Career stalled or ‘jumped the rails’? Causes and what to do.

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Someone I coached five years ago, as they were making the transition from a departmental manager to a business manager, has contacted me. They are now a group manager and are trying to understand what has occurred as a result of a restructure of the senior leadership group in their company because they feel their career has suddenly stalled, if not left the tracks.

Before we spoke, they had done some of their own research using their favourite search engine to establish possible causes.   Plus they sought feedback from their immediate higher level leader. Their research and discussions only served to confuse them more. Had they become moody, cynical, stopped listening to feedback, had a shift in mindset? They felt this was superficial and missing the real issue even though they were unable to put their finger on the cause – and they were right.

The big clue that enabled us to isolate what had occurred was when they disclosed that their immediate higher level manager had not made it through to the senior leadership group in the restructure. This led us to explore the nature of their relationship with this manager. It turns out their relationship with their higher level manager was very strong. We agreed that this should be explored further as we suspected that they may have been caught by one of the major aspects that can stall a career, which is overreliance on one leader at the expense of others.

They sought feedback from their peers and the CEO to confirm our suspicions. What they found profoundly shocked them.

Feedback uncovered that several peers had formed the view some time ago that this person’s career had progressed not on merit; instead, it was believed, they had advanced because their higher level manager was a powerful advocate for them and they were seen as this leader’s favourite.

Their meeting with the CEO was even more revealing. The new senior leadership group had raised their concerns with the CEO over whether this person could deliver without the aid of a powerful ally and advocate.

With our suspicion was confirmed, the dilemma was what course of action they could take to recover their position and get their career back on track. Realising the ‘over dependence’ trap they and their manager had unconsciously fallen into they decided it best to put some distance into their relationship.

They approached the CEO and requested a project which they would be accountable for leading and managing, and for which they had full P&L responsibility so that they could prove to the senior leadership group they had the knowledge, skill, and experience required. The CEO has indicated she will take it under consideration.

Overdependence is only one of several aspects that contribute to a leader’s career jumping the rails. Others include:

  • Challenges moving from tactical to strategic focus and role
  • Lack of accountability and follow-through
  • Disagreement with higher management about business direction
  • Inability to build high performance in teams
  • Unable to deliver outcomes and results to timetable agreed
  • Difficulty in building and maintaining relationships with others at every level of the organisation.

Did this manager get their project? We are yet to hear.


Viventé Australia enables leaders and managers develop the bond between people and performance, creating a powerful advantage: the synergy between people, leadership, management, and culture, produces performance that allows your business to achieve its best.

 

 

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