Stop, look, listen: How to make your next move the right one

At some point in your career, you’re likely to find yourself in a period of transition – whether that’s redundancy, waiting for promotion, or simply wondering where to go next. However, if you want to be at the top of your game, it’s important to stop and assess before rushing to your next move.

If you want to be an extraordinary leader, then it’s important to think about what is holding you back. These aren’t necessarily faults as such, more areas that set apart the good leader from the extraordinary.

When building a leadership or executive career, it’s normal to find yourself in a career transition period. This isn’t always because of a particular reason, such as a redundancy, but sometimes something less tangible.

This might be as simple as a feeling that you want to move to the next level – even though you you’re unsure what it might be. Or, a nagging feeling of restlessness, boredom, or that your current role is no longer fulfilling you. You might be needing to feel more challenged, more valued.

However, when this feeling knocks on the door, it’s important to stop, think and evaluate. That way, you can make the most of these periods of transition and use it as a way to be the best leader you can be, rather than rushing to the next thing.

What are my sticking points?

Often, we think about career transitions happening naturally – you do a good job, and you’re easy to work with, and so you are going to be rewarded for your efforts. And while these are certainly essential factors – no-one will promote you without them – they unfortunately aren’t enough on their own.

A successful career transition is something you have to make happen.

Firstly, if you want to be an extraordinary leader, then it’s important to think about what is holding you back. These aren’t necessarily faults as such, more areas that set apart the good leader from the extraordinary.

Therefore, as a first step, try making an honest evaluation of your current work by asking the following questions:

  • Do you know how to lead projects?

  • Do people want to work with you – not just because you’re a nice person, but because you’re an inspiring leader?

  • Are you able to work cross-functionally?

  • Are you delivering exceptional results, or just delivering?

  • Are you as efficient in your work as you could be – or could you find ways to optimise your workflow and work smarter in order to enhance your output?

Moving to self-assessment

Once you have identified what’s holding you back, then the next step is to explore the reasons behind these roadblocks. And it’s not simply about working on a list of tasks, but working on yourself.

As we’ve written before, there are three key facets to a successful leader, and all are related to the self: self-interest, self-awareness and self-esteem. Addressing them is a great way to move your career forward.

Firstly, have a look at how self-interest is impacting your leadership career trajectory. A great leader has low self-interest – because if you make it all about you, then it soon becomes obvious to those around you, which will impact your ability to get a promotion. Some questions to ask yourself around self-interest include:

  • Are you constantly thinking about the business or the enterprise?

  • Are you aware of what’s happening outside your function, department or team?

Self-esteem, meanwhile, comes from what’s happening just out of view and understanding how it is impacting your work. This means looking at areas like:

  • Are you feeling valued and inspired? If not, what needs to change? What are your values and what would make you feel like you are working in a way that’s more aligned? What’s most important to you in your life and career? Are you living the life you want?

  • Do you feel you’re doing a good job, or are you relying on others to tell you you’re doing a good job?

  • If you’re not getting feedback from your manager, can you find a way to create that yourself? What parameters and objectives are you setting or can you set yourself? Can you draw your own guidelines, seek your own feedback?

And finally, there’s self-awareness. Developing self-awareness can and should feel uncomfortable – but it’s how we learn and improve. Here are some steps you can take:

  • First, try seeking feedback. Remember that not everyone is good at giving feedback, while some are very good. The key is to remember that good or bad, feedback is what you make of it. Work out how to read between the lines and approach every bit of feedback as a learning opportunity.

  • Go over past performance reviews. See if there are any patterns, and think about whether you were able to take on board any of that feedback.

  • Make a list of the greatest achievements of your career so far, and the greatest challenges. See if you can use them to find development areas and think about how you might go about acquiring these extra skills.

  • Think about whether you’re growing. Consider the leadership legacy you want to leave, and how you need to grow to get there. Try to set clear goals.

Sometimes, seeing gaps can be a difficult process, and outside help might be necessary. If this is the case, try something like the free Hunton Executive Scorecard to get a deep understanding what you need to do to transform your performance from good to extraordinary.

The fear factor

Another aspect of career transitions to address is the role of fear. Fear has a pervasive impact on leaders, and it feeds a vicious cycle – impacting your performance as a leader. Generally, fear feeds through the three-selfs, increasing your self-interest, while lowering your self-awareness and self-esteem.

So, for example, you might fear making mistakes. This fear might feed your self-interest, causing you to not want to make decisions for fear of appearing stupid, which also comes from a lack of self-esteem and awareness. This in turn might stop you from taking the necessary actions. And the more you wallow in inaction, the more it feeds your self-interested behaviour, and lowers your self-esteem.

However, the fact is, mistakes happen to everyone, and you can only ever make decisions based on the information you had at a particular moment in time. And once you’re strong on the three selfs, it will give you the conviction and initiative to make decisions without fear, ultimately transforming you into a better leader.

Fear can impact on your career transition in other ways. If you are too scared to do a strong self-assessment, and ask yourself the really tough questions, then you are more likely to rush into the next move without reflection and careful consideration. Many people fear not being able to achieve their goal, so they settle for less. Instead, use fear as an opportunity to stretch yourself and improve.

Taking action

When it comes to improvement and playing an active role in your next career move, remember that it’s your responsibility to take action. Yes, the company is responsible for your development to a certain extent, but really, it comes down to you to make sure it happens, or to direct your employer to provide the training you know you need.

When you begin consciously working on the ‘three selfs’, then remember the idea is not to expect sudden change overnight – but, as James Clear famously says in his book Atomic Habits, to work on small, incremental changes. Learn and grow constantly, and ensure you’re doing so in all areas of your work.

Some ways that you can take action include:

  • Engage with people, and listen to their feedback. Understand what other people in the business think of you. No matter how good a leader you are, everyone has weaknesses and finding people who are honest enough to tell you the truth is worth its weight in gold. Also, make sure when someone gives you feedback, you listen to it carefully.

  • Network with intent. Go out and meet people – but listen and learn from them. Every time you meet someone for a coffee, or go to a meeting, go with an objective of what you’re going to get out of it.

  • Monitor improvement. How are you gauging and recording your progress? Are you keeping a journal, asking for further feedback?

  • Get outside help. There’s great advantages to hiring a coach or finding a mentor. This ranges from an informal or informal mentor in your business or industry, to professional coaching services.

A career transition period can happen for a number of reasons. The important thing is to make your next move happen, rather than waiting for it to happen to you. With careful assessment and meaningful actions, it can help you along the path to extraordinary leadership.

If you need any help, have a look at Hunton Executive’s Coaching Services, Exclusive Memberships, or contact us for a confidential chat.

Hunton Executive offers Executive Coaching and Exclusive Membership  services.  Contact us for more information.


Related Articles