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Proven Strategies For Succeeding When You Are Seconded Or Promoted
It is one thing to desire opportunities to show what you can do in a challenging and/or higher position of responsibility. But it is quite another thing to be able to deliver the kind of performance that convinces decision makers – and others who watch – that you CAN do the job. Some people excel in the organisation when it comes to delivering results as individuals managing themselves and/or teams towards achieving purely technical goals, with clearly defined bottom line results.
But when they are moved higher into executive roles, where people management skills are crucial for success, they simply fall apart. This article offers experience-based suggestions for the employee who aspires to excel when opportunities for secondment or promotion are presented to him/her.
Prepare For It
Nothing can be worse than being hit with news of an assignment of a high profile nature when you never expected it. The motto of the Boy’s Scout is “Be Prepared”. I personally think it is one that every person who expects to advance in any area of endeavour to adopt. What would be the point of having career aspirations, when you are not prepared to take on opportunities to achieve them as and when they present themselves.
“Success is what happens when preparation meets opportunity” – Unknown
You must constantly prepare yourself for the opportunities you hope to get to advance your career, so that when they do come, you will be in a position to give a good enough account of yourself, to convince those who sent you there that they did not make a mistake. Consequently, decision makers would be likely to, in future (a) send you there again, (b) send you on another equally challenging or even higher rated assignment or (c) keep you there (i.e. promote you).
To Prepare Properly, You Will Need To :
1. Investigate the requirements for successfully functioning in the positions you envisage you may have to one day work in. You will also need to identify the key personalities (direct or indirect reports, executives, managers etc) you may have to work with while in those positions. Study their work related behaviour. Learn what the best way to deal with them (in order to do the job properly) is.
Who would be the best person to give you this kind of information? The post-holder of course. And s/he may not necessarily need to be told why you want to know. You could simply start a relationship and show an interest in his/her work, then explore possible ways to be useful to him/her that would enable you see him/her at work – asking questions where possible.
Since you would have no plans to get him/her kicked off his/her job or anything as negative, there would be nothing wrong with adopting this strategy. Of course, if you feel the chances of being second guessed or misunderstood are minimal, you could simply open up and and enlist his/her support – making him/her a “mentor” of sorts.
2. Watch your boss (or the post holder) and other executives you have the potential to cover for, and note (a) what they do and how well they do it (b) what they/their superiors consider important for successful execution of their daily duties.
3. Be aware of the company’s key and/or strategic objectives, and how the position(s)/role(s) you have in mind tie in to the achievement of those valued ends.
How You Must NEVER Think
1. Don’t Think “Finally, I Have Arrived !” You must avoid thinking of the secondment or even the promotion as an end in itself. Understand that it WILL always be a means to achieving a number of other possible career advancement opportunities available to you in the organisation – or even elsewhere. There is no limit to the number of secondment/promotion opportunities you may be afforded. The important thing is for you to make the most of every one you get to ensure you get ahead in the long term.
2. Don’t Think “Great, Here’s An Opportunity For Me To Rest & Be Important Too!” Be very clear in your mind that while THERE you WILL NOT be on a holiday – else, you may end up making yourself look bad by letting down those who took the decision to put your there. That could make the possibility of future opportunities coming your way slim.
Appreciate the fact that you have a rare opportunity to make a good impression before decision makers and the rest of the company while the spotlight, figuratively speaking, is focussed on you. A rare opportunity, which well utilised could enable you take your career to the next level.
I recall during the last opportunity I had to go on secondment to a higher position, I told my wife jokingly to forget that I existed for the 6 week duration of the assignment, because I was determined to make sure I proved those who chose me to do the job did not make a mistake.
3. Don’t Assume “Management Courses Are Adequate”. People attend management courses all the time. Yet it is very often little details like those just mentioned that cause them to fail, NOT a lack of awareness of what they can do with the knowledge gained from those courses! That’s why I consider this section the most important part of this article.
So get books written by people who have the experience based insight that TEACH how to succeed at what you aim to do. Also, spend time with knowledgeable others.
TIP: To constantly keep yourself thinking right, so you do not lose sight of the above, I urge you to periodically ask yourself the following question: “If this was MY company, and I had employees, what would be my minimum expectations of the person holding this particular position I aspire towards, if MY company is to succeed?”
Take action based on the answer your conscience and instinct for self-preservation put in your mind. You cannot possibly go wrong that way!
Two Factors That Could Create (Secondment/Promotion) Openings In Your Company For You
1. A Crisis : A post-holder suddenly resigns, retires, passes on etc. Something not really planned for in the short term by the company, making it necessary to immediately find a competent hand to fill in, even if only temporarily.
Situations like this make decision makers look for employees who (a) can learn quickly (b) can handle stress and uncertainty without falling apart (c) know how to quickly establish relationships, build friendships/loyalties and get people to do things even though they may have little or no authority over them.
People with such qualities are often able to settle into new/different jobs at short notice, with minimal “turbulence” or ripple effects being felt in the company. If your antecedents suggest you have these qualities, you might tend to get chosen over colleagues, when situations like these arise.
Apart from gaining valuably varied experiences that will equip you to do even better in future, you will also have an opportunity in each instance, to showcase your abilities to those who matter. THAT, if you do well, is likely to work in your favour when they need to make a choice between you and some other person(s).
2. Part Of A Corporate Employee Talent Development Strategy
Progressive minded decision makers, in a bid to build a pool of talented employees to choose from in order to meet the company’s future leadership needs, sometimes take risks by temporarily re-deploying young, inexperienced employees, with “potential”, into challenging positions that may NOT necessarily offer higher responsibility.
In doing the above, management will often be hopeful that their gamble pays off, and the individual comes away with a useful development experience that s/he can apply productively at a later stage of his/her career. Typically, they will seek to expose such talented people to different areas of the business that they have identified to provide useful opportunities for development that is crucial for improved career performance.
In the case described above, it only follows that you (as the employee) are unlikely to be told “what’s going on” or why YOU have been chosen. You would therefore be WISE not to begin assuming you are being prepared for a promotion or something similar. It could just be part of a bigger plan being implemented for a number of individuals identified to have “leadership potential”.
Over time, as you all show your “stuff”, some of you may be “dropped” or “passed over”. In other words, nothing can be considered to be certain or permanent. That’s why you will be better off putting in your very best performances ANYWHERE and ANYTIME you have the opportunity.
How You NEED to Think
You may or may not be given timely notice of your secondment or promotion to allow you prepare to really get on with it. However, I will suggest that you try – very hard – to ensure you do all that is listed below as early as possible in your commencement of duties in the new position. This will give you the best chance of delivering a satisfactory performance.
I say this with every sense of responsibility because I know from experience that it is an approach that will help you “refocus” and “condition” your mind towards doing the job in a way that you can exceed expectations of you
1. Seek To Add NEW/UNIQUE Value while there by setting valid goals. The best way is to start by doing an in-depth situation analysis. Make it your objective to quickly learn as much about the post-holder’s job as s/he knows. And by the way, you will NOT achieve this by sticking to only the handover notes s/he gives to YOU!!
Read past memos/reports; talk to old and experienced hands; learn the history of the place (from the lower hands TOO (!) via informal chats), and what the persisting, nagging and limiting problems or issues are, which if taken away would really move things forward faster and better. Then pick one or more of such issues and make it (or them) key deliverable(s) you want to pursue while there.
2. Review Your Personal Learning/Work Style and see how it agrees with the requirements for delivering successfully on the NEW job. If you are for instance not very comfortable dealing with overly aggressive persons and asserting yourself to get difficult individuals to do things they are reluctant to do, it might not be a good idea to aim for a fast-paced Bottling Hall Manager’s job that sometimes demands “something like that” of the post-holder.
Except of course you are prepared to make needed adjustments in your style or personality to deal with that requirement. If you fail to address such potential inadequacies in your “style”, you might end up doing that job and coming out looking ineffective or “weak” because you could not put your foot down when some person(s) proved difficult – to the point that set targets were missed.
3. Identify And Win Over The Informal/Opinion Leaders: Some people do not have formal authority assigned to them in the structure of the organisation. Yet, they can wield more power – literally speaking – over the rest of the workforce including YOUR team members! If you fail to acknowledge this, and find a way to use it to your advantage, you will struggle to get things done – especially when such opinion leaders do not agree with what you want to do. Addressing this potential problem effectively can gain you excellent allies in these opinion leaders, who will ultimately make your work easier.
4. Learn From Others: Ask past post-holders how they did the jobs while there – What worked or did not work? You would take in all that is said to you, but ruminate over it later, in private, then decide what to keep or discard.
5. Find Out What Answers You Must Have At Your Fingertips: I once had a boss – Greg – who would have checked what was happening across the different units on site BEFORE coming to meet the duty brewer (sometimes me) in the office. After exchanging formalities, he would then ask, “so what’s happening (say) in the brewhouse”. If – as the duty brewer – one had not done a recent check with the men, most of us brewers knew it was always better to say so than try to bluff one’s way through. Greg would most likely already have a good idea of “what’s going on”, before coming to you! He knew the job, and challenged us to be like him – bringing the best out of all those who worked with him in the process.
Sometimes he would phone-in on night shifts, speak to all the operatives to know the state of work progress in each area BEFORE calling the duty manager’s office to ask the same questions! If you were not on top of your job, you would look very bad. This made most of us learn what types of information to always make notes of hourly on our worksheets, from which we then answered any questions we were asked. Depending on the type of job you are assigned to, it may be necessary for you to learn what answers you need to always be able to give your superiors if/when they enquire about work progress in your area.
Nothing could be more indicative of ineptitude than an inability to supply critical information about an area of work one is supposed to be responsible for. When you are put in a position of responsibility, it is with the assumption that as an adult, you will not need to be reminded of the importance of staying on top of your job, in a way that enhances the efficiency of the larger organisation. If a superior who needs information from you therefore cannot get it, you would by implication have fallen short of a basic requirement for leading others.
Incidentally, the people management approach described above(in which the boss tries to get some of the answers before coming to ask his/her report), is one that you may want to adopt in managing those who have to report to you. Greg’s methods were NOT just effective in getting people to SIT UP on the job, but they were also an excellent way of developing people to function close to their full potential.
He wasn’t trying to catch anyone out – he just wanted to avoid being mis-informed, deliberately or otherwise, to the extent that HE could look bad to HIS own boss(es). I am able to say this, because I benefitted from that approach (and also saw it help the department excel many times) as a brewer reporting to Greg over a number of years.
Final Words: Hopefully the ideas offered in this article will serve some useful purpose in helping you prepare to SEIZE the opportunities that present WILL themselves to you, to show your company’s management that you can deliver results in leadership positions in the organisation. Good luck!
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