As part of our coaching program for executives, I conduct feedback interviews with 10-12 people who work closely with the client. These are superiors, peers and direct reports who provide a broad perspective about a client’s strengths and weaknesses. As coaching goes, this is one of the ‘gold mines’ for identifying potential areas for improvement.
Last week, one of the high-level executives I interviewed recommended this approach for the client we were discussing:
“It starts with recognizing what made him successful before is not going to get him to the company’s desired future state. If he does a better job improving his skill sets then he can help us get there. These provide opportunities to search the soul and think about what he can do to help us. He needs to identify three weaknesses – and we all have them – and challenge himself to turn those into strengths.”
Too often leaders at all levels incorrectly assume that the skills and traits that made them successful – and likely earned them a promotion – end up being mostly irrelevant as their roles evolve into higher responsibility. That’s why great sales people struggle to be great sales managers… why outstanding workers struggle to be outstanding managers… why knowledge experts struggle to be generalists.
The key to making a successful transition up the leadership ladder is to avoid fooling yourself into thinking anything you did previously has relevance in your new role. While what you previously did provided a solid foundation, it is imperative you learn new ways to work with and engage people. Your main responsibility as a leader is to lead, not do. Marshall Goldsmith wrote it best in his 2007 bestseller by the same name: “What got you here won’t get you there.”
Many smaller communities – even those in the suburbs of a big city like Houston – have weekly newspapers that cover the local scene…from new business openings, to city council updates, to high school sports. As major dailies across the country struggle for survival, local weeklies continue to arrive in mailboxes with pictures of the latest Rotary luncheon speakers or features on the latest resident to turn 100.
One reason the local angle resonates with readers is there’s something special about seeing a story on a restaurant you frequent or recognizing the photo of your fifth grader’s friend who finished as runner-up in the spelling bee. That’s much more personable than traveling on business and picking up the Omaha World-Herald or Memphis Commercial Appeal – or even reading about the politics of your nearest metropolitan area.
Residents of a community share a bond – a oneness – that’s somewhat like supporting a high school football team. All week long kids separate into smaller social groups and pursue individual interests, but starting with the Friday afternoon pep rally, they join together in a unified front aimed squarely at defeating their archrivals on the other side of the field.
There is an opportunity in your business to capitalize on that same camaraderie. Becoming the local expert positions you in a unique way to stand out from competitors. Identifying the bullet points of your unique knowledge base and communicating it in written pieces and speaking platforms positions you for success. When people think, “Wow, she really knows her stuff,” you’re building a relationship of trust that exceeds even a glowing front page article. (If your company is global, you would do well to think of situations where you can act local!)