When climbing the corporate ladder, many people focus on looking upward. Of course, upward mobility is the goal of many ambitious employees. Looking to your boss and her/his peers, modeling behaviors by what you observe, reaching for the sky and never looking back. That’s the key to success, right?
Well, yes and no. You definitely need to keep an eye on the prize. Observing leaders within your organization is necessary to gauge the climate of what lies ahead. Building relationships and establishing your presence is required to be noticed. However, looking up is not the only, nor most important, way to succeed.
The graphic at the beginning of this post show up and down arrows. This is intended to relay the fact that you should also look at those whom you lead. One must not forget that a leader’s true success and potential is in how her/his team performs. When making the move from I.C. into management, you are no longer judged by your specific and individual actions.
Too many leaders forget this, only look up, and find themselves reaching a plateau. There are leaders who are very good at presenting their teams’ accomplishments as their own. While there may be a time and place for this, the team will eventually catch on that their manager is seeking personal glory rather than that of their team. Eventually this gets found out and the manager will get a “me first, team second” reputation. Soon this turns into employees no longer wanting to be a part of their team.
I spoke to my current team about this very thing. After receiving an unexpected promotion earlier in the year, I took my team aside and thanked them for their hard work. If not for their accomplishments, I would not have been recognized as a leader worthy of accolades. I told them how much it meant to me that they valued me enough to work hard each and every day and that my promotion was a reflection on them.
Do I have aspirations of further career growth. Yes, of course. It’s no secret that when I do finally retire, I retire as a CIO of a very successful tech company. I currently have a manager who knows this is my goal and assists me in my growth by providing feedback and establishing the necessary trust to allow me to succeed. In turn, I work very hard to make sure my team enhances his functional organization within our company. This is a system that works.
Of course, looking up and looking down the organizational tree is not sufficient. Building rapport within your colleague base is just as important. Establishing trust and regular communication patterns with your peer group is critical especially when you look to move ahead. It’s a possibility that, should you get advancement, you may become your peer groups’ new leader. The foundation you lay now makes that transition much easier than if you find yourself at odds with your colleagues.
Vice versa, if a member of your peer group gets advancement and ends up leading you, your trust foundation will put you in a better spot for the ensuing management/direct report relationship. Either way, ensuring your working relationship with your peer group will continually pay dividends. This is true at ANY level of an organization, not just the management level.
In summary, if you have any sort of career ambition make sure you do not get tunnel vision to that goal. Keep your horizons broad, eyes open and be open to those around you. The best way to succeed as an individual is to build a great team around you.