After nearly a decade of experience in my field of work, I got to meet and work with an array of highly skilled and intelligent professionals. I am every time, very impressed by their vast expertise in their respective field.
Nevertheless, despite the high IQ levels of some and the ability of others to grasp extremely intricate concepts, I have always been flabbergasted by how many (and I say MANY) professionals, lack the proper judgment and attitudes to successfully navigate through the murky waters of the corporate world.
You may have all the right credentials and there might not be enough space on your business cards, to list the 10 certifications you’ve earned, if you are not mindful of the following pitfalls, you are working towards a rut. And I am sorry to say it, but unless you change your behavior, you will NEVER be “promotion-ready”.
Until you understand the factors that are at play when promotion decisions are made by upper management, you are simply spinning your wheels!
So what are your senior management and human resources representatives not telling you, about not getting that promotion that you’ve been “working hard” for…?
- Lacking the soft skills required for the job
While you might be the subject expert matter in that field, if you are coming up short on some of these essential soft skills like conflict resolution, negotiation, persuasion, leadership or communication, your candidacy WILL be put aside.
Some soft skills might be more desirable than others depending on the type and level of the position. Once you have identified what soft skills are important for the sought after position, get out of your comfort zone and start developing them progressively. Read some books or take a course on how to improve these skills. Observe and learn tips from other colleagues or mentors who have mastered the desired skill. And more importantly practice! Volunteering to lead a meeting or presentation, enrolling in a toastmaster’s program are good ways to start honing your new skill.
You know what they say: Fake it until you make it! Yes… At first, stepping out of your comfort zone will feel awkward. You will feel like an impostor, doing something you don’t think you are equipped to do… but keep working at it! It will get easier and you will soon see astonishing results!
- Not taking constructive feedback well
You have to be able to receive feedback without being on the defensive. Resist the burning urge to defend your point of view. Listen carefully and let the thoughts sink in. Some of the feedback might even point you in the right direction as to what to improve to fast track your career. So next time a co-worker shares some feedback, listen up and KEEP CALM.
Even if the comments are inappropriate or completely wrong, acknowledge them but don’t take it personal. You must separate your personal feelings from your actual work. Only by doing so, will you have the detachment required to receive and appreciate the feedback, while keeping your composure.
Upper management expects leaders to be in control of their emotions, to take feedback positively and to respond to it in a professional manner.
- Having poor problem solving skills
Make no mistakes, accepting a management position implicitly means that you are ready to deal with and solve the daily obstacles that will come between your team and its goals. Therefore, you have to learn to be part of the solution and not the problem!
Don’t just highlight the issues! Analyze the situation and come up with potential solutions. Be proactive and suggest creative ways to prevent similar situations from reoccurring. Collaborate with others (even if it might be outside of your assigned tasks). B a positive influence among your colleagues and embrace change!
Until you become a problem solver who can come up potential solutions, you only be will be viewed as a petulant whiner…
- Unable to deal with ambiguity
Do you have a structured mind and like to always split things in two? Black or white, good or bad, right or wrong? Do you detest gray zones and almost lose it when you cannot get a definitive yes or no from someone?
If your answers were a series of yeses… Houston, we’ve got a problem!
Reality check: Life is full of complexities and the corporate world is no exception to that rule. There is no recipe book or step-by-step guide to tackle challenges. As a senior manager you are expected to deal with ambiguity and demonstrate resilience when the going gets tough.
Learn to deal with the unexpected by working on your flexibility. Let go of that urge to control everything. You must also learn how to take action without a complete picture of the situation. Expect the gray zones and don’t let that put you off track.
- Being cynical about management
This is probably one of the most irrational behavior I have seen people display in organizations! Let’s be clear, if you are disenchanted to the point where you become cynical and never miss an opportunity to publicly vent about management (for instance in Town Hall meetings!)… I say it’s about time to update your resume! Need I say more…?
The point is, if you aspire to be a leader in your organization, you need to start acting like one! Let go of that “employee” mindset. Avoid pontificating about the problems in the hallways, regardless of how frustrating the situation might be. Instead, address it with your management in a professional and constructive manner. Moreover, bring potential solutions to the problems. A positive attitude will definitely get you faster to the top!
I am certain that there are many other “unwritten rules” influencing management’s decision in selecting the “best” candidate for any given leadership role. Hence why the process can be so frustrating and leave the most qualified contender totally confused. But, what many qualified employees fail to realize is that as you go up the corporate ladder, your technical skills become less important. What will give you a real competitive edge are your strategic thinking and your emotional intelligence.
I would love to hear from you now: What are some of the pitfalls you have managed to avoid in order to lead a successful career? Feel free to share your comments below!