I spotted Sue Shellenbarger’s latest post, How to Be The Best Deputy: When Second Best is Best, about a week ago. I’ve quoted her a great deal on this blog and I’ve found her latest post to strike a couple of chords. Not that I’ve been ranked as high as second best, but because it reminded me first of some great feedback I’d received in my career from the top guy and second because careers are all about finding your niche.
I’ve learned that the best way to provide feedback that makes an impact is:
- Provide timely one-on-one feedback. Ideally provide the feedback right after you see the desired behavior.
- Clearly define what you saw and why it merits positive feedback.
- Relate the actions you saw to a positive characteristic of the individual receiving the feedback.
- Thank them for their contribution and great work.
- Leave immediately so that the feedback sticks and you don’t move on to some other topic that can mask your feedback.
I learned this in one of my early leadership training courses. This was the one they sent me to because I was wrecking havoc in my drive to get things done and leaving a few wounded people in my wake.
The one feedback moment that made such a difference for me was from the chief executive of the organization. He saw me after a presentation and started to give me feedback, but pulled back, collected his thoughts, and went right through the list above.
The big takeaway for me was that he said how difficult it was to lead from the front but noted that every time he looked back to see if anyone was following, I was always right there. It made me feel great, as we didn’t always agree on things, but I always supported his efforts to move the organization forward.
Finding Your Niche
My advice to students looking for a college major or graduate school concentration is to “build your base as broad as possible because the job you’ll be doing ten years from now doesn’t exist today.” Some probably follow that advice. Some, like my daughter Brooke, follow it too closely and get a psychology degree, but that’s another story.
It is all about finding your PathForeWord amidst the opportunities that appear. Some of those opportunities will fit but many will not. The big thing is to set your goals and work toward achieving those goals. That means lining up the right education and training, then being ready to take on the opportunity when it arrives.
In my own path, after pursuing a technical career (broadcast engineer, electronics instructor, educational writer) I decided I wanted a management career leading to vice president as my target. After collecting the necessary degrees and training, and working hard, I was able to advance to quite a few significant management roles. However, when the opportunity came for a VP level role, I actually realized I didn’t want to be sandwiched between those who got the work done and those who issued executive level directives. I decided to stay in roles that had a direct impact on getting work completed.
Among those many and varied career opportunities are second in command roles. From deputy chief operating officer to executive vice president, they are out there. I really like Sue Shellenbarger’s advice about this particular role — don’t expect glory or praise, don’t try to compete with the boss, do bury your ego, and take satisfaction with behind-the-scenes accomplishments.
Click on the link above and read the article and watch the video interview. It’s great insight that hopefully can help you on your PathForeWord.