Ok! Growing up, I knew mathematics to be a science that involves expressions that requires you to calculate for the resultant or final answer. However, as I advanced in class, my teachers began to introduce me to mathematical expressions that already have the final answers staring at me in the face – with an unknown factor in the expression. This unknown must be figured out, without which the final answer would make no sense.
Shun the mathematical expression above because it is not logical. But assuming that the equation above is mathematically correct, the final answer won’t make sense if you don’t have an idea on how to figure out the value of X.
Amazingly, life presents us with a similar situation. You can hardly find someone who does not know where he or she wants to be. The challenge is that most of us do not really know or have what it takes to get to our destination. As a young career person, you have your dreams and aspirations. You have a clear picture of what career success means. Within your mind, you can see yourself at the apex of the corporate ladder, calling the shots from the executive floor.
Interestingly, for some of us, that is all we have, the final picture. We do not really know or possess what it takes to arrive at our final picture. It is not enough to know the final answer, the onus lies on us to solve for the value of X if the final answer will ever make any meaning to us.
There are certain X-factors that most executives possess. You want to become an executive, then you have to find out these X-factors that drives one to an X-ecutive level position and incorporate them into your corporate DNA.
From my own close observation and interactions with some executives, I was able to take note of the X-factors that they all have in common. When I say executives, I am referring to those individuals that worked their way from the bottom of their career to the top level position. It does not include the folks that inherited family corporations and became executives by birth. Some people become executives by birth and there is nothing anybody can do about that. But the good news is, there are people who have worked their way up the corporate ladder and you and I can take a cue from what they know and did.
Here are the X-factors that will certainly lead you to an X-ecutive level position in your career.
It does not really matter the working conditions they are provided with, one thing that guides these guys is an execution spirit. Call it ruthless execution or productivity, as long as they have signed up for the job, they don’t make excuses. At work, you can either make excuses or get results, not both. It is a well known maxim that the man who says it cannot be done is always interrupted by the man who is already doing it. No matter how difficult and unfavorable your working condition is, find a way around it and deliver to the best of your abilities. Where there is a will, there is always a way. It is not easy. If it was, everybody would have been an executive. As you read this now, you can either start making up excuses on while this cannot work for you or make up your mind to deliver against all odds.
Individuals that get to the top of their career are excellence-driven. Excellence is the quality of being allergic to mediocrity. When you are excellence- driven, you are not just concerned about the volume of targets you cover but the quality. Anything that is worth doing, is worth doing well. These guys believe that if it cannot be done excellently, then it shouldn’t be done at all. We all have an excellent spirit within us, but some of us keep suppressing theirs. Some of us are not even proud of the quality of work we deliver. My boss once asked me “Brown, if CNN wants to review a proposal or a design you did on air, will you ask for more time to re-touch it? If you will, it means you never gave the job your best short initially and it was deliberate”.
That singular illustration from my boss gave me an insight into what it means to be excellence-driven. If you think it can be done better, then do it. Don’t wait until you are compelled to do so. We all have it in us: excellent communication skills, excellence in dressing and grooming, excellent work output. If you are guided by excellence in your everyday activity at work, it gradually becomes an attitude and that, is what you need if X-ecutive level position must be achieved.
When seeking career advancement, it is important to make a conscious decision to pursue a specialist career track. It is important to have an area that you consider to be a specialty. It is called an area of core competence. See, your competence in that area must really be above average. This can be achieved by continuous and in-depth research, learning and practice in that area. Most of the executives I had interactions with had expert knowledge in a particular area of their industry. When you become an expert in a particular field or department, you become an authority and an asset to your organization as long as that field is concerned.
Your area of core competence is your natural territory. It is where you exercise expertise and dominance. However, virtually all the successful executives have, in addition to their core competencies, a broader business background. A general knowledge of the functions of the other aspects of the business will give you an edge when there is an opening for a promotion. It’s more like usurping every opportunity to acquire experience and develop competence outside your natural territory. This can only be achieved when you are passionate about the business of your organisation.
The executives that pursued general business knowledge did not do so based on ulterior motive or just to position themselves for promotion, rather the choice grew out of a genuine interest, passion, and curiosity for the business as a whole. Their primary motivation was to create opportunities and to influence positive change in their respective organizations. It is not just a means of getting to the top. If you do this just as a means of getting to the top without a genuine passion, you will definitely run out of gas cos the road is not easy. So, irrespective of your area of core competence, seize every opportunity to build experience and competence in sales and marketing, public relations, HR, Business development, research etc. No department is an island. As the executives expressed, an important part of competence is the ability to understand the connection of one function to another, as well as the goal of all the functions to the overall success of the organization.
The key to building a successful career is patience, and that is what most young professionals do not have. Young career persons must understand that achieving senior level positions in an organization takes time. When you consider that over 60 percent of the executives are over the age of fifty, it becomes apparent that there are no shortcuts to achieving success.
Career success is never instantaneous. It requires a thoughtful and mature approach to building a comprehensive level of expertise and experience. In some cases, impatient young professionals are driven by personal motivations at the expense of seeking out valuable work experience.
Relax, take your time and gather the experience. Your moment will come.
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