Perfect Leadership Positioning Among The Cats and The Pigeons

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Are you planning a career move at some point in the near future?

Here’s a story that you may find interesting, inspired by true events.

Let’s imagine there’s a company that makes pens. There are several departments – Ink Pens, Rollerballs, Felt Tips, Marker Pens and so on.

One day, the head of Ink Pens announces that she’s got a huge promotion and is off to join another company. When the news breaks, it sets the cat among the pigeons; everyone fancies themselves as Head of Ink Pens, even people that have no experience of ink pens and have previously shown no interest in them before now.

The MD has made no secret of the fact that Ink Pens is their ‘thing’ – it’s a luxury product, with international appeal and she has great plans to grow the market base for this product, turning it into the flagship pen product the company produces.

Overnight, colleagues from other departments start turning up and attempting to get involved in projects, insisting on being part of conversations because they’d previously been involved on the periphery of a project years ago, or dreaming up new ideas in their sudden newfound interest. The current Ink Pen team feel besieged from all angles, as people prowl around and begin to move in, like cats stalking birds in the garden.

All except for Chloe.

Chloe & Leadership Positioning

Chloe is astute, ambitious and has done her homework. She took the time to step back and survey the landscape.

When she joined the company a few years ago, she took the time to find out about the MD and other senior leaders. As a result, she understands their priorities and interests, and has a good grasp of where the MD wants to take the company over the next few years. Chloe wants to build a career in leadership and loves the industry.

Chloe realised the calibre of the Head of Ink Pens as soon as she joined the company and guessed correctly that it would only be a matter of time before she moved on to bigger and better things. Chloe also took the time to research her next career move in terms of roles in her industry; she noticed that all of the more senior roles demanded similar skills, experiences and attributes. Chloe set about equipping herself with these over time.

Once she also realised that Ink Pens were the area for expansion, she made sure that after an initial spell in a few other departments, she took an opportunity to learn as much as she could about Ink Pens, build relationships there and eventually move into the department, maintaining links with other colleagues to ensure she had a broad base of contacts and knowledge.

She researched Ink Pens and knows about the market, it’s challenges and opportunities, and has build a solid network externally that benefits both herself and her company. She’s made sure she’s had regular conversations with with senior leaders, and has signalled her ambitions by asking for advice and mentoring.

Chloe now knows what she needs to do to move into a more senior role in her organisation and has positioned herself for one.

She won’t be scrabbling around like her colleagues because she’s thought about her next move, planned ahead and built relationships with the right people. Whether she ends up with the Head of Ink Pen’s role or not, she’s perfectly positioned to move forwards in her career.

Be like Chloe. Plan ahead. Your career won’t just happen.

If you want some help to do this, take a look at my second book, Strategies for Being Visible: 14 Profile-Raising Ideas for Emerging Female Leaders which sets out a blueprint for advancing your career. It’s available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and all good bookshops in the UK.

I’m Susan Ritchie, an author, leadership and executive coach and trainer. My second book, Strategies for Being Visible: 14 Profile-Raising Ideas for Emerging Female Leaders is now available at Waterstones, Blackwells, Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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