In my last post, I described a sad reality I see far too often in corporate America. If you don’t have the time to go back and read it, here it is in a nutshell: organizations promote new up-and-comers, fail to give them the support they need, and then end up having to let them go.
What in the world would lead a company to act this way? Here are a few of the reasons I looked at:
- No Clear Succession Plan – The organization has no plan in place to smoothly transition managers into their new positions.
- Lack of Transparency and Unclear Expectations – Neither the employee nor his or her supervisor(s) have a clear of what aims and means the position should entail.
- A Thin Bench – Employees are promoted with little regard for whether they’re truly qualified or not.
- Lack of Resources – Promotees aren’t given what they need to thrive in their new position.
So, what’s an employee to do? Forego all promotion for fear that it’ll land them unemployed?
At the end of that post, I promised to show you how to insulate yourself from this kind of organizational malpractice. Here are four ways to do just that:
1. Find a Mentor (or Three)
In the 21st century, mentorship has been in steady decline. Many explanations for this trend have been offered. Several of them can obviously be dismissed as myths, especially the idea that millennials are just uninterested in taking advice from their elders. As Deloitte has shown, not only do the vast majority of millennials surveyed (94%) appreciate the advice they’ve received from mentors, but they’re more than twice as likely to stay with an organization which provides mentorship.
For employees who want to succeed, finding a mentor is crucial—regardless of whether the organization assigns you one or not. An experienced mentor will be far more familiar with the internal workings of your company than you will. Even better, he or she will be likely connected to several key leaders in your organization and able to advocate on your behalf.
Long story short, mentors offer you the benefits of both wisdom and advocacy. If you want to advance in your organization, those are two key ingredients you can’t afford to miss.
2. Enroll in a Leadership Development Program
While 83% of surveyed organizations acknowledge their need to develop leaders at every level, only 5% have actually managed to do so. Only 19% think they’re very effective at developing leaders and a remarkable 71% don’t think their people can lead their companies in the future.
All this points to one piece of advice for anyone on their way up the corporate ladder: don’t count on your organization to give you what you need to grow as a leader. At best, you might receive the occasional training session. At worst, you’ll be completely on your own.
That means it’s up to you to invest in yourself as a leader.
Thankfully, the past few decades have seen an explosion in leadership development materials. In addition to all the great books that have been written (see below), there are plenty of professional leadership training courses available out there.
There’s a well-worn line that’s been floating around for quite a while: “Readers are leaders.”
As clichéd as it may sound, that bit of wisdom could not be any truer. The easiest and best way to grow into your new position and ensure you have the resources to meet new challenges is to crawl into the heads of successful people who’ve gone before you.
How do you do that? Easy—read their books.
Here’s a short list to help you get started:
- Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, First, Break All the Rules
- Simon Sinek, Start with Why
- Jim Collins, Good to Great
- John C. Maxwell, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership
- Peter F. Drucker, The Essential Drucker
- Kenneth H. Blanchard and Spencer Johnson, The One Minute Manger
- Natasha Bowman, You Can’t Do That at Work
4. Communicate with Your Superiors
In a study conducted by Harvard Business Publishing in 2013, 76% of organizations identified communication as a vital skill to be developed in middle managers. Wisely, they recognized the importance of equipping managers to communicate well with their subordinates.
The lines of communication, however, can’t only flow down the organization chart. Managers need to learn the skill of regularly reporting to and collaborating with senior leadership. As a new promotee, nothing will help you succeed more than constant contact with your superiors.
If you’re unclear on expectations, push the dialogue. If you don’t have what you need to get your job done, clearly show what your lack of resourcing will cost the organization. Solicit as much feedback as possible and seek to implement what you hear.
In summary, the most important thing you can do to climb the corporate ladder without falling off is to adopt the set of habits I’ve shared above: seek out mentorship, invest in leadership training, read plenty of good books, and communicate freely.
Stick to these things, and you’ll be able to step into that next position with confidence.