Breaking News: My son, Cillian, has just got a summer job in Lemon Jelly, a café in the centre of Dublin. So now I can officially boast that he has become a Barista (to the untrained ear, it sounds quite like Barrister and should certainly fool the dyslexics). Yes, he’s an absolute whizz on the Espresso machine. And while I’m in the mood for boasting, one of my daughters has become an entrepreneur. Amie set up a false eyelash business on her Facebook page and it’s going gangbusters. Streams of women are coming to our house. That’s the upside. The downside is that she called the business ‘Get Lashed’ (I kid you not). Oh, Sweet Jesus, the joys of parenting. But, there is a glimmer of hope that they are using this ‘in-between’ time to prepare for bigger future roles. Perhaps that’s the triumph of hope over experience.
When I Grow Up: One of the great things about the consulting role is that I get to paddle alongside a lot of executives who are future focused. I have to admit to a personal bias here; I love ambition. It puts rocket fuel in the tank. My general response to people who are aiming high is: “Great. When do you want to start working on this stuff? Where the answer is: “The interview for the CEO role is on Friday next week”, it drives me mad. You don’t enter the 100 meters butterfly race to learn how to swim – you punch in endless hours in the pool in advance of the starter gun. Putting yourself forward for promotional roles follows exactly the same trajectory. You train endlessly, and then get your chance to shine.
Preparation Step: My nephew Séan Mooney is climbing Mount Everest. He’s currently at Base Camp becoming acclimatized and it will take him up to 6 weeks to make the climb. Séan is Canadian, hugely driven and has wanted to do this for a couple of years. As pre-work, he learned how to technically climb in the Canadian Rockies and got himself fit to Olympic athlete standard to take on the challenge. Now, there’s no guarantee that he will actually make it to the summit, as so many variables can intervene. I’m guessing that the tagline “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing” will be put to a severe test at those altitudes. But Séan did all the groundwork for the expedition, maximizing his chances of success. And while taking risks on this epic scale is sort of nuts, GK Chesterton reminded us that: “There is a road from the eye to the heart that does not go through the intellect”. So, what’s the career ascent that you want to make? And, just as importantly, how do you get ready for this?
Learn by Doing: In order to get ready for a senior role you need to do 2 things:
Deep Understanding: Develop a deep understanding of the key requirements of the role. For example, in relation to becoming a CEO you need to acquire a range of specific competencies including crafting strategy, designing organizations, communicating a sense of purpose, networking with key stakeholders and driving measurable results (for a more detailed description, have a look at the Leadership Skill Inventory on http://www.tandemconsulting.ie). The same basic points apply for any role you are chasing.
Real Experience: Then you need to spend time in a similar role or acquiring the ‘sub-skills’ required to do this job really well. Get yourself ‘blooded’ – with actual experience – and consolidate that experience into your CV.
The Question: “How long should I spend getting ready for a CEO role?”
The Answer: The perfect time to get ready for a job is about 2 years before it’s advertised. If you do this, the selection process will be a doddle.
The Alternative: Just sit back and wait to be ‘discovered’. I suggest that you make yourself really comfortable. Because, it’ll be a long wait.
PS Lighter Moment 1: Have a look at this funny Dutch commercial from insurance company Centraal Beheer. Might stop you rushing to judgment.
PPS Lighter Moment 2:
Husband: “I wasn’t that drunk last night”
Response: “You were sitting on the couch trying to put on a seat belt”
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