Sideway Opportunities

I love our Take-A-Lesson: Uncovering Hidden Mentors for Diverse Leaders broadcast—pearls of wisdom with each broadcast.  If you are not tuning in, well shame on you—start. 

Yesterday (June 8, 2011) we profiled Tonia Woodbury, Vice President and Business Manager at Wells Fargo Bank, and we asked the question “Do you believe there is an Iron Ceiling for African Americans in Corporate America?”  This is a standard question for all our profiled leaders.  The answers we’ve received from leaders at Sprint, Avon, USAA, MTV, MSKCC, Professors, and Activist, have run the gamut. When you get a moment, go back and listen to what our traveling companions have to say.

While there is certainly some debate among these outstanding leaders, there’s a core of consistently as well.  As Tonia stated “don’t miss the sideway opportunities” and she is right. 

Not everyone will (or should—just being honest) reach the C-Suite, and not everyone wants to.  However, I do understand the desire to move up in one’s career, but here is what I would offer.  Focus less on the title and more on the opportunity or put another way—focus on an opportunity to do the work.  This approach, in the end, this will serve you best. 

I don’t need no stinking title!

I’m not convinced that you NEED the title to do big things, and bigger work within your field of expertise.  Take the Bible—for example.  Esther, the outsider, led her people with courage and ingenuity. At the church in Corinth, Priscilla broke cultural barriers demonstrating how a woman shapes the power structure of a church. Two examples (both female I might add) are Biblical leaders whose influence and authority changed history. My belief:

Extraordinary leaders are masters at promoting others through the side door.

Now, I will admit, that in many organizations the opportunity to do the work is inextricably linked to the title; however, for smart organizations, those that will stand the test of this economic time, that shift is happening.  And—hello, if you are not in one of those smart organizations, time to kick the dust from your feet.

So, be on the lookout for those sideway opportunities.  Go back and read what I shared by Jim Rohn in “Don’t waste this recession.”  Finally, ask yourself key motivation questions:

  • What is motivating you to move in a certain direction?
  • What are you proactively reaching toward? (…think about this question…)
  • Are you missing sideway opportunities?
  • What would you need to feel confident about accepting a sideway opportunity?

As always, contact us for help with your career management and leadership development needs.  Click here to get started.

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