A client of mine, a rising star at a large investment manager, once remarked,
“The higher I climb in this company, the less real work I actually do.”
He wasn't diminishing the quality of his contribution. He was emphasizing the organization's changing expectations that appeared on his new job description. He was now charged with leading several hundred employees. In his words, less "real work" and more "interpersonal and impactful connections to maximize motivation and exceed expectations."
By his own admission, he was promoted on the competency of his hard skills. He was also elevated for demonstrating the ability to be coachable on his way to the top. He quickly recognized the urgency of improving his soft skills for the sake of his personal and professional development. The need to communicate frequently, persuasively, and with impact left him with a void he anxiously sought to fill. He continued to share his concerns,
“I spend most of my days in presentations trying to motivate, inspire, and provoke change. However, I’m not trained for this, feel unprepared, and ill equipped.”
He put his new career challenge in perspective. “My education was so focused on hard skills; I didn’t invest in communication skills. Who knew? I am now in a position that demands exceptional emotional intellignce. What a thrill to have been promoted. However, some days I’m not not up to the task. It’s time all our employees improve their communication skills and bring a better balance to their professional development. I am not going to wait for that balance to happen; that day may never come if I leave it to others. It's important to stay ahead of the game. The skills that put me in this job are not likely the ones that will keep me there. The world is changing too fast. For the sake of my career, I need to keep evolving. I'd like to be here for my next promotion."
Today's Take Away: Make the leap and commit to significantly improve your communication skills. Bring a better balance to your education and professional development. Don't stop focusing on the hard skills. However, if you want to increase your promotion chances and the sense of achievement that comes with leading others...shift the balance toward the growth of your Emotional Intelligence. The platform of that personal and professional evolution is rooted in communication that inspires, persuades, and provokes change.
It will be uncomfortable and you'll make mistakes along the way. Strive for progress, not perfection. Climb that mountain one step at a time. More important, don't let others control your career growth because you didn't envision the need for exceptional and persuasive communication development. It's never too late to fill the void. Adapt or die is sound advice.
"Commit to do something today your future self will thank you for."