The Road to Executive Level Leadership

The Road to Executive Leadership

With there being a lot fewer executive positions than mid-level management roles, the road to executive leadership is highly competitive. Therefore, it’s abundantly more difficult to climb to this next rung of the corporate ladder. 

However, with the right attitude, work ethic and connections, you can prove your value and earn that coveted executive title and responsibility.

1. Understand And Embody ‘Executive Presence’

It seems as though the concept and practices of executive presence have tremendously increased in value over the years.  Last week we dove deep into what EP really is and found that, at the roots, executive presence is the powerful ability to inspire confidence.

Executive presence includes first impressions of appearance, interpersonal communication skills, and body language.  EP consists of effective listening, effectively maneuvering through office politics and exuding authentic charisma. 

Technical skills might have landed the job, but an executive presence moves a manager up. 

 2. Develop Your Strategic Thinking Skills

Lower levels of leadership focus on the day-to-day execution of the strategy. Executive levels focus on developing a broader view of the organization.

The development of strategic thinking allows you to become aware of the big picture.  Develop more skills in seeing the interconnections between the operating systems and long game strategy. Lean into thinking more strategically and from a systems perspective.

3. Maximize your Influence.

Given that great leadership is about influence, and not authority, you have to learn how to maximize your influence. Your ability to influence others is impacted by how you are perceived. Therefore, you have to figure out how to increase the perception of your value. The single best way to do that is to solve important problems for influential executives. 

4. Step Outside Your Comfort Zone – Network with the Entire Team

To lead at the executive level requires comfort outside of usual routines.  It’s relatively easy to limit our office interactions to those inside our sphere of expertise, however, to build confidence as a leader you’ll want to connect with the entire team.  Start expanding your tribe outside your core area.

Network with people from different parts of your organization in order to learn different business functions or program areas.

Build your reputation outside your comfort zone.  This way if/when opportunities open for advancement, decision-makers already know your name, and know it well.

5. Work With A Leadership Development Coach

As professional athletes know well, a trusted coach can soften the learning curve dramatically. A coach will guide you to clearly see your strengths, blind spots, and competencies. They will also show you how to identify the people and roles that will enable you to thrive.

Some coaches are focused on skill development, others are sounding boards. Find a coach who can do both and make the investment. 

6. Build Self-Awareness For Growth.

This is a big one. It can also be the toughest one to chew on. Building greater self-awareness about one’s leadership presence and effectiveness is a key piece to preparing for an executive-level position. If possible, participate in a 360-degree feedback process.

This process can uncover your leadership strengths to build upon, as well as, identify others’ perceptions of your efficacy.  Disparities included.

7. Be Clear in Your Goals.

If you have a clear goal for your career, let it be known. Ask your immediate supervisor to craft a skill plan for you on exactly what you need to do to get to the level you want. Then start executing. It will take a combination of building relationships, professional training, results you’ve achieved, and lots and lots of emotional intelligence. If you really are in it for the long haul, let it be known.

8. Develop Executive Courage.

It’s usually the tough decisions that move the needle. Therefore, executive courage around action, communication and trust is a critical leadership skill. Like any muscle, the more you flex it, the stronger it becomes. You cultivate executive courage by trying new strategies (even if some fail), engaging in crucial conversations and confronting challenging situations that trigger discomfort.

9. Manage Up

Managing up is a common challenge for emerging leaders. It’s important to manage your own boss, as well as extended relationships with your boss’ boss, board members, C-level executives, etc. These relationships directly correlate with the level of influence you have. Knowing what to communicate, when and with whom, will increase the visibility of your impact as a leader. 

10. Think About What The Company Needs

The end result, on the road to executive leadership, you want to build your business acumen. By showing you can make good judgments and quick decisions, you show preparedness toward the next step in career growth.

An executive is accountable at a whole new level. If a manager wants to move up, they need to think about what the company needs. Have the team you manage to be outstanding. Be known as someone who helps other people succeed. Be someone whose word is impeccable.

What Executive Presence Really Is

Executive Presence - What it really is.

In 2014, Sylvia Ann Hewlett and her team huddled over an extensive collection of data drawn from 14 sectors of corporate America. The goal was to identify, at the corporate level, what Executive Presence really is and why we need it.  

What the data reflected was that Executive Presence is not so much about performance. It’s not about what you do when ‘delivering the goods’ or ‘hitting the numbers’.  It’s about what you signal. 

Executive Presence or EP. What is it and where do I get some?

In the simplest terms, executive presence is about the ability to inspire confidence. It includes first impressions of appearance, interpersonal communication skills, and body language.  Executive presence consists of effective listening, effectively maneuvering through office politics and exuding authentic charisma. 

As a leader, you inspire confidence by showing that you are capable and reliable. Which is critical to being trustworthy of supporters.  By contrast, inspiring confidence with your own superiors shows that you have the potential for greater achievements in career growth.

The 3 Main Pillars of Executive Presence

As part of the 2014 study, the group singled out 3 main traits associated with EP.

#1. Gravitas

Gravitas is the projection of credibility and assertiveness with the confidence to convey a clear message.  In comparison, gravitas is the way of signaling impact in a compelling manner.

As an example, the study asked senior leaders who they saw as career role models.  Significantly, the #1 role model identified was Nelson Mandala.  A man that earned his placement through sincerity and understanding the power of symbolism.  Nelson Mandala had gravitas in spades and showed it by routinely connecting at a very human level.

#2. Communication

Communication includes the ability to read an audience. To assess a complex situation and act accordingly. This is the ability to command a room. It’s what you say, when you say it, how you say it, and to whom you say it. Communication is also portrayed through the masterful use of body language and concise speaking skills.

These skills combined show you’re able to communicate the authority of a leader.

#3. Appearance

While the data showed appearance to be the smaller piece of the puzzle, it is still worth significant attention. Appearance is commonly referred to as “looking the part.”

By taking the time to look and feel your best, it shows consideration and respect toward the people you interact with. Appearance also includes dressing appropriately for the environment and occasion which in a corporate setting carries high-level importance.

Why You Need Executive Presence

Ultimately, executive presence determines whether you gain access to opportunity.

There’s a saying in leadership, “All the important decisions about you will be made when you’re not in the room.” It’s true. In particular, whether it’s a decision about an important opportunity, a promotion to a critical role or an assignment to a high-visibility project, it’s likely that you won’t be in the room.

Therefore, the opportunities you gain access to depend on the confidence you’ve already inspired in the decision-makers. Additionally, the more significant the opportunity, the more important executive presence becomes.

How To Build Your Executive Presence

As with any other skill, some people are naturally more gifted at executive presence than others. That being said, everyone can improve their EP with focus and practice.

Cultivate a foundation of quiet confidence.

At its core, executive presence is about confidence, yet “the more confidence the better” isn’t always the way. Presence is confidence without arrogance.

Sadly, confidence is often confused with cockiness however, the truly “present” executive is one who doesn’t need to trumpet his achievements. Instead, he or she has an internal resolve driven by a solid sense of self-worth. As a result, they have learned healthy, effective ways of dealing with challenges and relationships.

Key points to focus on while developing your own executive presence:

  • Learn to operate effectively under stress.
  • Become an excellent listener. 
  • Build your communication skills.
  • Understand how others experience you.
  • Have a vision, and articulate it well.

Most importantly, find your voice as an executive.

Identify your assets and leverage them to the max. Some people are naturally gregarious and can fill a room with their personality. Others rely on their listening ability, sense of timing, and ability to maintain their composure when others get emotional.

In an increasingly diverse world, executive presence will look very different from one executive to another. Just keep building the confidence of others that can step you up as a leader if and when times get tough.

7 Success Tips to Setting Career Goals

7 steps to setting career goals

With the beginning of every new year and now a new decade, many are looking within and setting career goals for short and long-game success.  Have a read for 7 success tips to setting career goals at any time of year!

Setting goals is a significant component of the career planning process. To have a successful and satisfying career, it’s best to define your goals and devise a strategy to achieve them. Having a career action plan is like a roadmap that will guide you from choosing a satisfying occupation to progressing through an extended and successful career.

How Setting Goals Affects Your Career Success

Look at your career action plan as a 2-sided approach with both long and short-term goals. Without a doubt, the more specific you can be about each step will greatly increase your probability of achievement.

Especially if or when barriers get in the way.  Life moves quick and ultimately we never know what experience is just around the corner. Your plan can be your peace of mind in the event of sudden unexpected changes.

The Difference Between Short and Long Term Goals

Consider a short-term goal as obtainable in approximately six months.  Long-term goals look ahead to roughly three to five years to achieve. Naturally, the timelines are somewhat fluid. Sometimes you can crack a short-term goal in fewer than three months and other times a long-term one may reach fulfillment towards the end of a decade.

Just ask Bill and Melinda Gates how long it’s has taken to eradicate Polio in 3rd world regions or how many years they’ve been working on developing clean and safe nuclear power plants for global benefit.

To achieve each long-term goal, you must first accomplish a series of short-term goals.

For example, let’s say you aspire to become a doctor. That may be your ultimate long-term goal, but before you can tackle it, you must achieve a few others, such as complete college (four years), medical school (another four years), and a medical residency (three to eight years).

Along the road to reaching those long-term goals, there are several short-term goals to clear as well. Such as, excelling in entrance exams and applying to college, medical school, and eventually residencies. Since grades matter when it comes to achieving those goals, it is necessary to break your short-term goals down even further, like earning a high-grade point average and remembering to eat healthy along the way.

7 Ways to Increase Your Chances of Reaching Your Goals

Your hard work will play the most prominent role in your success, but if you don’t formulate your goals correctly, it will be much more challenging to accomplish them. Ideally, your short-term and long-term goals meet the following criteria:

#1: Have specific goals. You might say, “I want to be successful.” Well, who doesn’t? But can you define what success means? Success to one person may mean becoming CEO of a company while to another person it may mean getting home from work no later than 6 p.m.

#2: Your goals must be measurable. Have a timeframe for achieving your goals and a way to determine when you have reached them.

#3: Don’t be negative. Your goal should be something you want rather than something you want to avoid. It is much better to say, for instance, “I want to improve my skills over the next four years so that I qualify for a better job” than “I don’t want to be stuck in this job for another four years.”

#4: Be realistic. Your long-term goals must be compatible with your abilities and skills. Stating “I want to win a Grammy Award” if you can’t sing or play an instrument will set you up for failure.

#5: Your goal must be reachable within your time frame. Break a long-term goal down into smaller goals. It is better to take baby steps than one big giant leap.

#6: Pair each goal with an action. For instance, if your goal is to become a writer, sign up for a writing class. 

#7: Be flexible. Don’t give up if you encounter barriers that threaten to impede your progress. Instead, modify your goals accordingly. As an example, say you need to continue working but this is keeping you from going to college full-time. Be flexible. Although it won’t be possible to finish your bachelor’s degree in four years, you can still enroll in school part-time and take a bit longer.

The point is, goals can become actuality with patience, perseverance and a solid plan. Need help?  Our team at Power Writers Canada is here to help. We offer Resume updates, Cover Letters, LinkedIn Optimization, Recruiter Services, and Professional Career Coaching.

Book a free 15-min consult here https://calendly.com/powerwritersusa-ca Toggle panel: Yoast SEO

Executive Job Search Strategy

7 steps to an executive job search

Remember when you were early in your career and you’d apply for a job then go home and wait?  You knew you had all the required skills and experience, so it was just a matter of time. A few days go by and the call comes in. The next day is the interview.  3 days later you have the job and you start next week. Well, those days are long since gone! Nowadays if you don’t have an executive job search strategy, you come close to setting yourself up to fail.

Truthfully, now that you’ve positioned your career higher up the salary chain, those quick job search turnaround days are non-existent. The path to senior and executive-level job placement is an extended process that requires patience and good strategy.

Pro Tip: Manage Expectations

The challenge is to manage expectations that meet the reality of your job search. On-average an executive-level job search requires 4 months to 1 year from the initial point of contact to an actual first day of employment.

The average time it takes to find a job depends on many factors such as:

  • Time of year
  • Geographical demand for your skills
  • Whether you encounter ageism
  • Experience and salary requirements
  • Professional network
  • Job search skills

Time of Year

Q4 is traditionally the slowest hiring period so don’t go rushing into October with high hopes of December placement. However, in contrast, the busiest season for hiring is the first quarter. Manage expectations and remain positive to keep pushing on through slower times of the year.

Geography

All across the country, there are region-specific industry dominants. Depending on your career path, your advancement could depend on your flexibility towards a potential move of house and home.  Consider your chosen industry and region when outlining your timeline for ideal job placement.

Experience & Salary

Aim for your goals, however, do a little research into the companies you are applying to. You want to ensure they have the capacity and need for your set of skills and salary requirements.  Are they in an upswing or decline?  Have their social media channels just blasted news of a hiring fair? These elements can either hinder or expedite the hiring process and in turn, your job search strategy.

Your Network is Gold.

We’ve mentioned this in previous posts and it’s worth rehashing. Your network is solid gold.  At the Senior and Executive career levels, your LinkedIn profile should already be well polished with several years of connections to draw from. When it comes to job searching, this is your ideal go-to for making quick work of landing a job with ease and accuracy. 

Your job search skills.

How’s your job search game?  Ultimately, your drive dictates how fast a job can be obtained.  The steps are defined, now it’s on you to get organized and progress with confidence.

A quick note on ageism.

If you’ve been in the workforce for a while, the chances are good that you’ve seen or experienced age discrimination at work—as two out of three workers between ages 45 and 74 have at some point, according to AARP. From a recruiter’s perspective, there are concerns that older employees not only require increased salaries but will be with the company for a shorter period.   Recruiters and hiring managers are looking for the big picture. 

Ageism can slow your job search process by the assumption that retirement is near.

If you are in a category susceptible to ageism, be prepared to talk about how much longer you plan to work.  Make sure you’re up to speed on technology and current education, as applicable.

Additionally, find the right company by considering what work environment is ideal for your own daily routine. Some company cultures trend younger – startups, for instance- and you may not want to be significantly older than everyone else in the room.  Or that could be exactly what you seek. Either way, due diligence is highly beneficial.

Resume specifics: To show yourself in the best light, hire a professional resume writer to modernize and retool your resume. Seriously, at this stage, a professional is a value-added investment to career advancement.

Extensive work history can begin to look muddled on a resume, as can the skills section after a few decades of career growth. Allowing a professional to optimize your resume, and LinkedIn for that matter will give you the leg up with ATS and recruiter processes.

Here is a link to our schedule at Power Writers Canada so you can see availability and book a free 15-min consult. https://calendly.com/powerwritersusa-ca



The Definition of Customer and User Experiences

User Experience (UX) is not the same as Customer Experience (CX).

For those nestled into the industries that nurture Customer Experience and User Experience, the definitions are second nature, however, for those of us outside the loop, the concepts aren’t as transparent.

We looked deeper and discovered what companies and employees are really doing to define the customer and user experience from beginning to end.

Beginning with the basics, we needed to understand the actual differences between User Experience and Customer Experience. In looking for common descriptions, we found this simple graphic from Uxpin

Definition of customer experience and user experience.

What Sectors are Affected?

  • Customer Service
  • Advertising
  • Brand Specialists
  • Product Strategists
  • Content Developers
  • Data Experts
  • Designers

Consider CX as the whole enchilada customer journey.

By definition, a good customer experience means that the individual’s experience during all points of contact matches the individual’s expectations.

In practice, Customer Experience is truly playing the long game. As a result, we need to think about the product or service’s interaction with customers over the entire duration of the relationship. 

We’re not only considering that first initial pull into the sales funnel but the long-range assembly of every point of contact moving forward.

CX and UX think big picture

Think of UX as the route to meet the exact needs of the customer, without fuss or bother.

cx and ux think ease of use and efficiency

User experience is a person’s emotions and attitudes about using your product or service, along with, all things practical, experiential and meaningful. Without a doubt, in order to achieve high-quality user experience, there must be a seamless merging of services including engineering, marketing, graphic and industrial design, alongside interface design.

UX is highly subjective to the individual customer or client. As an example, consider your own human-computer interactions and how the ownership of a product has affected your experience.

So how do these 2 complex roles tie into your career? Has your company or organization implemented more advanced strategies for the betterment of the client/customer experience?

If you’re considering career advancement, we highly recommend you get your resume in front of a professional resume writer who understands the job requirements for CX and UX careers. In other words, connect with us at PWU!

Our team is here to help with Resume Writing Services, Cover Letter Writing, LinkedIn Profile Updates, and Recruiter Resume Distribution.  Contact us for a free consultation and resume evaluation.