I got a promotion today, and I am over the moon. Promotions are far and in between when you are near the top of the ladder in your chosen profession, especially when you are already the head of the department. So it feels good to be elevated to Senior Director of Human Resources along with all of the trappings that come with being part of a senior leadership team. This rung on the ladder is where I’ve been working towards since I graduated college and I fully intend to celebrate it with great fanfare.
Before I get to the champagne, I wanted to take a few moments to write this post and capture my thoughts on how I got here. The journey to this point has been filled with highs and lows, steps forward and several steps backwards, and a lot of grit. My blueprint may only work for me, but I hope sharing will give you comfort while you are on your journey.
The only career I’ve known since I graduated college is human resources. I started my HR career junior year in college as an HR assistant. I moved up the ranks in a total of 4 companies in the span of close to two decades.
Getting to the next step of your career obviously takes time and requires all of the usual groundwork you have already heard of – hard work, long hours, strong relationships, a supportive sponsor and delivering excellent work, ya-da, ya-da. You know the drill. I did the groundwork, but a few things put me over the top.
Let Go of Fear of Failure
This year my mantra was less talk more action. I was able to accomplish the action part by letting go of the fear of failure. I can’t stress enough how being worried about how others view you or overthinking decisions because we want to get it just right hampers our greatness. I worked on that a lot this year. I believed in my instincts, my gut and my true and tried skills. I leaned in on what I knew was the right course of action in all aspects of my job and I screwed up in some projects and I hit homeruns in many areas. I’ll let you in a secret, I got the promotion even though I made several big mistakes this year. Those mistakes were visible to very senior people in the company but the mistakes did not break me or derail me, not because I am special, but because I am human and not everything is going to be a win. You are going to make mistakes, but your achievements will pale in comparison and you will still arrive.
Hire a Really Good Deputy
This tactic is really for someone on the leadership track. I hired someone who could easily take my job in two years as my right hand person. I looked for the best person without fear of him or her outshining me. Having someone who is highly qualified and a trusted colleague can help you build amazing things together and you will both shine. I often see people wanting to go at projects alone or fighting to be the hero on a company initiative motivated by fear that they will not be recognized. This is a surefire way to run yourself into the ground with half-baked wins. When you are on the leadership track, the goal is to show how you can build successful teams, delegate, build strong infrastructures, products, programs and you just can’t do it alone.
Get An Executive Coach or Ask for Direct Feedback
My company gave me an executive coach this year. A real coach, someone who has a graduate level degrees on coaching and years under her belt, not your run of the mill Instagram coach. She is a seasoned professional who came in to the office to meet with me on a regular basis. As part of the executive coaching process, she conducted a 360 assessment where she spoke to people I managed, my boss, and peers about my leadership style. The people she spoke with were able to give her anonymous feedback on my strengths and weaknesses which allowed me to zero in on the areas I needed to work on and leverage my strengths. We spent most of year working on these areas and I was pushed to practice specific skills in real work situations.
I get that I had the privilege of my company paying for a coach for me and you may not be afforded that opportunity. You can still conduct your own 360 assessment by asking peers/friends to give you feedback and use the information to redirect your style. Ask your boss, people you manage, colleagues the following questions: what do I do well? what would you like to see me change? what should I continue doing? what do you want to see me do more of? You will be surprised about how helpful the information will help you see blindspots standing in your way for that next level.
At a high level, these are three things that helped me have a banner year. I will spend the next few days enjoying the thrill that comes with being recognized and then go back to the journey. This is just a stop to look at a great view. There are more views on the horizon.