5 Ways to Enhance Your Executive Career

5 Ways to Enhance Your Executive Career

Filter tag: Change Management and Executive Outplacement, digital transformation, Leadership Capability

Failure is not the true enemy of success; complacency is. As humans, it is in our nature to stick with what we know and gravitate towards tried-and-tested approaches that have previously yielded results. But as we have learned through ongoing disruption, sometimes what worked before no longer applies.

Many senior executives will have steered their businesses in new directions and made major organisational adjustments as a result of new challenges, but may have neglected to make necessary changes on a personal level. New ways of working require new ways of thinking, leading, communicating, and operating. If you as an individual are not growing and evolving alongside the business and the wider marketplace, you risk negatively impacting your organisational and personal effectiveness as a leader.

Change does not need to be radical to be effective. In fact, smaller sustained action is often more beneficial for generating long term impact than sudden drastic overhauls are. By committing yourself to a series of regular activities, you can help to ensure you are performing just as effectively and consistently at the start of the financial or calendar year as you are at the end.

Here are five pieces of executive career advice and our career coaches’ suggestions for manageable goals you can focus on to achieve long-term, sustainable value at the senior level.


1. Focus on Self-Improvement

In psychology, ‘self-actualisation’ is at the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and is the one step left to strive for after our basic need for sustenance, security, socialisation, and status are met. We are all predisposed to desire to reach our full potential. For many senior executives, there is not much further left to climb up the professional ladder in terms of title or role, and therefore this esteem comes from achieving one’s own internal purpose.

This ideal will look different for everyone, and in our executive career coaching work we advise our clients to gain a clear understanding of what this ideal means to them on both a personal and professional level. What fulfils you most in your daily life? What do you want to be remembered for someday? What values, goals, and priorities drive you at this level in your career? What type of life do you want to be living, and what is your optimal career at this stage?

The next question is focused on the present scenario, namely, how far away are you from reaching that version of yourself, and what are the key steps you can take towards getting there? For many, the easiest place to start is within. Set the intention of taking time out to assess and improve. Take stock of your strengths and weaknesses with full honesty. Assess whether those values and goals you have set for yourself are being served in your current state, and if not, what you could be doing instead to live out those values and reach your goals sooner. The things you valued earlier in your career may differ from what matters most to you now. Your circumstances may have also changed over time. Apply both big- and small-picture thinking here and be willing to shine light on even the most shadowy parts of yourself.

Our advice for executives is to not treat this as a one-off activity. You can set time out for a deep dive, but should check in with yourself at various points throughout the year to ensure you are keeping on the right path. While setting an agenda at the start of your self-improvement efforts can help you keep focus, it is important to remain curious. As we experience more life, our goals, circumstances, and priorities change. We are rarely the exact same people we were in January by the time December rolls back around. Therefore, it is important to stay curious about the world at large, your career, and yourself throughout the year and adapt and flex as needed. These are valuable skills, and this openness and agility will serve you well.


2. Acquire New Skills

Investing time in your own capabilities is always worthwhile for enhancing your value in the marketplace and furthering your own personal growth.

Over time, you may have picked up on a few of your own shortcomings. But one of the best ways to identify what skills will be most valuable for your career is to research macro and general industry trends, as well as those relating to your job function and sector. Gaining an understanding of what’s happening in the marketplace and the wider world can help you to identify opportunities and threats to your business, as well as to your personal growth and progression. We do this regularly with our career coaching clients, and it is majorly beneficial for helping them solidify their career objectives.

Picking up new skills, prioritising continuous learning, and leveraging your existing capabilities in a new role can help you to take advantage of the next growth curve. Our latest RALI insights illustrate that data literacy and digital/technology literacy continue to be key as many organisations ramp up their digital transformation plans. You do not have to learn to code, but you do need to have a general understanding of the role technology is beginning to play in your business, your industry sector, and your customers’ lives. Our insights also show that soft skills such as communications and collaboration continue to matter in the hybrid working world. Also, as previously mentioned, agility and flexibility are high up on the skills agenda in the continuously disrupted marketplace.

These soft skills will take internal work to develop and are learned in practice. As for the rest, you can develop those harder and more technical capabilities through your own research, seeking out training opportunities, enrolling in a course, or attending topical professional events such as those offered throughout the year by Rialto.


3. Reassess Your Leadership Style or Ways of Working

Soft and hard skills may not be the only areas that need adapting to move forward. As we have learned first-hand these past several years, it is often the case that many of the tactics that worked in the past may no longer be effective in the face of new challenges or business conditions.

You may find this is the case for your leadership style or ways of working. Perhaps you have introduced new practices in reaction to challenges or situations that arose in the past and remained on that same path even after the issues were resolved or no longer impacting your business. You may have even resisted change altogether, taking on an ‘if it isn’t broken’ mentality. Either way, you may be backing your team and the business into a corner and stifling their opportunities to flourish.

Many businesses conduct periodic reviews with their teams and leadership, which helps make it easy to glean feedback that can fuel this improvement agenda. These reviews should be approached not as an opportunity to critique your team, but as an opportunity to learn about the business from a different perspective and gain insight into how your leadership is either helping or hindering growth. If your organisation does not conduct these reviews as standard, you can have informal chats with your team or colleagues to discuss what is and is not working within the business and where your leadership could improve. Beyond that, seeking out career coaching can help you gain insight from an objective third party.

Our advice is that this too should not be treated as a one-off activity and should be revisited periodically. Every executive should be regularly collecting feedback day in and day out and adjusting their style accordingly. You may find that your team requires compassion and empathy in one period, and confidence and boldness in another. We never know what the day, month, week, or year will bring when we enter it, so it is imperative to constantly evolve.


4. Refresh Your Personal Digital Brand

How you present yourself within your organisation is important. But it’s also imperative to position yourself appropriately in the external market – i.e. in your industry and the job market. Senior leaders are often the most public-facing members of the organisation, which means that reputation and perception matter in many of these roles. Your reputation is crucial to gaining respect within your industry. For those planning a career change or undergoing the executive job search process, the focus should be on differentiation in a highly competitive senior marketplace. Are you being seen by the right people, and are you making the right impressions?

In all these scenarios, having a strong online presence is incredibly valuable. In our digitally driven age, this has become our frequent first impression of people. Ahead of a meeting, you may run a quick Google search, or before an interview the HR team will most likely review your LinkedIn. These activities enable us to create perceptions about one another before we even meet. It is an inevitable reality of our technology-driven daily lives. Therefore, you need to ensure that you are making the right impression.

Furthermore, your online presence can help attract opportunities for speaking engagements, conference attendance, or even new roles. LinkedIn is a powerful player in the executive jobs market. According to LinkedIn’s own data, 52 million people use the platform to search for jobs each week. Eight people are hired every minute, and 101 job applications are submitted through the site every second. It is an incredibly powerful tool, with benefits that you cannot afford to miss out on.

Our career coaches advise setting aside some time to dedicate to your personal digital brand. Assess which platforms you want to be found on professionally, and work to strengthen your profile. If you haven’t updated your About section, Experience, Education, or profile imagery in a while, make sure they are relevant to your current circumstances, and that they support your strategic objectives. Try to get into the habit of updating these sections whenever new developments happen.

If you aren’t a regular LinkedIn user, it is never too late to start. Many might find LinkedIn a bit daunting, overwhelming, or time consuming. Really, it is not as complicated as it may seem, and it is possible to reap the benefits of LinkedIn without spending all your time on it. Set a block of time aside to overhaul your profile at the start of your efforts, but also spend a little time on it each week to keep up your presence on an ongoing basis. The easiest way to do this is to build LinkedIn into your workday routine. Dedicate five to ten minutes each day checking your notifications and messages, interacting with others on your feed, sharing content, or engaging in Groups. It’s a short bit of time, but through the year it can really add up.

We have a blog series that can help you get started. Alternatively, if you would like individualised help tailored to your specific needs and objectives, we offer bespoke personal digital branding programmes.


5. Grow Your Network

There is more to LinkedIn than thought leadership. LinkedIn is a social networking platform, with the operative word here being ‘networking.’ The value of having a strong professional network cannot be overstated, but it tends to be something we let fall to the wayside over time. Data from McKinsey shows that only 14% of professionals have grown their networks since 2020, while less than 50% reported making any effort to do so. In neglecting your network, you may be missing out on opportunities to grow and enrich your career.

Our career advice in this vein is to make it a point to extend both your physical and virtual network. If you aren’t connected online to those you know physically, be sure to bridge that gap across touchpoints. Online, you should also consider reaching out to those you may not directly know but who may be beneficial contacts for you to have. In fact, research from MIT, Harvard and Stanford found that weaker social connections on LinkedIn have a greater effect on job mobility than stronger, more direct connections. Reaching out to your lesser known, secondary, or third-degree contacts on the platform is more likely to yield opportunities than mining your close personal relationships.

Make time to review your connections to ensure you haven’t missed any key ones, and make the task of growing your network into a regular LinkedIn habit. You could set KPIs for yourself to keep on track through the year, whether that be setting a goal to send a certain number of new connection requests per week, or growing your network by a specific number by a certain date.

We understand that this activity can take a greater time commitment to get right. Taking the time to research those potential connections and sending out requests can require time that busy senior executives do not possess. We do offer a service to alleviate this burden, enabling you to grow your network with minimal effort and focus on the more important task of developing relationships and sharing insights. Contact us to learn more.

In summary, if you have fallen into the trap of becoming complacent with your own personal development, it is time to remedy that. Regularly setting targets for yourself can be a great motivator to enhance and develop as an executive, and are much more likely to generate sustainable long term growth.

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