Career Transitions-What is your next role, or your next career?

Next week I will be presenting the third in a series of webinars for the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) on Career Transitions and how to prepare for your next role.  The webinar will cover a number of areas, but one that I wanted talk a little about today involves “career derailers” and how to avoid or overcome them.  The webinar will cover ten derailers in all, but I will talk about 3 of them in this post.  You can learn more about the webinar by going to this link.

Key derailment factors that I will talk about in this post come from Lombardo and McCall’s publication, “Off the Track-Why and How Successful Executives get off the track.”      I first learned about the derailment concept when I became certified in the CCL (Center for Creative Leadership) Benchmarks tool.  Benchmarks is the staple 360 feedback tool that CCL has used for years and it has recently gone through a new updated that makes it even better than ever.  One of the sections in Benchmarks allows the individual who is receiving feedback to get derailment-based feedback from their peers, subordinates and superiors based on workplace issues and behaviors.  The derailers from the Lombardo and McCall book are similar, but a little more expansive than the CCL version in Benchmarks.

You will find the three derailment factors I will discuss listed below:

1.  Inability to think strategically

2.  Overdependence on a mentor or advocate

3.  Failing to staff effectively

Let’s look at each of these individually and then talk about them in tandem.

I have known many solid performers who struggled mightily in their attempt to surround themselves with a capable team.  There are a number of reasons that this might occur.  Some of the more common reasons might include:

  • Inability to delegate
  • Surrounding themselves with clones versus complements
  • Lack of a process for hiring

I can share personally that I have struggled in many prior roles with my ability to delegate effectively.  I have a number of perfectionist tendencies that kept me from fully entrusting others to do the jobs that I should have been delegating.  I know this pain.  I have seen others who didn’t realize that an effective team included members with complementary skills versus similar skills.  I usually address this issue with groups by using the basketball team analogy.  The best basketball team would not include 5 point guards or 5 centers.      That kind of team would be doomed to failure.  The same holds true in the workplace.

I have worked with firms in my consulting work that lacked an effective process for hiring and that typically would lead back to leaders who either would not, or could not, put effective processes into place to source, identify and vet the best talent for the season of the firm.  This challenge is especially pervasive in the startup or entrepreneurial firm.

The inability to think strategically is a common malady and it is more common among those leaders who began their careers with a specific skill or technical competence such as engineering, science or accounting and finance.  Leaders with those kinds of backgrounds are so accustomed to achieving success through their analytical skills that they resort to this kind of “ground level” thinking when times get tough.  Finding ways for young to mid-level high potentials to gain a broad range of experiences is one good way of helping gifted analytical from being paralyzed with their gifts.  As I learned so well at CCL, “overuse of any strength becomes a liability.”

Overdependence on a mentor or advocate is a challenge I have never dealt with personally because I have moved every 5 or 6 years in my career and have worked in multiple industries and roles as I have moved.  I have seen evidence of others who were so intrinsically linked      to their sponsor or mentor that they would never gain the confidence of others within their organizations.  These leaders were seen as appendages of their sponsor or mentor and were always handicapped when that sponsor or mentor went away.

The webinar next week will go into greater detail about the other 7 derailment factors as well as a whole host of other factors to consider prior to and during any career transition.  I hope you will consider joining us, or you can also contact me after the webinar and I will provide you a PDF version of the presentation.

Career transition is not just a consideration, it is a reality.  A little preparation can help avoid a lot of perspiration.