Peak Career – Development Priorities
It’s that time of year for budget reviews and planning as a new year begins to take shape. And as companies consider priorities and corporate strategies, it’s a good time to also align individual’s growth and priorities.
Peak Career Development Priorities is part 1 of our 3-part series focusing on trends, priorities, and insights to help align personal growth with business priorities for the year ahead.
Read Part 2 – Mid-Career Development Priorities here.
Read Part 3 – Early Career Development Priorities here.
It’s hard to get a senior leader’s attention on their own personal development. They believe that the last two and a half years have put more demand on their skills than at any other point in their careers. And they’ve enriched their skills under fire and close scrutiny. Peak career leaders have dealt with more issues in the last two and a half years than they’ve probably seen over a 30+ year career span.
Many would say ‘if I’m still sitting here after all the tough spots and decisions, I should have the skills I need to weather almost anything.’ And to some degree, they’d be right. The last few years have developed and defined new expectations for leaders.
But the work isn’t done.
There are three burning priorities in front of senior leaders, and they will each take innovative thinking and a new approach to resolve. Here’s a look at what we’re hearing from leaders and how we’re supporting the priorities they see ahead of them.
The first priority is Culture.
Companies are still all over the board trying to reset the company culture within a new way of working. Many are still testing out the new working model from fully virtual to some form of a hybrid model. And regardless of where it lands on that spectrum, leaders know it will impact the culture. It already has.
The office environment is part of culture. From the physical space to amenities in the space, many companies illustrated their intent with employees through their location. And they created situations that drew people together to feel a part of the culture.
Virtual interaction is not the same as in-person interaction. Leaders have seen it in the last year and often talk about losing the connective tissue of an organization because people aren’t together. The environment contributes to the illustration of values, and it makes it harder when people are rarely together for the culture to take hold organically.
The great debate on senior leadership teams is: who sets the culture?
Do we define it at the top of the organization or do we build it from the bottom of the organization?
Culture starts with intention from the top. Leaders have to buy into the culture and agree on what to create and how to lead it. Then, the employee base will reinforce it as they make it their own.
In our current work setting, even the best of cultures feel as if they’re losing a bit of their identity. Leaders see some of their best employees walk out the door because they’re not as connected as they once were. And they see bad behaviors gain momentum in ways they never have before.
Leaders say it’s harder to reinforce culture when they can’t walk the halls and find a personal connection to employees. There’s more pressure on a few moments rather than every moment. And it’s going to take an intentional plan to rethink how employees experience culture going forward.
We can help. Over the last year, we’ve worked with leadership teams to consider a new way of embedding culture into companies. It’s a shift from culture showing up in every little thing to making sure it’s integrated into the big things as well. Managers can own the little things, but leaders have to rethink how culture and values are reinforced in everything they say and do. We’re involved because it takes a communication plan that can integrate culture elements into town halls, strategy reveals and company goals.
The second priority is Communication.
Communication will be essential to reset the culture and almost everything else ahead for senior leaders. A new way of working has created fragmented visibility. Leaders are running town halls, but they don’t have full participation or focus as employees dial-in to view it or listen to a recording a few days after it
Every situation counts. Communication is the skill and the tool that helps you bring clarity and conviction to the direction of the company. Employees aren’t engaged in the same way as they consider work more a thing they do vs. a place they go. Live, in-person energy and connection has returned to most parts of our lives, and that’s what a company leader is competing with.
Leaders need to find ways to breakthrough with messaging. They can’t push it on employees. Instead, they’re going to have to be intentional about how they draw employees in. Many leaders developed bad habits during their own virtual work. They felt virtual required less preparation, so they relied on notes and a more casual way of talking to employees. It has to get focused again. It’s going to take conviction and connection to get employees’ attention and drive actions from ideas.
Leaders are resetting their own barometers to speak a little less about what’s happening in the world and a little more about the direction of their companies. Communication has to shift back to big vision, and for leaders that means a reset on messaging, a reset on skills and higher expectations for impact.
We can help. Developing compelling communicators is our passion. And with senior leaders, we’re helping rethink the brand and impact needed within an organization. Often, we combine the culture work with communication coaching to make sure they align and work together.
The input we give every leader is this: From board members to customers and employees, your key audiences haven’t changed. And the way they assess your style and impact hasn’t changed either. It all matters, and if you haven’t refreshed and reset your communication skills, it may be the most important thing you do in the year ahead.
The third priority is Succession.
I’ve talked to many leaders about how their teams have fared over the last few years. I get a mixed report on who’s retained direct reports and who’s swapped them out. But I get a consistent report about future leaders and succession.
All say the development of leaders behind the current team has stalled. One reason is the senior leaders themselves love hybrid work models. It’s given them the flexibility they never expected to see until retirement, and they’ve built a pretty strong case for why they don’t need to be in the office all the time. They have all the tools and connections they need to do their job well anywhere.
But the consequence is they don’t spend as much informal time with future leaders. They don’t realize that building visibility for future leaders isn’t happening organically, and it’s even a little awkward when it happens with intention. Planning for lunch or coffee together takes a fair amount of coordination just to run into each other on the same day.
Senior leaders see it as they begin talent review meetings. They notice in these conversations that they know people less than they once did. And they aren’t hearing the cross-functional support for future leaders the way they used to in these discussions. Those are red flags to a company that wants bench strength.
Senior teams need to get actively involved in future leader development. It’s more fragmented than it once was, and companies need to get innovative in how they reinvent it. Learning teams can sharpen the skills, but they can’t impose the relationship component that is equally important.
We can help. As we’ve heard companies talk about this trend, we’ve responded with programming built to transition someone from a manager to a leader, and coaching circles that can add exposure and guidance for senior leaders. We’ve also led discussions with senior teams to rethink the way they support future leaders and to find better ways to accelerate visibility, responsibility and trust.
The demands on peak career leaders haven’t subsided. Every company has to get out of reset mode and reimagine how people fit together. The priorities of culture, communication and succession should be top of mind, and those who excel at it will redefine what leadership really means.
And we’ll ensure that you’re one of those leaders.
As always, we’re here when you need us.
Want a free 15-minute consultation with us to see how we can help you or your leaders? Book a call now!