You’ve succeeded in getting to the top of your professional game, but now the rules of the game require a new approach.
This year, in particular, we’ve all seen many high-profile executives sweating in the spotlight, as, according to TIME, the #metoo movement has affected 400+ top executives and employees in the past 18 months. Even if you’re an executive who doesn’t engage in unprofessional antics, CEO turnover in 2018 is the highest it’s been in 8 years. The message is clear: your executive job comes with high pay – and high expectations, too.
I spoke to Wendy Friend, a leading Boston-area executive coach, to get her advice for top executives who want to stay for the long haul. “To get to the top and stay at the top, today’s executives have to bring their own personal beliefs, values and behaviors into alignment with the organization’s goals and mission. At the executive level, leaders are now expected to create a culture of proactive communication, transparency and trust, not just with their customers’ experience of the brand but throughout the employee culture, as well.”
In other words, it’s not enough to leverage your prior experience and your ability to drive results through a business unit or function. Now you need to demonstrate that you’re an influential, inspired leader both externally and internally.
Here’s how you can succeed (and stick around) as an executive:
- Cultivating Results Intelligence. Move over, IQ and EQ. According to executive search firm Russell Reynolds, in order to have true influence and longevity as a leader, you need to cultivate your own Results Intelligence and hire/retain people around you who have it in spades.
- Demanding Professionalism. There’s a “new normal” emerging for executive behavior. Now, not only do you need to keep your own behavior squeaky-clean, but you set the tone for the organization. News travels fast; should bad behavior happen on your watch, you’re on the hook for the antics of all your direct reports and their direct reports, too. You’ll need a zero-tolerance policy for unprofessional behavior.
- Balancing Collaboration + Competition. Your focus needs to evolve beyond your prior attention to individual/divisional silo performance. You’ll now need to allocate resources and encourage collaboration across teams, locations and products. Yet, you’ll need to balance that cooperation with an externally-competitive spirit as you face off with your market peers.
- Blending Steady Growth + Disruption. Often, executives reach the top by steering a company’s steady, flagship product. In a C-level role, you must deliver that same consistency paired with innovation and planned disruption if you want to stay relevant.
- Fostering Diversity. Diversity comes in many forms: diversity of thought, products, people, risk, and more. Think about proactively creating and leveraging a “diversity scorecard” for yourself that propels you to proactively cultivate diversity across your teams, products and other key areas such as vendors. Why? It’s hard to get true diversity in one area (products, for example) unless you also have diverse thinkers on diverse teams to support that growth. Says career coach Friend, executives who’d like to stay at the top now must “foster empowered followership by actively listening, asking the right questions and expecting employees to speak up and take risks.”
To achieve staying power as an executive, you’ll need to become more inclusive, more supportive of diversity and more collaborative than ever. If you can keep these suggestions in mind, perhaps you’ll be the sought-after executive that’s first in line to backfill all those open executive jobs.