To keep on doing that consistently and well, you need to develop ways (and habits) of finding knowledge, experience and motivation. You will also identify and begin to use helpers, supporters, advocates. Whatever you call them, they are your resources for learning your trade and progressing within and beyond it.
Your ‘trade’ changes over your time in business. To begin with, your knowledge of accounts, systems, manufacturing processes – whatever your speciality is – will be the most important aspect of your trade. As time progresses and you climb the ladder to more managerial roles, your trade changes to one of getting the most out of the assets at your disposal. This will include growing the people around you and I’ll return to that theme later in the month.
One of my fundamental principles has always been to embrace as wide a range of experiences and responsibility as possible. If there’s some learning to be had, be the first in the queue. If you were told never to volunteer, I’m here to advocate that you always volunteer. Whatever you do, do it as well as you can, but doing it, taking action, is always the first step.
Helpers will come in all shapes and sizes, and it is your job to see them and to learn from them. Find role models and observe, and learn from, how they do what they do best. And then adapt that for your style and approach. Modelling others, but not slavishly copying them, is a powerful strategy for improving your own performance. As soon as you can find yourself someone (or more than one) who will work with you as a mentor, coach, sounding board or adviser. I’m not going to get hung up on definitions here. Mentors and coaches may operate differently, but they are all part of a continuum called helping. You will need helpers, so begin identifying and working with them, from an early stage. You will need at least one such person at all stages of your business career. They are the people who will see what you don’t and keep you on track as a result.
Getting promoted and occupying the roles that you want for your development require you to begin acting as if you are already in the role. Bill Docherty MBE, an Academy Speaker, believes that far too many people fail to achieve because they simply don’t understand that to achieve a more senior role you need to act that way.
You also have to be developing your replacement. As a pragmatic businessman, I’m unlikely to promote you if I’m uncertain whether your current job will be properly performed once you move from it. It is a risk that you might find yourself squeezed out by your replacement with nowhere to go yourself, but that is a risk you need to take in order to move out of a role into another more challenging one.
Next time, I’ll look at how you move from being coached to being the coach. Though, as you’ll understand from this article, you’ll never actually stop being coached. You never stop learning. It is your choice to ensure that you apply that learning. I strongly suggest that you continue to choose to take action on your learning. There is no substitute for knowledge and experience.
Brian Chernett is founder of The Academy for Chief Executives (ACE) – He has 43 years’ experience as managing director of private and public companies, including subsidiaries of Booker Bros McConnell, the Landmark Group, and several other major companies. Find out more at www.chiefexecutive.com.
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