Women in Management

by Rita Bailey

Middle manager - strategy

I believe that every person is born with talent.

Maya Angelou

At this level, you are established. Your technical know-how and experience are something to feel proud about. So are you being noticed for your work and the results you achieve?

If you need to address this, now is the time to plan and gather support for your move up into the next level. Waiting to be noticed is passive; supporting your own career jump is active.

Let’s ask this: are you still excited about the working week ahead or are you ready to move?

Consider the following questions:

  • Are you clear about what your next move is or, at the very least, in what direction you plan to move?
  • Have you identified what specific action(s) you should be taking that can help you get that senior role?
  • Are you connected to the right people – the ones who can support you?

What is your plan?

Having a plan, complete with your personal goals and outcomes, is a pre-requisite for ensuring you achieve that senior role. Think about what is you want and when you actually want to achieve it. A written plan makes it easy to get clear about what you are aiming for.

Deciding on a time scale will keep you focused, while having a coach or a mentor to support you in developing a dynamic and robust plan will strengthen your strategy for your next level.

Beginning with ‘the end in mind’, what is the outcome you are planning to achieve? Work your way back, imagining the steps you took to get your outcome. This will help you to identify smaller goals along the way, such as acquiring essential new skills, or finding a mentor.

Be prepared to step out of your comfort zone, because your goal for a new senior position will be significant; as such, it will require you to step out and adopt some strategies, such as networking or raising your profile, with which you may or may not initially feel comfortable.

As with any new plan, we all need encouragement with our new direction. So decide if you are ready for this change and start to take action to make it happen. One way to get you going is to take a good look at where you are now and then at your end goal. Next, ask yourself this: if you do nothing, how will that be for you? What happens if you do not do anything?

Your own self-audit

A good place to start is to conduct an audit on what you have accomplished, the difference you have made (impact) and what you have learned from those activities.

Secondly, ensure you can identify your own strengths and weaknesses. Take time to consider your abilities, noting where you have added value and contributed to the business. Your self review can reveal much to you that can help you with planning for your next senior post.

A self-audit is a moment of truth. It can reveal what your employer wants next in that role you are after, and get you to honestly answer whether you can match up to that right now, or whether you can be ready in three, six or twelve months’ time. Maybe some extra time would give you a chance to fill any gaps in your skills or experience, either within or externally to your organisation.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Can you take steps to consolidate some experience by undertaking short-term roles (project secondments, maternity cover) which could open up new opportunities for you?
  • Could you take on additional responsibilities or undertake a new project which could open up new markets for the company or even offer to improve systems or processes?
  • Could you seek to start up a well-needed project for the organisation?

The key thing is that any project you undertake must fill any skills or experience gaps, but a major bonus is that it can also raise your profile in the organisation. In the meantime, allow yourself to keep in mind the skills, experience and qualities that the next senior role will demand from you.

How do others see you?

Sometimes it’s not so easy to see ourselves (that includes strengths too!). So consider this: how do you know what others think of you? What are you known for?

One of the ways to find out is consider what team members, bosses, clients and suppliers have said about you in the past. Remember, compliments count as well as constructive feedback. But good and/or bad, you need to get additional perspectives if you are to build a more accurate picture of yourself, your abilities and your experience. This will enable you to align yourself more clearly with the executive role.

Here are some suggestions:

  • What was your last performance appraisal like?

You can use recent performance reviews, annual appraisals, and 360 degree assessment feedback that you may have received to help you start to build a recent and accurate picture. Are there things on which people often comment?

  • Explore the possibilities of undertaking on-line assessments that can give you a better understanding of your values, motivation and thinking and behavioural styles, how you make decisions, your communication style and how resilient you are. Your own HR people will be able to advise on tools they regularly use to develop managers, but you can access popular tools, such as the Myers Briggs Indicator, on line, as well as other personality and leadership assessment tools that support your development
  • If you’re still keen to increase your self-awareness while accelerating your move to the next level, consider utilising independent professional support to provide you with constructive on-going feedback.
  • As with athletes raising their game to compete in a major championship, independent feedback can enable you to formulate clear action to take, while giving you feedback and supporting your success. Working with this level of objectivity can boost your confidence.