How to Custom-design your Next Role or Get on the Executive Fast-Track
If you’re not networking internally within your company (as explained in the last post) then you are minimizing your opportunities to grow in an organization. A record-breaking number of people are now just deciding to jump ship for better opportunities and pay. In a way, this is working for them if their career path stays linear and conventional. However, if you want to jump on the executive-fast-track or need to move laterally in order to get on an executive fast-track, then networking internally is a must-do.
Last week we talked about the process of laying the groundwork and building the reputation that will enable you to establish yourself as an influential change agent. This week, we will focus on how to actually enact the change, which will help you propel your career forward, or over, depending on what you want to do.
Here are 4 questions to ask your internal network that will enable you to identify gaps and propose solutions:
- What are the biggest challenges to delivering quality on time
- What do you see as being potential solutions?
- Have you already shared both the challenges and solutions and, if so, what occurred as a result?
- What are the potential costs, logistics, and objections of the solutions? (Validate with other stakeholders)
Instead of identifying problems that are solvable in your internal networking efforts, you may be discouraged by what you learn and determine that your company is a sinking ship (subscribe and watch for my future post: Signs Your Company Is A Sinking Ship).
So, you have a decision to make: do you abandon ship at the first possible opportunity or do you try to save the passengers still onboard, some of whom are completely oblivious?
I have to warn you that after you spend some time getting to know the people who will be impacted far after you find a new role, you may feel a sense of obligation to help them in some way. This could be by stepping up as a change agent, which means sticking your neck out and risking your own job, but enabling you to go down in a blaze of glory, or you could just vow to help other people land into something new, perhaps your new company. Either way, understand all the risks – you face resistance, and the level of resistance you face is commensurate with the strength of the system that wants to maintain the status quo. Also, companies have reacted negatively, and sometimes litigiously, to talent poaching.
You may or may not find an outspoken internal sponsor, which is always preferred. This process is applicable whether you do or do not.
The problems that seem insurmountable are usually people-related, not process, systems or resources related. Unless you have training and experience as a transformative coach or therapist, you probably don’t want to touch the people problems. Also, when you are impacted directly by those people problems, it can be that much more challenging to be an objective solution provider. If you find that the organization has people problems, you can anonymously nominate them for an engagement audit to a transformational coach.
If, however, you find that the issues are related to systems, processes, technologies, culture, communication, or policies, and you are inspired and prepared to assume ownership, below is the way to make a business case. Owning the issue doesn’t mean being solely responsible for execution, but it does mean being accountable for results. You have to know in these cases what your strengths are and to understand how you can compensate where you are not strong and delegate. You also need to understand all of the costs associated with additional resources, whether internal or external. If other people want to be a part of the solution, they also have to be able to complete their primary responsibilities with the same quality and would need buy-in from their immediate supervisors. Some of these supervisors you would have wanted to also meet with, because if you knew first hand about their struggles to deliver with limited resources, you will understand that they will object to sacrificing any of their resources.
If there are any potential objections NOT addressed yet, ask the people most impacted by a lack of change to help determine if there is a way to address the objection, either in a work-around or in a way that makes the potential benefit worth the potential risks.
Let’s assume you have worked out a solution that accommodates the needs of many and resolves potential objections to adoption of the solution.
Schedule a meeting and make sure you get as many stakeholders in attendance at the same time. Make the invitation sizzle by making it relevant and critical to everyone. Make sure that you are as judicious with the time as possible so that you can minimize the time it takes to make your case, but allow for ample time to discuss adoption. The subject could be, “I need 15-20 minutes of your time to reveal an issue I discovered that stands to cost us $500K, but if resolved will earn us an increased market share.”
Every won argument starts with first presenting what all parties agree is true, whether these are facts or stories (e.g. of a story – Employees are lazy; vs facts – Projects are delivered 3 months late 85% of the time.) Establish from the get go that you are on the same side. “We all agree that we want our company to be known for its premium products and world-class customer service. Right?” State a few more, and then ask them to confirm their agreement.
Instead of saying, “Kathy from Accounts Payable doesn’t understand why we are paying premium prices for subpar vendor performance, but that’s procurement’s department, so she feels powerless,” share new insights in as measurable, concrete terms as possible without divulging the identity of your sources.
Let each one sink in before you move on to the next.
For example –
“Did you know…
- The #1 customer complaint is failure to deliver on time.
- In fact, 65% of the customer service issues tracked are related to this issue.
- 95% of the people I met with over the past 3 months attribute bugs in 3rd party software to the inability to deliver on time.
- There were 2,000 bugs over the past 3 months, which took an average of 1 hour to resolve each, for a total of 2,000 hours of lost productivity.
- 35% of these people are actively seeking a new position right now, because no one has pulled the trigger on a new vendor nor has anyone held the vendor accountable, and they don’t feel they can properly meet their performance metrics and often have to stay extra hours to complete their deliverable.
- If we lose even only 25% of those people, our current project portfolio will be stalled by 6 months or more, and we will lose $35K on service-level agreement shortcomings, $300K in lost revenue, and can anticipate losing $75K on lost productivity while we stretch the remaining staff, and $25K-50K on higher salaries for new hires who will demand more, and also risk further turnover, which will bump these numbers up even higher.”
Then propose solutions in as straightforward terms as possible.
For example –
- “Immediate actions that will prevent these losses:
- 1st level – Assign a new point of contact for the vendor and partner with legal to evaluate the service-level agreement and determine if there is a breach of contract.
- 2nd level- Liaise with business, technology and users to determine software requirements and evaluate additional vendors
Put all known objections on the table, so that you can outline how you already thought of a way to work around the objection, or why the cost-benefit of the solution outweighs potential losses.
Connect the dots back to what you all agree on and why the solutions proposed are the best (cheapest, fastest, etc.) way to achieve what you want.
Specify YOUR role and what for what results you will be accountable. Make it look like a job description. You will have to address if you plan on taking this on a special project above and beyond your current duties, or if you plan on fully exiting your role and if/how you will backfill your own position.
My former client success assistant, MJ, called this a roleposal. I knew I wanted to hire her, and knew her personality and networking efforts had potential value to my brand, but I was too in the midst of business development and client delivery to put the dots together. She knew she wanted to work for me, too, and took on the task of outlining what she would do to take some business development and client delivery and follow-up off my hands, the timeline and volume of delivery success, and how she would be compensated based on what I explained to her about my budget. She even outlined how she would get on-boarded with minimal hands-on training. It was an easy yet.
Yes, this outline does put simply what can be a huge, complex investment of time. It’s true – the executive fast-track is not an overnight success method. If you really read the stories of “overnight successes,” you’ll find that one big break may have launched that person into the spotlight, but it was years of effort that helped them be in the right place at the right time.
If you aren’t willing to do this work, you may want to rethink an executive career.
If you are excited by the prospect of making a large contribution to your company, its people and its customers/clients, but you want a partner, mentor, and coach for the long-haul, book a free consultation with me so that we can determine if we are a match to work together. Not only can we coach you through the challenges (even people challenges) that occur, but we can also set you up with a mentor who has already achieved what you hope to in a relevant industry/business.
Karen Huller, author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days (bit.ly/GetFocusIn30), is founder of Epic Careering, a corporate consulting and career management firm specializing in executive branding and conscious culture, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a workflow gamification company that turns work into productive play.
While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales.
Karen was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends in hiring and careering. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer and Certified Career Transition Consultant and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot.
She was an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business and recently instructed for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy at Cabrini College, where her students won the national competition and were named America’s Top Young Entrepreneurs.