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From Effective Action to Strategic VisionAlso on issuu.com >
The requirements for getting to the C-suite have changed along with the times. The rate and complexity of change in today’s marketplace dictate a broader understanding of business issues and an ability to be nimble in a rapidly changing economic environment. Technical or functional expertise alone will not get you to the C-suite these days. So what does it take? In my coaching experiences with executives, whether Fortune 100 or Fortune 1000, I have seen the following trends evolve for success in the C-suite: clarity of purpose, an understanding of the broader business, inspirational leadership, and an ability to anticipate and adapt quickly to change. CLARITY OF PURPOSE In business today, there is an increasing emphasis on defining and communicating your personal brand. When we think about brand, the process often starts with a question about what we want to be known for. What do you want people saying about you when you are not in the room? A successful personal brand communicates a clear, consistent message about who you are and what you have to offer. In working with hundreds of executives over many years, I have found that brand is an extension of purpose. Therefore, the ability to clarify our purpose and live into it courageously influences our individual, team, and organizational effectiveness and impact. Clarifying purpose begins with the fundamental question of “why.” Why do you do what you do? Those who are the most effective in getting to and experiencing success in the C-suite are clear about their purpose. Most important, it is a purpose anchored in service beyond themselves. How do you want to be of service as a leader? What contributions do you want to make? Individuals connected to purpose experience high levels of engagement, contribution, and fulfillment, yet questions about purpose are some of the most challenging for people to answer. The temptation is to answer such questions with a statement about what you do versus why you do it. Purpose emanates from your core and describes who you are versus the role you play. It is your call to action. For example, my role is that of an executive coach and leadership development strategist. I do what I do because supporting people in awakening to and achieving their greatest potential is the work that is most meaningful for me and that allows me to make the greatest contribution. Discover your purpose by reflecting on the following:
- The patterns in your life that provide insights about your passions, strengths, and values. Consider how these patterns and experiences have influenced and are demonstrated in your leadership and life today, and which of your passions and values are dormant or underutilized.
- How your passions and values align with the purpose of the organization you wish to lead
- Feedback you have sought to determine how you are showing up to others
- Step outside your comfort zone. Learn to be comfortable in your discomfort.
- Seek experiences such as a task force or other initiative of strategic importance that provide you with a broader understanding of the business and its challenges and opportunities
- Boldly identify ways to promote new growth, new markets, new go-to-market strategies, and new efficiencies
- Ask others, particularly people outside your function, how they think about those challenges and opportunities
- Notice how decisions get made
- Better leverage the diverse talent across functions for a more holistic approach to the market
- Pay attention to the questions you ask yourself and others. Do these questions promote more innovative and strategic thinking? Do they promote deeper understanding?
- Ask yourself how you are defining success. What would cause success in a particular situation?
- Think about other considerations that might be explored. Get in the habit of considering what is possible versus why it can’t be done.
- Provide vision and communicate their connection to the broader strategic context
- Provide leaders with the opportunity to contribute to strategy
- Ask questions and seek input and perspectives from other leaders within the team and across broader groups
- Listen to understand versus waiting to respond
- Seek alternative points of view
- Seek ways to remove silos and promote collaboration
- Encourage change to emerge, and empower other leaders to make the change
- Encourage a culture of constructive disagreement and the sharing of diverse points of view
- Support the success of others, particularly at the peer level
- Communicate, communicate, communicate in ways that others receive the message best
- Take risks in speaking up about changes you see on the horizon
- Promote innovation and creativity in problem solving or opportunity generation
- Influence a culture of broader exploration and risk, and empower others to do the same
- Maintain an insatiable level of curiosity