Building a leadership career in a large corporate environment isn’t easy. With all the change in the corporate world today, you need to make some smart moves to get things done. By that I mean, exert your influence, get results and grow your career.
Having worked in a large pharmaceutical corporation for most of my career and, in recent years, coached executives as part of a newer phase in my career, I see a few topics that come up repeatedly. Here are a few observations and some tips on how to increase your leadership effectiveness and Unleash Your Potential in a Corporate Environment.
Tip #1 Build Bridges
Too often leaders get stuck by adopting a territorial view of the world. Resolving complex business problems requires stepping out of your own view of the world, asking a few questions and building bridges to collaborate with business partners.
What do you really want to accomplish and why? What would benefit the customer, the company, and your staff? Are there any financial or other boundaries? Using this information, ask yourself how should you behave with your business partners? Take the initiative. The more conflict you anticipate, elevate your thinking to align on higher level business objectives.
Then, with your business partners, identify and evaluate potential strategies to achieve those business objectives. If tough choices need to be made, be the one to step up and create transparency so than timely decisions can be made.
Tip #2 Deliver on Some Big Stuff
The performance management (PM) landscape is changing today. Corporations are moving from more structured PM processes, involving the setting of annual objectives, mid-year and end of year reviews with formalized ratings to a more open and flexible process with regular check in’s. You may already know the story.
Don’t confuse what is going on. Performance is important, is has been important, it is important and it will always be important. The process to monitor performance and, in theory, motivate people may change, but getting results is critical.
Many years ago, while working in a corporate financial leadership position, and feeling well prepared, I went into my VP’s office with a list of ~ 8 business objectives to discuss for the following year. My VP challenged the number of objectives (too many) and asked me what I could really do to add significant value?
I found this exercise very beneficial in helping me narrow my focus to 2-3 major objectives and making sure that I was able to deliver on some big outcomes. I used this approach myself, with my staff, and today with my clients to find ways to deliver significant value and create positive performance outcomes.
Tip #3 Take on the Tough Conversations
We often go to enormous lengths to avoid having the right conversation with the right person. It could be a boss, a staff member, a peer. Why do we do this? We don’t like the other person? We don’t want to deal with the potential conflict? It’s easier and more fun to complain to someone else? If you want to grow as a leader you need to step up to this roadblock and be accountable.
The trick is to create a safe environment for the conversation. Show respect to the other person, state your intentions and any facts you can bring to the table. Invite the other person into the conversation and allow them to share their perspectives Take it one step at a time and keep the dialogue flowing. Also, work hard and early on building positive working relationships with people you know you need to influence. This makes it easier to have those tough conversations.
Leaders who take on tough conversations gain the respect of their staff, peers and get noticed by higher levels of leadership for their ability to get results and engage others.
Tip #4 What Would You Do at the Next Level?
Most corporate executives I coach are looking to advance their careers and move to higher levels of responsibility.
A typical question I ask executives is: How would you solve a particular problem or take on a responsibility if you were at the next level in the organizational hierarchy? It’s amazing how this changes a person’s perspective and opens up the mind to possibilities.
Over the years I sat in many meetings where promotion decisions were made. Getting promoted requires that a person is already functioning at the next level. I always encouraged business analysts that reported to me to take that leap early on in their careers and make it a habit.
Tip #5 Finally, Don’t Step on Your Own Toes
A little self-awareness is a good think. What do you enjoy doing, what are your unique talents and how can you use them to help your deliver results? On the flip side, and especially in leadership positions, what are your blind spots, what behaviors do you demonstrate that can sabotage your career?
I follow professional golf, in particular, Rory McIlroy from Northern Ireland. The difference in professional golf between winning and being in the middle of the pack is very small. Often, the winner is not the golfer who has the most birdies, but the golfer who avoids the bogies or double bogies.
I believe it is the same at work, we need to leverage our strengths and be alert to the part of our game that can produce bogies and double bogies. That may come in many forms, defensiveness, micro management, being overly assertive, avoiding conflict etc. Then make a few adjustments, often very small adjustments, that can make a big difference.