#b#New Skills For Career Transitions#/b#

Thanks for telling the story of our new online management assessment tool, Leading Strategically (www.leadingstrategically.com.), in the January 20 issue of U.S. 1. The response to the story from friends and colleagues has been favorable. But some questioned our offer to help with practical challenges by appealing to leadership and strategy.

There are several transitions in a typical business career that prove challenging. We concentrate on four: becoming a first-line manager, promotion to middle management, then to senior management, and finally to an executive role. Each step entails a change in responsibility and expectation that is not entirely explicit. It must be learned.

It’s natural for an individual to concentrate on the needs of his or her job rather to anticipate the range of new skills needed to be effective after a promotion. Unfortunately no one teaches how to anticipate the need for the new skills.

There are dozens of examples of problems with transitions, ranging from small challenges to large ones. They include giving direction, setting priorities, delegating, influencing, innovating, selling a proposal, persuading a board, and many others.

In his book “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” Daniel Kahneman describes a phenomenon he calls “What You See Is All There Is” or WYSIATI: the human tendency to focus on knowns and to ignore unknowns. WYSIATI makes transitions hard.

Here’s an example (taken from another business management book, “Leadership Pipeline,” by Ram Charan):

Katrina, a quantitative whiz in finance, was given a business to run in South Africa. When the techniques (known) she’d relied on didn’t get the results she wanted, she was in trouble but she was reluctant to ask for help. Katrina had the opportunity to demonstrate her leadership by consolidating, divesting, or acquiring but she fell back on what she felt comfortable with. She failed to recognize the demands (unknown) of her new job.

We can help people like Katrina. She had the authority to do what needed to be done. But she needed to put her new job in the context of the company strategy and to anticipate she would need a wider, strategic perspective to save the South African business.

In our assessment, we ask clients how they think and behave in workplace situations. We determine how much and how well they rely on strategy, and advise them how to do better.

Jennifer Guy & Greg Burnham

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