Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What Your Boss Won’t Tell You About How to Become a Leader: 5 Uncommon Tips for Career Advancement

By Jo Miller

If you’ve worked hard, done a good job, and received a positive performance review, then you’ve successfully followed what most good bosses would call a “career development plan”. That’s different, however, from a career advancement plan. To advance you’ll need to do the things that go beyond being merely great – and yes, I know that’s a big “merely” – at your current job.

Last month I explored the webinar topic “Take Charge of Your Career Trajectory” with two of the smartest women I know: Donnell Green, Global Head of Talent Management and Development with Blackrock; and Dr. Caroline Simard, Associate Director of Diversity and Leadership with the Stanford School of Medicine. When these two leaders shared their essential elements for a career advancement plan they each included both common and uncommon tips for moving upward, including some things you’d be unlikely to hear from your manager.

It’s up to you to create your career advancement plan. You can’t wait for permission to become a leader. As one of our previous speakers, Monica Spigner of Lincoln Financial Group once told me, “Make a plan – or someone else will make one for you.”

Donnell and Caroline shared phenomenal advice on growth and promotion, with a thorough look at their career advancement essentials. Here are just a few highlights:

1. Get a good boss
For Donnell, a critical element of taking charge of her career meant building a network of support including coaches, mentors, and sponsors. “Don’t go it alone,” she advised, and give careful consideration to who is in your management chain. Work for people you respect, and get a good boss. I have built great relationships with my bosses and created value for them. Having the support of your manager can make or break a career.”

2. Don’t stand in your own way
Imagine gripping onto something so tightly that you almost squeezed the life out of it. Dont do that to your most important career goals!

Accomplishing those goals can mean adjusting your way of going about it, according to Caroline. “If youre too attached to a very narrow definition of success or a narrow plan for your career, you will ignore amazing opportunities.”

“Keep your eye on the goal, but don’t stand in the way of the end result. Sometimes, that means letting go of some credit or doing a task that youre not particularly interested in. But if its really important to achieving your vision, its absolutely worth doing.”

Speaking of her own career plan, Caroline emphasized the importance of flexibility. “I try to have a plan but its a flexible plan.”

3. Timing is everything
Asking for the things we need, especially when it comes to career advancement, is a hurdle for many women. Fortunately, our speakers shared tips on negotiating for key training or development opportunities.

For Donnell, timing is everything when it comes to these negotiations. “The right conversation held at the wrong time can be harmful, as is failing to be mindful that your boss is in bad mood or the person youre talking is the wrong person. Pay attention to timing and use those instincts for these conversations.”

4. Dont ignore work-life fit
Caroline leads an innovative pilot initiative at Stanford School of Medicine to re-design the work culture in ways that allow faculty to increase their work-life fit. She advised asking yourself not only what is it that you’re trying to accomplish at work, but what your goals are at home, in your personal life, too. “Don’t ignore work-life fit. These two pieces need to go hand-in-hand in everything you do.”

“Work-life fit is about the balance of taking care of yourself” said Donnell, who trained for her first marathon ten years ago. At work, there were times when she pushed herself beyond what she thought she was capable of, which she now credits as a key factor in advancing into the global leadership role she holds today. “Get physically fit and healthy,” she urged our audience. “When you train for a marathon, you build endurance and you build stamina. Its a great analogy for the long haul of leadership and getting to the top.”

5. A sense of humor can advance your career
“Don’t take yourself and others too seriously, said Caroline, adding that “a sense of humor has really carried me through hard times. Its easy to get intimidated by titles and degrees.”

Donnell agrees. “Mind the seriousness and intensity!” she said. “If youre someone that people enjoy being around, youve got a sense of humor, you dont take yourself seriously, youll have followership and that followership will advance your career.

Listen to the entire conversation with Donnell Green and Caroline Simard in the webinar “Take Charge of Your Career Trajectory”.

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