David was talented, intelligent, and determined. His peers considered him to be “the smartest guy in the room.” He had an outstanding college G.P.A. and near-perfect GMAT scores. His professors told him success would be guaranteed, the ideal pedigree for a swift and prosperous career.
After completing an MBA, he joined a leading high tech firm in New York. As a project manager for this pioneering and innovative software developer, he was well organized, worked hard, and managed time effectively.
As the firm’s 50th employee in a fast-paced culture, he was driven and competitive. Thrilled to be working in an environment that encouraged everyone to do “whatever it takes,” who could ask for anything more? With strong sales momentum, the firm experienced double digit growth and added 400 people in the last three years. On the strength of his technical competence, David was well positioned to assume a leadership role.
Given the firm’s desire for scale and process efficiencies, he was finally promoted and in charge of 30 newly hired web developers. Proud of his accomplishments, he was recognized for his commitment to the firm’s mission and desire to sustain strong organic growth. Seemingly ready to lead a young and newly minted project group, he communicated goals and objectives to his charges on day one. His career climb was well under way.
Until… it came spiraling down, crushed under the weight of his firm’s expectations. According to his superiors, “David was unfit and ill-prepared” to lead the troops. With his brains and all that God-given talent, what went wrong?
Despite the company’s desire to create a platform where David could succeed as a leader, he was caught unaware of his firm’s shifting expectations. What he was expected to do as the 50th employee with no direct reports, was strikingly different his new job description. His employer and employees counted on him to provide direction, motivation, and clear and concise communication.
THE SKILLS THAT GOT HIM HERE, WERE NOT THE SKILLS THAT WILL GET HIM THERE.
This cautionary tale is unfortunately the rule more than the exception. With an educational system, heavily focused on technical competence, most career climbers are caught unaware of the importance of communication skills to their professional growth.
Corporate professional development programs also come up short as communication skill training is often an afterthought.
After 25 years of leading organizations, the conclusion about career climbing is obvious: No matter what your job…
Despite evolving management theories, differing corporate cultures, and various product lines, there is one common thread that weaves its way through today’s economy: the top jobs go to the most compelling communicators. By committing to augment your hard skills with professional development focused on communication, you’ve taken the first step on the journey to your career summit.
David’s story is typical. However, after taking stock of his skill set, David didn’t give up. Although demoted, he viewed this career wakeup call not as a burden, but as an opportunity to significantly improve his ability to communicate with passion and purpose. It didn’t come easily.
Initially discouraged, he came to understand the why and how get back on that mountain and set his sights on the top. It’s never too late. As you climb that career mountain, there will likely be setbacks and unexpected challenges.
Career climbing and communication skills underscore the battles we fight in our minds as we seek to understand the meaning of success. They tap into the deepest understanding of ourselves and help us realize the importance of tenacity in pursuit of success. As General George Patton once said, “I don’t measure a man’s success by how high he climbs but how high he bounces back when he hits rock bottom.”
YOUR CALL TO ACTION
Commit to becoming a powerful and compelling communicator. I’ve trained hundreds of executives to communicate with power and purpose. You can too. Many of the tactics will seem unnatural, uncomfortable, and awkward.
Communication, especially public speaking, brings fear and frustration to many. Rarely do these skill developments happen spontaneously. Like climbing a mountain, your ability to speak powerfully brings a new set of struggles. In both cases, it’s in the act of overcoming challenges where professional and personal growth occurs.
As a leadership development coach to executives worldwide, the best place to begin this next phase is by taking a communication skill assessment. Feel free to visit Climb Leadership, I’ll then come back to you with tactics and tips to quickly improve your ability to persuasively and effectively communicate.