One of the business trends over the past couple of decades has been the employment of personal coaches to help key leaders and executives enhance their skill sets. These coaches can be engaged to tutor an executive in such areas as leadership, decision-making and team-building; others may be hired to coach an individual in media relations, in certain “technical” job functions or in speaking another language (i.e. French or English).
When used wisely and effectively, these resources can be very helpful in expediting the career growth of a potential high achiever within an organization. For some organizations, they can help “weed out” those business leaders who don’t possess the ability to learn and adapt in a timely manner.
Some businesses and government functions are willing to spend significant dollars to fast track their top executive talent. In fact, in some companies, we encounter business leaders who have multiple coaches with each one having a specific area of expertise. The question is, what can individuals do, who wish to progress rapidly in their careers, if their organizations aren’t willing or don’t have the budget to provide this additional level of mentoring and education? Here are a few suggestions.
Take stock of your strengths and weaknesses and construct your own Career Development Plan
Every individual who aspires to rise within an organization, or outside of it, should start with a personal career development plan. Listen carefully to what is stated in your performance review (if you have one) or ask for one if you don’t receive one. Be honest with yourself about your current strengths and weaknesses. Make a list of your top 5 strengths and weaknesses and clearly identify what you are missing to advance in your career. This should include a list of the areas where your knowledge and/or skill level is not sufficiently advanced or where you need growth. Ask yourself and your boss, would I be ready for the next level of management if I obtain these skills? If not, find out what is missing and add it to the list.
Implement your Career Development Plan
Starting with the highest priority needs and working your way down the list, make a determination as to how you can acquire these skills. There are several options to consider:
1. Find a personal coach
Does such a coach exist within or outside your organization? Does your immediate supervisor possess these skills or do you need to look elsewhere? If you can identify the correct person, how would you go about enlisting their assistance? Would they be willing to provide you with a block of hours to address this gap in your knowledge or skills? If you have to go outside your company, would you be able to build a business case, to demonstrate the potential ROI on the company’s investment?
2. Take a course
Is there a school or institution (i.e. The Logistics Institute, CITT, executive MBA etc.) that could provide you with one or more courses that would fill some gaps? There are a variety of academic institutions that can supply quality courses in project management, leadership skills, report writing, decision-making or whatever your need is. A Google search or a discussion with your colleagues may identify one or more top notch schools.
3. Join an Organization
Many years ago I participated in an organization called Presidents of Entrepreneurial Organizations (PEO). They had groups for Presidents and groups for a second tier of leaders. These leaders got together on a regular basis to discuss a business problem that one of the group members was facing and to help, as a team, address and solve the problem. These types of organizations can be very helpful from a coaching perspective.
4. Assemble your own group of mentors
Each of us knows individuals who possess skills that we don’t have. Have you thought about setting up a regular set of luncheon meetings, say one per month or per quarter, to meet with these individuals, offer them advice and “pick their brains” for advice and knowledge in areas where you need improvement. Think about creating your own personal board of directors. This doesn’t have to be a formal organization but rather a group of individuals with whom you connect on a regular basis.
5. Read books and magazines
This is the easiest and cheapest way to gain knowledge. There are some excellent publications that are available for purchase or free on the internet. Don’t overlook these very valuable sources of knowledge and insights. Magazines such as the Harvard Business Review and Business Week contain some very thoughtful articles and case histories.
As I have noted in previous blogs, every individual needs to take responsibility for their own career growth. In fact, developing your own career growth strategy is one very visible indicator that you are a motivated, high achiever, who proactively takes charge of your career and is well on their way to success
Dan Goodwill, President, Dan Goodwill & Associates Inc. has over 30 years of experience in the logistics and transportation industries in both Canada and the United States. Dan has held executive level positions in the industry including President of Yellow Transportation’s Canada division, President of Clarke Logistics (Canada’s largest Intermodal Marketing Company), General Manager of the Railfast division of TNT and Vice President, Sales & Marketing, TNT Overland Express.
Goodwill is currently a consultant to manufacturers and distributors, helping them improve their transportation processes and save millions of dollars in freight spend. Mr. Goodwill also provides consulting services to transportation and logistics organizations to help them improve their profitability. All posts by Dan Goodwill