization.

Critical Experiences include:

  • Operational leadership
  • Turning around a business
  • Work in a staff role in headquarters or a regional office
  • Work in a line role, in a business unit which reports a profit or loss
  • Work in a start-up business
  • Work in a mature business
  • Work in an emerging market
  • Work in a developed market
  • Work in a joint venture
  • Have P&L (profit and loss) responsibility
  • Work through an organizational change, such as implementation of Six Sigma, a new organization operating system or a re-organization
  • Work through a merger or acquisition process
    • Functional mobility. For example, move from one department or function to another department or function
    • Organizational mobility. For example, move from one product group to another product group
    • Geographical mobility: for example, move from one location to another location
  • Sell a vision
  • Take part in a leadership development experience, internal or external
  • Work in a rotational assignment
  • Coach others in your area of strength
  • Be mentored by a senior leader
  • Mentor a junior member of the organization
  • Shadow someone whose role you might want in the future
  • Head a project which involves either challenging content or different management skills

What Critical Experiences so far have helped you to develop your skills and capabilities? What Critical Experiences might you want to experience in the future?

How Important is it to Build Relationships?

Establishing new relationships happens all the time in business. New people are hired, someone is promoted or begins to work in a department new to them, and members of a team are shuffled. Amidst such flux, leaders I have coached often ask: How do we create an environment in which both new and long-standing people work effectively together, thinking clearly, feeling deeply motivated, and acting powerfully?

In most multi-national corporations, the business is focused on strategy, processes, implementation and tasks, plus the skills to get things done. But it’s people, working with other people, who get things done, often in intercultural relationships.

Successful leaders know the importance of focusing on both task and relationships. Establishing and cultivating strong relationships supports everyone, providing the attention, collaboration, closeness and confidence we need to meet the challenges ahead. The stronger the relationships within an organization, the better people are able and willing to work. When leaders model and teach people how to build relationships rooted in confidence, trust, and respect, we can dream bigger dreams and accomplish far more than we ever thought possible.

How Do I Cultivate the Practice of Listening? (Part 1)

“When someone really hears you without passing judgment on you, without trying to take responsibility for you, without trying to mold you, it feels good. When I have been listened to and when I have been heard, I am able to re-perceive my world in a new way and go on.

“It is astonishing how elements that seem insoluble become soluble when someone listens. How confusions that seem irremediable turn into relatively clear flowing streams when one is heard.”

Carl Rogers, psychologist

Successful leaders are often publicly recognized for what they say, but they achieve their real power by listening and asking insightful questions. To talk, to listen, and to be heard are acts that help clear confusion. Listening is an active form of caring, and it qualitatively changes the way people work together.

Task-oriented people, especially those who have arrived in senior positions, sometimes find it hard to see how listening can help them. Listening is how leaders get people involved and connected with one another.

  • Being listened to engages people in what is going on and helps develop buy-in.
  • Talking about the organization’s goals and then listening to how people respond helps a leader develop strategy and objectives and uncover possible problems.
  • Listening enriches the leader’s own thinking by getting a wider range of ideas. Being listened to fosters clearer thinking all around.
  • As Carl Rogers implies, being listened to releases stress, increases motivation, and expands creativity.

Charles Handy, author of the classics Inside Organisations and Gods of Management, writes, “Sometimes it is indeed arrogance to trust your views more than those of others. Great leaders seem to live with a mix of humility and confidence, which includes the ability to admit on occasion that they are wrong.”

In order to connect with others, people may have to reach past feelings of busy-ness and separation. A leader committed to reaping the benefits of listening and being listened to can always find time to enjoy the people he or she works with.

How Can Executives Listen Better?

Most executives focus on presenting their own views in the most effective way rather than on listening to the views of others. The discipline of listening, in my experience as an executive coach, makes a big difference in success or failure at work for leaders or, for that matter, most people.

About 90% of my clients, executives in MNCs, need to work on their listening. And listening works for the people I coach in Greater China, East Asia, Australia and New Zealand, Europe and North America.

In the February 2012 edition of the McKinsey Quarterly Bernard T. Ferrari wrote the article “The Executive’s Guide to Better Listening.”

In response I have crafted several principles for effective listening for executives (or, indeed, anyone):

1. Listen with appreciation
2. Listen until the other person is finished (allow the release of feelings until clear ideas are forthcoming)
3. Ask insightful questions to get ideas flowing
4. Allow the generation of fresh thinking to enable innovation; set goals based on clear thinking, then act and get results.

Busy leaders often feel they have neither time nor opportunity to cultivate relationships based on listening. But when people are listened to and heard they think more clearly and flexibly. They also need to listen to others in turn. Everyone reaches a deeper understanding of others’ views and ideas. People can then generate amazingly creative ideas.

As we form trusting relationships we each feel valued and needed. And we then function at a higher level as individuals and in a group.

With whom do you feel you can share your ideas most deeply? What does that person do that enables you to share so deeply? I bet he or she knows how to listen.