"Now I know how to really manage my career."
Welcome to part 3 of my 6-part Success Series, where I feature managers whom I’ve helped overcome tough career hurdles. I hope that these stories inspire you to begin the journey towards your corner office.
Lisa had always been a go-getter when it came to climbing the corporate ladder. Eyeing her next promotion, she turned to her boss for guidance.
I was always taught to manage my own career - to be proactive - not to wait around for some big boss to recognize me and hand me an opportunity on a silver platter - even though this was only my first managerial job. With this thought in mind, I went into a meeting with my direct supervisor, who had asked me for a quarterly budget update. After our discussion of this quarter’s numbers, I asked if she had a few more minutes to talk. She agreed and I told her that I admired her very much for her own climb up the corporate ladder and wanted to know about other factors affecting career development. She thanked me for the compliment and said that it’s important to always take charge of things, stay engaged with the company’s overall strategy, and to keep developing my curiosity. Then she urged me to get in touch with Etika, whom she promised would help me work towards tempting career advancement. My boss knew what she was talking about, so I took down Etika’s number.
As I left my supervisor’s office, I thought that maybe it might be a little too premature to try to fast track my career. Could this be a mistake? Perhaps I needed more experience in my current role.
That night, I went out with some friends for after work drinks. One of my colleagues introduced me to someone who said that he had just been to see Etika and that things looked very good. I knew that this person and I were at the same managerial level, so I thought to myself that it probably is a good time in my career to meet with Etika to explore factors affecting career development. After all, I always did see myself as proactive when it came to my career.
Encounter with Etika
When I finished climbing the stairs to Etika’s office, I was greeted with the famous mirrors that I had heard and read about. I knew that each mirror provided a slightly different reflection of me and that I should take into account that I am perceived differently by the people around me at work.
A door opened and Etika appeared, greeting me warmly. She began to ask me about my impression of the mirrors and I told her that I already had heard and read about the story behind them. She smiled and asked me what the mirrors meant to me. I told her that the experience of seeing so many different versions of myself was thought-provoking - but I didn’t really know where to go on from there. I started to tell Etika why I had come but then had trouble in that department as well.
I explained to her that I didn’t have a specific issue that I was grappling with - much like many of the people I’d heard and read about who felt “stuck” in their career. She then asked me what, in any case, brought me to see her. I still wasn’t able to put my finger on anything specific, but one thing was certain: I wanted to get to the corner office as quickly as possible. Etika responded that this was an excellent reason for us to meet.
We sat down and Etika asked me about myself, my management style - it’s good and not-so-good points. She listened intently without interruption. Then, she sat me down next to a computer and had me fill out a questionnaire. My answers would not only help identify my dominant management style but also to what degree this style might be preventing my potential from developing - something that would be important for getting to that corner office.
The results showed that my dominant style is what’s known as Producer, which is actually very advantageous when it comes to getting things done as quickly and as effectively as possible. However, as I would grow and develop in the company, being just a Producer could hinder my ability to work with larger teams in bringing in results. This could be a real career-stopper and it was important for me to develop my potential management style as well.
I asked Etika if she thought that it was important for me to begin this change now - after all, I had a long career ahead of me and maybe working with her would distract me from my present duties. She told me that it was up to me. We could either continue with the process now or I could go back to my job and give her a call when I was ready.
I genuinely wasn’t sure what to do. Etika said that we could possibly begin slowly. The advantage was that it would be easier to make the changes because I was just at the beginning of my career and my management style wasn’t quite “set in cement” as it might be with more senior managers. I took a few days to think about it and then came back to Etika to get down to work.
Road to success
About nine months into the process, my immediate supervisor called me in for a meeting. I was sure that she wanted to review the quarterly budget. Instead, she told me that she and some of the other managers had noticed a change in me. They saw how well I was managing team members, ensuring that everyone understood their role. My boss said that this was what she’d meant by “taking charge of things”. Then, to my delight, she offered me a promotion, effective the following month.
Since then, three years have passed and I am the CFO of a large company, slated to take the CEO’s seat in two weeks.
What about you?
Have you begun your journey towards developing your career path? Leave a comment below.
And always remember:
Great managers are made. Not born.
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