How to drive your career forward

Many managers and leaders ask me for advice on what type of professional development they should be undertaking to improve both their performance in their current role but also support their longer-term career aspirations. It is important to understand that your leadership development needs are different at key transition points in your career.

Often the struggle to devise a performance development plan resides with a lack of understanding of the different types of learning and development associated with the different stages of your career evolution. At each level of leadership, we face complex situations that need balancing. We experience ever-increasing demands to assimilate information, to prioritise and decide, to take action and achieve results. To do this, we need to be flexible, agile, and master new skills.

I encourage you to identify the stage where you are at in your career as the starting point for planning your professional development and learning priorities:
As a First Time Manager the skills and behaviours that make you a highly successful team member are very different to those required to be a successful manager of a high performing team. There is a significant shift required from performing tasks yourself to communicating task priorities for others to complete. New skills to activate include planning, delegation, coaching for motivation and development, providing effective feedback and driving successful team delivery and outcomes.

Becoming a Manager of a team of Managers generally means assuming responsibility for the greatest number of people in the organisation that perform the majority of the day-to-day work. This transition involves a shift from in-depth technical understanding and detail to directing and relying on others providing the necessary know-how. Quality, company productivity and financial results become your key performance measures. You no longer have full knowledge and must rely on the day-to-day decision making being the responsibility of your team. Without making behavioural shifts towards successful prioritisation, delegation and achieving results through others, this is where high achievers can burn out or fail.

The appointment to a Functional Manager (Head of Department, Director) role is both exciting and daunting. You have the opportunity and position to make a real difference to your organisation. Responsibilities are broadened and include direct accountability for the people and annual plans that your department delivers as well as setting and driving overall organisation strategy. With this responsibility comes the juggling of multiple roles and numerous agendas. Collaborating with other departments and embracing a more holistic business outlook is pivotal for success.

The biggest shift Business Leaders (General Manager, CEO, Business Owner) need to make is moving from a functional execution mindset to a long-term strategic view and profit perspective. Business Leaders need to master the paradox of short-term delivery with long-term thinking, balancing the present needs of the business whilst simultaneously planning for goals out into the future. Multiple layers of team management and development and balancing the competition for resources between functional managers are two major transitional skills to be mastered.

Becoming a Group Business Leader (Managing multiple businesses across diverse portfolios) requires a transition from driving the success of your own business to supporting others to achieve success in their businesses. You move from strategic planning to strategic evaluation for resource deployment.

You require a sophisticated corporate perspective to ask the right questions, analyse the right data and weigh up risks in decision making with a portfolio strategy. The development of business leaders, succession planning, performance processes, organisational capability and promoting a performance culture is critical to your success at this level.

Where you are at with your career evolution will guide you towards the most relevant learning and development activities in designing your personal and professional development plan. For a confidential coffee chat on personal and professional development ideas for supporting you, your team or your organisation, please email fleur@blueberryinstitute.com or call 0404 559 244, for a complimentary coffee discussion.