Plan to Transform – Building New Skills, Behaviors, Reputation & Network - in the Mid Term
Last week, we looked at how to approach a new challenge through the lens of our longer-term goals. By reconciling each new opportunity with our longer-term plan, we consciously set out to influence the design of the new role to give us more of what we need. Jobs are flexible. Different individuals will approach them differently and can be equally successful. All we ask is that as the job flexes to uniquely fit you, we make sure it has the future you in mind: that’s the transformation opportunity.
We ask “how can you do this job in such a way as to…”
Improve weak or build new skills that are important to me in the future?
Improve weak behaviors that are important to me in the future?
Build the reputation I need to pave the way for your subsequent growth?
Expand and nurture my positive network, building on my existing mentors, coaches, and professional peers?
Reflection point: to what extent does your current role deliver on these four points?
Answering questions like these will give you a blueprint for how you can approach the new role in a way that will, over the mid term, deliver what you need to bridge this role with the next. In other words, it is a blueprint for transformation.
For example, if in the long term you aspire to lead large teams, how can you use this new role, to demonstrate your team building skills? Or, if your long term goal will require you to speak in public, how can you start to practice that skill by intentionally creating opportunities to present to large audiences in your current job?
Don’t forget: the transformation may be something you need to learn doing well or differently, like demonstrate more executive presence. Or it could be something you need to stop doing. Like trying to control work of your team members. You may have been rewarded in the past for knowing every single detail of your job before you started managing others (now that will be called "micro-management", and it's bad). There is also good news: you also get to keep quite a lot of previously acquired skills and behaviors: some (e.g., Ethics and Integrity) will travel with you until the end of your career.
Reflection point: what is critical for you to learn, what do you absolutely must stop doing, and what is essential to safeguard in order to be successful in your new role? How do you know? How can you find out and/or validate?
As with all development, we don’t suggest trying to do everything. Select one or two opportunities to address gaps, and consciously plan to use the job change to transform in those areas.
We summarise transformation as a process:
1. It starts with the goal of executing your new role in new ways, doing more of what you need in the future, and less of what you did in the past and won't need any more.
2. To move from a goal, to action, you need to craft the job, that is, design your work processes and routines so that when you execute, you are building the muscles you need.
For example, need more public speaking practice? Design your role to include quarterly updates to stakeholders. Want to reduce your micro-managing? Design your work routines to have less frequent 1:1 meetings with the team members.
The window for you to craft your role is small. If your transformation is from a micromanager to a strategic thinker, you need to start as you mean to continue. It doesn’t take long for the team to see the micromanaging. And respond accordingly.
3. You’ll be working differently. That’s fantastic. But job changes are also an opportunity to signal what you want to be know for and to adjust your personal brand accordingly. Assuming your work routines are building new ways of working, you can single what you want to known for by “priming”.
Priming, in this context, is signally to others the aspects of your transformation that you want them to notice. For example, if you want to be seen as a strategic leader, spend time on strategy AND, talk, for example, about how strategy is a priority for you and you are working to ensure your strategy aligns to the organization. Ask for feedback on the strength of your strategy. In other words, make it easy for see you as strategic.
4. The challenge in transformation is less likely to be identifying the behavior and reputation you want and more likely to be evaluating your progress and staying the course.
We always encourage asking for feedback. By structuring a request for feedback around the topics you care about, you make sure you get input on relevant things and it makes feedback-giving easier, too. Seeking feedback at regular intervals during the first 6 to 9 months is easy. Others will appreciate it.
To evaluate progress we also encourage learning journals, as supportive of reflection. We know they aren’t for everyone. But for those that want to turn job transition into transformation, we’d strongly recommend a weekly (if not more often) written reflection on your progress “showing up differently”. Best practice is booking a recurring meeting in the calendar (can be lunch hour or Friday afternoon) for journaling: it disciplines and guards your time specifically for this purpose.
5. Finally, you need to stay the course. Staying the course, while on a steep learning curve, can be tough. You promise yourself you’ll be a more consultative peer. But in trying to get on top of the new role, it is quicker to make the decisions yourself. Maybe you want to take more risks. But when everything is new, it is easier to play it safe. In a new role, the learning curve can overtax you; and when overtaxed, your old habits take over the new behaviors. Especially if the change is to very new or different -- an exponential challenge -- or, as it is sometimes the case, comes with an additional personal change, like changing organization or geography. So much “new” is exhausting.
With our capacity to learn paralyzed, it is easy to fall back. You know it's likely to happen: so, plan for that. Plan to recharge - however that looks for you - to have the capacity to continue reinventing yourself, even when the learning curve is steep. Some of this is pragmatic. Don’t overschedule yourself with personal obligations while you are focusing on the new role. Get plenty of sleep. Eat well. Hydrate. Actively pace yourself so you have the reserves to be a high capacity learner.
That's your transformation cycle: goal set, craft the work, signal the change, evaluate progress and recharge for growth … This cycle is at the heart of moving from job transition to true transformation. And there is no better time than when you are new in a role.
The transformation process is activated over time. We’d encourage you to think of this in terms of your first full year, for example. But you may not get a full year to “do great work”. Most often, your first formal evaluation (if your organization has those) comes before you've delivered your first meaningful success in the new role. So, playing your Long Game, you plan to transition AND you need to attend to the short term.
But enough for today -- let's pick up managing the short term priorities in the next post - Part 3, which will complete this Ace Transition series.
By the way, did you miss Part 1 of the series? Check it out here.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are those of the authors, and do not reflect the views of any affiliated organizations.