Executive career planning: 5 things you need to do to reach C-level

Executive career planning - 5 things you need to do to reach C level

You’ve worked hard to build your career, putting in long hours, taking risks, and managing a small team. Now you’re ready to take it to the next level, the C-level that is! There’s nothing quite like being able to shape and direct a company’s future.

Unfortunately, opportunities to join the C-level are scarce. So when the chance does come up, you need to be ready. And a little career planning can go a long way. Give yourself a couple of years to follow a plan to gain the relevant experience and become a mature leader.

Here are 5 things to add to your career plan:

1. Be good at what you do… but not too good

This sounds counter intuitive, but good leaders are often effective because they took the time to build broad experience rather than a deep specialization.

You might be a specialist now, and that’s great – it gives you a solid foundation on which to build – but if you want to be seen as C-level material, you need to prove that you love and understand the business more than your craft.

Pursuing something like an MBA or Business Management course would give you a good grasp of business fundamentals and may put you ahead of other candidates.

2. Be practical

Good leaders are strategic thinkers and problem solvers. Any successful CEO knows that they need to surround themselves with knowledgeable, practical people who will do what it takes to get results.

You’re already a manager, so you probably know this by now, but the key here is to be proactive rather than reactive. Are you able to assess a situation, pinpoint the problem, and get to work fixing it?

I recommend looking for a mentor, reading widely (or listening to audio books), and cultivating the ability to form your own opinions on the ever-changing trends and advice.

3. Make good hiring decisions

There are few things as painful in the workplace as hiring the wrong person. And when you’re C-level, the stakes are even higher. Managers are costly to find and onboard, and high attrition rates not only reflect badly on the C-suite and affect company culture, they also impact the bottom line.

Often, the problem doesn’t lie in finding the right person but in keeping them. A senior employee typically decides within the first 30 days whether your company is home or not, so you need to do everything in your power to make them feel at home and to help them become effective.

If your company doesn’t use tailored employee integration pathways yet, then maybe it’s time to raise the issue with HR. Employee integration programs ensure that each new hire is given every chance to succeed. And software like vi’s is designed to automate the process, saving time and money.

4. Work on your management style

You might be used to managing millennials and young teams, but are you prepared to manage the managers? Middle managers are just that – they’re stuck in the middle. They need to keep communication lines open between senior management and regular employees, which means that they need to understand and support the vision.

The most important thing you can do for managers is to let them know that you’ve got their backs. Show them that, while you obviously expect results, you also care about helping them look after and grow their teams. Encourage them to mentor and train their employees and help them boost team productivity.

I recommend talking to one or two C-level leaders you respect. Ask them how their management style has changed.

5. Agree to disagree

People don’t make it to the top by being pushovers. When you reach the C-level, you’ll be working with experienced, opinionated, and sometimes abrasive personalities. Do you have the maturity to handle these people and the criticism they might send your way?

Consider working with a career coach or a senior HR leader to get a better understanding of how you deal with these situations and to learn some coping mechanisms.

Sometimes it’s all about being able to agree to disagree so that everyone can move on.

Don’t let yourself down

Failing to plan is planning to fail. You’re obviously a talented and driven individual, so a little planning could take you a long way!

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