eLearning Center Demo
For these purposes, early stage is generally defined as the first five to eight years of a person's career. During this phase, learning and applying technical knowledge is the focus of the work. Those who excel in this phase tend to learn the work more quickly, they proactively expand their knowledge, they consistently do more than required, they ask to take on bigger jobs, or they do whatever is assigned better, or do it in some unique or creative way. While doing this work, the best people are demonstrating their work ethic and reliability. They are also learning how to work effectively on cross-functional teams and starting to appreciate the roles of other people and functions in achieving project success. The strongest people at this level learn how to plan and organize their work and to deliver what's promised on time and on budget without making excuses. Getting the job done regardless of the obstacles is one way the best separate themselves from the rest. Those destined for management also begin thinking about improving processes, organizing people, and expanding the use of technology to improve productivity. The bottom line for those who get ahead at this early stage is a consistent pattern of delivering results exceeding expectations. To do this, they look beyond themselves to accomplish any task. As you dig into a candidate's background, look for evidence of these trends and patterns. Balance is the key here, so look for growth on all of the critical dimensions described above, including application of technical skills, working on and leading cross-functional teams, attitude and work ethic, project management skills, a focus on process improvement, and the application of technology in accomplishing much of the work.
When the right people get promoted into management, it's because they have provided evidence of being able to effectively organize, plan, and manage people and resources (i.e., money, time, equipment, and technology). Sometimes the wrong people get promoted, either due to political reasons or the fact that the person doing the promoting didn't understand what it takes to be a successful manager. The best managers seek out larger projects with bigger budgets, more people, more deadlines, more challenges, and more responsibility. During this phase of growth, the most successful managers learn how to execute, delivering consistent results despite the normal problems and challenges. They learn the importance of staff selection and team development, they become strong users of complex IT systems, they focus on process improvement, they learn how to use budgeting and planning tools to meet business objectives, and they become expert at project management. Mid-level managers and supervisors destined for more senior management spots (directors and vice-presidents) do even more. For one thing, they demonstrate a pattern of overcoming bigger problems and unusual challenges and still deliver the results without making excuses. Part of this is due to an ability to start thinking strategically and multi-functionally. They anticipate problems before they occur and they obtain the resources needed to solve the problems without regard to functional barriers.
Look for this combination of breadth of thinking and the organization of resources when interviewing people for management roles and assessing their potential for bigger jobs.
Managing managers, developing plans and tactics to implement strategies, and making sure they happen are the core activities of directors and functional vice-presidents. Getting consistent results through and with people across the whole business enterprise separates the best senior managers from the rest. Those destined to move into the executive ranks not only manage their function (i.e., accounting, engineering, operations, marketing, sales) or department extremely well, but they also have a chance to demonstrate their broad business perspective and capabilities. This includes an understanding and shaping of the business strategy, solid business judgment and complex decision-making, the ability to use and manage financial information, and a multi-functional perspective with an ability to break down functional walls to achieve significant business results. Whether it's running or growing the company, the best people have demonstrated the ability to gather and mobilize all of the required resources (e.g., IT, financial, equipment, people in a variety of business functions and levels, externals including vendors, contractors, and consultants) and manage them successfully to achieve major business objectives. Bad hiring decisions start happening here because the assessment process is compromised in some way. In some cases, executives hire in their own image, or they give undue weight to industry reputation or the person's "experience." Sometimes a person's intelligence, and an ability to think and articulate a plan, is overvalued in comparison to executing and delivering comparable results. Understanding what it takes to be a successful senior manager and assess the potential to become a senior executive is hard work and takes time. In the rush to judgment, too many executive managers pompously go with their gut or their intuition.
Those who get ahead and successfully deliver results at each stage in their career demonstrate common patterns of personal growth and development. Interviewers and managers can use this information to assess a person's ability to handle the current needs of a job as well as the person's potential for growth. Individuals can look at these same patterns to determine what they need to do from a personal-development standpoint to get ahead. Problems occur when people get promoted for the wrong reasons or with fundamental gaps in their development. As I interview candidates for more senior roles, there are a number of big gaps that seem to be most common. You'll probably recognize these in some of the senior managers in your company who are underperforming:
This article originally was published in the Electronic Recruiters Exchange (www.erexchange.com). Check out the ER Exchange for more great recruiting information.