How do you take control of your career advancement?
I always say if the opportunities aren’t given to you, then make them yourself.
One of the drawbacks of my personality is that I react emotionally – I get myself worked up when things don’t go my way. I have historically done myself more harm than good by either internalizing the anger and frustration, or doing or saying something stupid, negatively impacting my career and my health.
Only after does logic and reasonableness kick in…
I’ve been stuck in jobs where I felt under-appreciated and under-utilized, but making a career shift is not easy if you have a family to feed and bills to pay.
However, spend 25 years in the workforce and you learn what it takes to advance your career.
Recently, I have considered the concept of spiritual career advancement, which is a mindset that encompasses more than your career where climbing the corporate ladder becomes secondary to improving your character, letting the chips fall where they may.
The spiritual career advancement mindset recognizes our career depends heavily on our ability to understand and relate to people and helps us shift our focus on improving our ability to handle people and challenges.
As a hockey coach, I often told my players, “Don’t focus on the score board, focus on playing hard each and every shift. The scoreboard will take care of itself.”
In leadership development circles, Robin Sharma captures a similar concept in his book Leader Without A Title – we don’t need to be in a leadership position to be good at leading and focus on improving those skills.
In essence, Robin Sharma is saying, “Improve your character.”
I have seen time and time again people being promoted because they are good at their craft and then poisoning the work environment because they are not good at managing people and have poor leadership competencies.
They did not take time to develop their character, so people suffer as a result.
As we move up the corporate ladder, being good in our role requires different skills. We should focus more on our people and management skills than we do on our craft (ie. developer, plumber, construction worker, analyst, etc.) as illustrated in Figure 1.
Change is required if you want to be a good leader at work and the biggest change should be in you.
We can learn a craft in school or we can be mentored / apprenticed – or some combination of those two approaches. However, it takes years to master the skills for the craft.
I don’t know why we feel leadership should be different. I would suggest learning a craft is 10x easier than learning to be a wise leader / manager…and wisdom takes time to accumulate; knowing how to change a tire is different than knowing when the tire needs to be changed.
Interpersonal relationships get increasingly complex the hire you go in an organization, which requires a ton of character to navigate well. You will confront narcissism, personality conflict, Machiavellianism, personal competition, favoritism, nepotism…all very frustrating and stress-inducing, even with a strong character.
If you want to climb the corporate ladder, you need to make a conscious choice to shift your focus from practicing the skills used in mastering your craft to learning and practicing the skills used to manage people.
3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;
4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.
Romans 5:3-4 (NIV)
So spiritual career advancement means improving your character and if we improve our character, advancement will follow. Now let’s explore how.
Military-Grade Leadership Competencies
I was introduced to the subject of leadership competencies in government, where I worked for 11 years.
Since that time, I’ve seen a number of competency models. The links below provide great information if you’re interested in the topic of leadership competencies:
- The Most Important Leadership Competencies, According to Leaders Around the World – a great collection of data from the minds of leaders with experience, all around the world.
- Army Core Leadership Competencies – an excellent source of leadership materials. I personally, have worked for (or with) two leaders with backgrounds in the military, and currently have two employees with backgrounds in the military – all positive experiences.
What I love about the Army Core Leadership Competencies is the simplicity: Lead. Develop. Achieve.
The competency model they use in my local provincial government provides guidance for growth within a given competency. The model defines a particular competency and then gives a scale of growth anywhere from level 1 to level 6, and each level had attributes related to the competency associated with it.
I prefer that model because I am able to place myself in the scale of a particular competency, which I think is relevant or important to my role. Once I gauge where I land in terms of level, I understand better what skills I need to improve my performance.
Below, I share a summary of the three Army Core Leadership Competencies – as defined by the competency model we used in government.
The three competencies you can work on that will boost your chances of career advancement listed below. Each competency has four levels of maturity:
- Employee – Supervisor: the entry level of mastery for the competency, where you should be displaying each the attributes listed in the description
- Supervisor – Manager: second level mastery, displaying the listed attributes at this level, as well as the attributes listed in Level 1.
- Manager – Director: third level mastery, displaying and practicing the listed attributes described as well as the previous two levels.
- Director – President: final level mastery, displaying and practicing the listed attributes described along with the previous three levels.
Employee – Supervisor
Supervisor – Manager
Manager – Director
Director – President
Manage processes, share information, fair, up front in your approach
Continuous process improvement, team feedback, gather input, build cohesiveness
Estimate and obtain resources, protect the team, get needed support
Outgoing personality who engages employees, develops and shares vision and understands / deals with roadblocks to the vision
Create a positive environment, shares advice and knowledge freely, provides direction on how to do the work
Creates learning opportunities for others, coaches, tests, teaches problem solving
Constructive feedback, prepares oneself for action, sets expectations for performance
Invests time into developing others, delegate authority, allows mistakes and coaches through, encourages self-reflection, lives and works their values
Works effectively to achieve objectives, follows through on commitments, pride in work
Continually improves performance, seeks feedback, perseveres challenges, aligns processes and thinking, involves others
Focus on broader picture, resourceful, strategic, effective manager of resources, builds rapport with people to work together to achieve common goals
Creates systems of working, recommends policies, visions, directions, focus on long-term direction, mindset of excellence and results
Above taken from the Behavioral Competency Dictionary, Hay Group, Release 3 (2009)
Unfortunately, the competency growth model isn’t a framework or a process to follow. The model simply guides your growth and should give you some things to think about as you navigate your particular working environment.
PLEASE NOTE: It does not matter if you are a construction contractor, plumber, welder, doctor, or rocket scientist – these competencies apply to every industry and organization, so understanding and practicing these competencies is crucial to achieve optimal career advancement, no matter who you are, what you do, or where you work.
Taking control of your career is liberating. To be effective, it will require perseverance and an ability to honestly assess yourself, exposing your weak points so you can improve them.
Spiritual career advancement is all about who you are – defined by your character. If you are a follower of Christ, developing your character is also one of God’s primary goals.
Lean on him during tough times.
Allow him to guide you and provide the opportunities for growth.
Do that without forgetting leadership and relationship skills mastery and your character will take you places you had no idea were possible.
Another good article from Indeed.com 11 ways to achieve career advancement, which provides you techniques and knowledge that will help you climb the corporate ladder.