Avary Chong as founder of code-R, a NGO promoting Purposeful Living.
Winning the long game
It’s an opportune time at my company to work up the ladder. The big boss is the founder. He’s getting older, and will one day retire and pass the company on to one of his staff.
For the longest time we thought that person would be the CFO, his first hire over 25 years ago. But earlier this year they had a falling out. The CFO ended up selling his shares back to the company and leaving. This left open the question of who the big boss was going to pick as his successor.
So that’s now created a new energy around the company, as anyone with any seniority tries to win favour with the big boss, or at least set themselves up to be naturally pipped for leadership roles by whoever the next protege is. The big boss has around 10 working years left in him, so I don’t think he’ll be in any rush to pick anyone, especially after he was disappointed by his former favourite.
So even though I’m not a chief officer yet and there are other managers who are higher ranked than me, I think this is still a good chance for me for lay down a solid career track to the top of the company, or at least quite near it. The only question is, how do I stand out against a crowded field?
The keys to success in your long term goals are developing your self-reliance, and positively mastering the social politics of your company. On one hand, you will need to keep your eyes on the prize as you work methodically up the company hierarchy with determination, strategic efficiency, and an exemplary track record at each position.
But on the other hand you will also have to establish your credibility and influence through leveraging relationships with key stakeholders at every level of the company. If you really want to be seriously considered for a top leadership position, you will need to position yourself as a natural choice who would be accepted and respected by as many people as possible, and not just the founder.
As your plans are more long term, be mindful to remain focussed and not get distracted. You could choose your own mantra, a simple phrase that encapsulates your aspirations at the company, which you can use to remind yourself of what you need to do to get to where you need to be.
You also need to plan smart. Study your company’s organisation chart to analyse the formal relationships and map out possible internal routes for you to the C-Suite rank, making sure to take particular note of the gatekeepers. Make notes on the wider informal networks, and identify stakeholders at different levels of the company you need to connect with who either have soft influence or the ability to help you directly.
With a more holistic understanding of your company, you can start to leverage the underlying culture in your office and integrate the types of values, behaviours and interactions that others will see as good leadership. Make sure as well to get your reporting managers on your side through performing to the best of your ability, and also discuss with them your possible options for promotion further down the line. They could be powerful advocates to help you reach each stage of your goals.
Most importantly, be a positive example to your peers through great work and positive social interactions around the office, and over time you will organically grow your influence as a leader worth noticing.