If you are one of those workaholics who live in their jobs day-in and day-out and never find time to develop themselves or broaden their perspectives, you probably know what mid-career crises are. Your tight hold on your job and long crazy hours might have paid off well in the early part of your career but now right in the middle of your career you feel stuck and somewhat paralyzed.
Marshall Goldsmith, a well known career and leadership expert wrote a book titled as ‘What Got You Here Won’t Get You There’. In this bestseller publication Goldsmith explains why many of our ‘good’ habits that help us get through the early part of our career may prohibit us moving into the C-Level suite.
The career journey from mid to the top is quite different and requires a different path and strategy. It’s not about the depth of your technical knowledge or putting in extra long hours. It’s all about your leadership style and how you create your image and influence across your entire organization.
Leadership development is a difficult process. Despite decades of research and tons of literature available there is no single model that can guarantee creating good leaders. The best learning models are probably those based on personal coaching, mentoring and following a role model in addition to a personal commitment and dedication of time, energy and focus.
If you feel stuck in the middle of your career, try the following five approaches:
1. Shift Your Focus from Job to Your Career and Profession
Jobs are temporary; career or profession is permanent. Think and plan of your next role internally or externally. Have you prepared a long term career plan? Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now? 10 years from now? Plan and target positions based on your career plan. Even if you do not want to change your current employer, go and try in the job market once in every 2 year to see where do you stand in a real competitive environment, then work passionately to fill the gaps.
2. Identify a Great Leader as Your Role Model
Leadership is about inspiring. You may not understand inspiration if you are not inspired by a great leader. Pick a role model in your relevant field. You can be lucky if you have a great leader in your work environment. But don’t limit yourself to your workplace leaders. Look broadly. Find the best leaders around the world to choose as your role model. Pick Steve Jobs, for example, if you are inspired by his work and read his biography and watch his movie. Your role model if chosen wisely will amazingly provide you tremendous energy, inspiration and motivation to help you develop your own leadership style.
3. Find Out a Mentor or Coach
Besides a role model, you need someone who can hold your hand and help you go through the journey you are on. Ideally, a mentor who has gone through a similar path before is the best choice. However it’s not easy to find good mentors and have them committed to you. An alternative could be to engage a coach with similar credentials. The idea is to save you time and energy from mistakes that can be avoided. Leadership is an art. You cannot learn sky diving just by reading books. You need to jump in the air and must have a coach to teach you the skills and help you avoid crucial mistakes.
4. Learn the Subject of Strategy
Strategy is becoming an unavoidable skill for every senior level executive no matter what function you belong to. Unfortunately, strategy talk is cheap and most senior executives think they master strategy. Strategy is a fast evolving subject. Even if you had some formal strategy training few years ago, it may be obsolete. The speed with which business world is changing has significantly reduced the lifecycle of strategies. To get your hands around, read a good recently published strategy book or attend a strategy or balanced scorecard training. Once you gain some confidence, try to get involved into the strategy process of your business.
5. Work on Enhancing Your Influence
Great leaders are the ones who have high level of influence. To progress faster in your career, you must develop your influence. It’s not easy and takes time, energy and patience. If you have serious ambition to reach at the top, follow and passionately work on developing and enhancing the 10 leadership competencies as highlighted in CFO Leadership Competency Model that ultimately leads to building up your influence. Read my blog on developing influence. Influence is a powerful weapon in your hands when you deal with your seniors. This one single skill may amazingly reduce your challenges in many other areas when it comes to growing your career.
Saleem Sufi is the Founder & President of MECA CFO Alliance, the largest CFO group in Middle East. He also leads MECA CFO Academy that offers programs in Leadership and Strategy for senior Finance professionals. You may read his blogs onwww.SaleemSufi.com
To join his ‘Becoming CFO’ Coaching Program click here.