How often are strategic decisions affecting your business being made without you? Why are some in the “inner circle” and some are not, who may be at the same or even a lower level than you?
An example: Jan is a really smart Senior Director, works incredible hours, delivers projects on time and under budget with crazy deadlines and scarce resources. She fulfills her commitments, always surpasses expectations and has done so for years. She thinks she should be a VP by now, and wonders why others are passing her by. Why are they in the confidence of key decision makers when she is not? Her boss keeps telling her she is great on delivering, but needs her to think more strategically and show up with more “executive presence” in meetings. It’s a very familiar story. Can you relate?
Here are the 5 big differentiators for getting and keeping a “Seat”:
- Do Your Job as a Leader by Generating Bigger Bets: As a leader you’ve got to be finding, developing, and delivering on Bigger Bets for your business, and the broader business. Bigger Bets are new ideas that others have not introduced that go beyond your current commitments and improve the business. You have to make a visible effort to find those projects that differentiate you and your organization as being “forward focused” and really making a difference across the business.
- Articulate and Align Others to Your Bigger Bets: You must be able to articulate those Bigger Bet ideas publicly in clear, inclusive ways so that others want to help you succeed (or at least not be obstacles). Then you must be able to work with the inevitable bumps in the road and politics that come along whenever change is underway. Show versatility and resilience!
- Demonstrate Executive Presence: You need to have the personal presence to be strong, clear, and not back down from objections. Showing that you are listening deeply to the concerns of others is also critical. Echo concerns back to those that express them in empathetic ways. That doesn’t mean you have to back down. Hold your ground for what you think is right in ways that don’t exclude others. This will support the perception that you are the “across the business” team player that senior leaders need to be.
- Ask Insightful Questions: Ask high level questions in meetings that speak to the broadest business context, always keeping the most senior leader’s strategies and goals in mind.
- Draw Insightful Conclusions: Draw insightful conclusions and make recommendations about what you are learning from others and your own work. SPEAK UP! Many talented leaders stay quiet in meetings far too long for fear of making a mistake aloud. You don’t need to have an idea fully baked before speaking. Show you are intelligently thinking about the problem, share your ideas and ask for input from others. This is one of the more overlooked areas in meetings. Everyone is spending too much time protecting their turf instead of trying to solve the problems in front of you. Focus on what actually has to be solved.
These are the critical behaviors C-Level Executives always cite as most wanted in their direct reports. Try them out and practice them — your senior leaders will appreciate it!