Promotion seekers: never ignore the business mindset
As a middle manager, you already know what it takes to make a business successful. All businesses need strategy, marketing, operations, and finance. What you probably haven’t realized yet is that if you’re planning on moving up the corporate ladder, you have to treat yourself as a business, too. Without an “I’m a business” mindset, you’ll find yourself in the same position until retirement. Only middle managers who see themselves as businesses will identify and seize promotion opportunities, which are important factors affecting career development. Let’s have a look at the ways in which you should adopt an “I’m a business” mindset.
Make a business plan. Yes, you read a correctly, a business plan. Your plan should include your own mission statement, in which you set out exactly where you want to be both in the short and long terms. Remember that a good mission statement should be specific enough so that you can check on your progress in its fulfilment. I like the format of “by [date], I will be the [position] of [company]”.
In addition to your mission statement, make sure you have mapped out your competitive environment. Who are the other players in your company who could be vying for the same promotion? How much does your company promote from within versus from the outside? Who might the external competitors be for your next promotion? These are crucial factors affecting career development.
Once you have laid out your competitive environment, it’s time to enter marketing mode. As with any marketing plan, you should formulate your own USP (unique selling proposition/point). A good USP states loudly and clearly why you (and not someone else) should occupy your place in the market. What is the added value that you will bring to your next position? Why is this added value unique to you? Formulating a USP might not be easy, as you might not have had the opportunity to stop and reflect about what makes you special. I suggest not only self-reflection but also consulting others you can trust. Just as in a good market research focus group, ask co-workers around you what they think your USP might be. Be sure to try and speak with subordinates, people at your managerial level, and your supervisors. In this way, you’ll have enough information to put together a pretty accurate USP to communicate to others.
Once your USP is in place, you have to make sure others know about it as well. I’m not saying that you have to go for a full-blown advertising campaign. However, if you find yourself on the modest side - or even worse, someone who tends to stress your weaknesses, then switch modes immediately. For example, it doesn’t hurt to put out an email mentioning how proud you are of your above average customer retention rate, does it?
Now, what about your company operations? True, you’re not a factory, but you still need to figure out how you’re going to get that next promotion - what you’d set out in your mission statement. First, find out what you’ll need to do in order to meet each milestone - or new position. For example, should you brush up on your finance skills? Prove you’re the number one salesperson in your region? Take on a project that’s not in your immediate area? Do you need extra time and resources to accomplish your plan? Organize all of this information and then create deadlines for yourself - as if they were assignments given to you by your supervisor.
Finally, think a bit more about finances. You’ve already considered the expenses in your operations plan. What about the other side of the coin? Do you have a salary target for each new position? Are there salaries you’d consider as unacceptable? You need to be aware of this, as it will help you understand the managerial levels you need to aspire towards. Or it might tell you that you need to look for advancement at another organization. Of course, you might not have all of the financial information necessary, but knowing roughly where you’d like to head is part of the “I’m a business” mindset.
I know that I haven’t covered everything there is regarding adopting an “I’m a business” mindset, but I hope that my message has been clear. In order to move from middle management to more senior positions, you have to come up with a clear strategy. Framing yourself as a business, from my experience, is a very useful, productive way to go. With a good business plan in place, businesses, as well as middle managers, have a much greater chance of success.
And always remember:
Great managers are made. Not born.
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