Life in the chaos of the modern business world can be crushingly difficult. Many of those caught in the machine describe the daily grind as “soul-destroying”. They work hard all day, every day on an endless list of tasks at work and home. It might be politics, red tape, antiquated systems frustrating them, little or no guidance on career planning, or they might just sense that there has to be more to life than this.
The challenge is that as they’ve grown older their priorities have changed. They want more time to spend with their family, to get fit and to learn new skills. They yearn to escape the fog of corporate chaos, but escape seems impossible: there’s the mortgage, the kids and often a host of other commitments.
Many of them feel like they need to escape, but escape isn’t the answer. They know the solution is a purposeful and impactful career and a life of significance that doesn’t come at the cost of one’s soul.
Many of them see Chiefs who are living this life. They want the same thing, so they strive to be Chiefs themselves (or at least their dream role).
So how do I become a Chief?
We all know great Chiefs haven’t just walked into these roles, though. The best have embraced a tough journey that has pushed their mental toughness and adaptability to their limits. The best have been forged in the fires of hard-won, tough-fought lessons.
And this is what strikes you when you spend time with the great Chiefs: there is a different essence at their core. They aren’t interested in playing political games. Instead, they take a scalpel to bureaucracy and generate profits through purpose. Their ability to get results combines with dignity and humility, which gives them a calming presence. When this presence is united with their vision, well…that is when the magic happens.
The qualities and habits that make one a Chief are not innate. They are learned. The method I’ll share today is a what I covered in my book which is now an Amazon bestseller in careers. It teaches you how to become the Chief of your career and life and accelerate to the executive team if that is what you want. It contains a blueprint for personal and professional mastery in the corporate world. By following the blueprint, you’ll learn to make a noticeable impact, and this will help you rise above your competition and earn a seat on the executive team. You’ll rise above the politics and overload rampant in the corporate world. You’ll learn how to become a master of yourself and your profession. It isn’t a quick fix, it will take serious hard work and lots of soul-searching. But this will make your victory all the sweeter.
Is this an epidemic?
One day after work I arrange to catch up with a good mate of mine for a beer. As a general manager at a logistics company, he is getting crushed. It’s written all over his face. Even from across the street, it’s clear that he is carrying the weight of the world on his slumped shoulders. He's running twenty projects in his department, five of which are major. He spends hours every day dealing with politics and bureaucracy as he runs from meeting to meeting, which means he’s always struggling to catch up. He works evenings and weekends. His phone is always turned on. Emails pour in at all hours, day and night.
His career progression has stalled. He’s been poised to take that next step to the executive team for years, but he doesn’t seem able to make that leap. What once looked firmly within his grasp now seems to be slipping through his fingers. While he once was focused on leading transformation change for his people and his employer, he’s now entirely consumed by politics, and he’s being out-jockeyed. He’s watched as younger colleagues have been promoted into roles that he thinks should have been his. The setbacks are brutal.
He’s stopped looking at the rung above him and started worrying that his current role might be threatened. He has to fight harder and harder for smaller and smaller victories. He doesn’t really feel respected by all of his peers even though he is a genuinely good guy. Unless something changes, he’s more likely to fall down (or off) the ladder than climb up it. The walls seem to be closing in around him and he can’t work out how to stop it.
My mate’s case is not an isolated one.
If you feel worn out or defeated, you’re not alone. Look around you.
How many of your colleagues are truly happy?
How many of them have found that balance between their professional and their personal lives?
Over the past 15 years, I’ve searched the planet for the most powerful, results-driving performance strategies to solve this global epidemic. In this time, I’ve coached CEOs of multi-billion dollar listed companies around the globe. I’ve helped sporting legends like Martina Navratilova to coach top tennis players and Super Rugby teams reach peak performance levels. I’ve taught the world’s best coaches how to get the absolute best out of their athletes. And I’ve helped doctors and emergency response teams become better lifesavers.
After a decade of coaching at all levels of business and at the top of elite sport, I was able to distil the most effective peak-performance strategies into a small set of repeatable behaviours. These are the behaviours that separate the career middle managers from the Chiefs. In business, in sport and in life, Chiefs do something different, and these behaviours can be learned.
I’ve tested these five steps over more than a decade at the top of business and elite sport, and they get the desired results time and again. This is a system that produces game-changing results, not only when it comes to career planning, but life planning:
1. Game Plan
5. Track Record
The GREAT Method applied to Career Planning
1. GAME PLAN
You need a game plan for your a career and life that incorporates what’s most important to you. Your game plan is a crystal clear vision of your future, your purpose, your unique value proposition and how you're going to rise above the pack to get your dream role.
We also know how vital it is for a business to have a vision, purpose and strategy. The same applies to any top professional when it comes to career planning.
Without a game plan, you have no way of making confident decisions about your future. You will also lack the commitment required to operate alongside the best of the best. You’ll be all at sea and drifting…too much of your future is left to chance. Your Game Plan puts your back in the driver’s seat with a very clear destination.
The best professionals in the world have daily, weekly and annual processes that build a framework of success. These routines are all about prioritising high-quality review, data-driven decisions, and meticulous preparation. Routine is about creating and embedding success-driving habits—these are the everyday patterns that create and sustain focus, drive constant improvement, and increase composure.
Without a high-performance routine in place, you'll lose focus and watch as overwhelm takes over your life and mind. You'll also stop growing and burn out faster than your peers.
Routine is also the key to striking a healthy balance between work and everything else that is important to you. With the right routines in place, you can make each day more productive, which will help you find more time to spend with loved ones, stay fit, go on holiday, or pursue other interests.
The outcome is a system that drives your pursuit of professional and personal excellence.
Every Chief needs a diverse support network in their corner. Remember, if people aren’t on your side, they’re on someone else’s. A network is far more than your connections outside the organisation. I call it your entourage because together you achieve something great. You help each other. It is made up of 5 parts:
- Home and friends away from work
- Senior Executives
- Trusted Advisors
- People that report to you
This step is about drawing on those around you, but it’s also about giving—the more you give to others, the more they will flourish, and when people flourish around you, you’ll start piling success upon success
Remember, respected executives are never lone wolves. Isolation leads to stalled personal and career growth. Connecting and surrounding yourself with smart people is vital to momentum and becoming your best self.
Your assets are the value proposition you offer in the market. They include your technical and people skills, life and professional experience and connections. With so many brilliant executives in the market (as well as new technologies, techniques, and transformative ideas emerging all the time) you need to ensure your technical and cognitive skills are always on the cutting edge.
This step ensures you build the vital skills of accelerated learning and what to focus on for executive-level roles. The world is awash with information, and unless you’re learning (and learning quickly) your assets are depreciating.
You might think of it as standing still, but you’re losing ground in terms of your peers.
5. TRACK RECORD
A bulletproof track record of success demonstrates your ability to make a deep and lasting impact.
A track record of this kind is non-negotiable for C-level roles. The right kind of track record (with irrefutable financial, operational and people metrics) is a powerful opportunity magnet. You won’t need to spend valuable time hunting for the next big challenge. You’ll become the hunted.
The last step in the 5-Step Chief Maker Method will help you get laser-focused on a strategy. You’ll be seeking out and applying yourself to the highest value-add projects that align with your career goals. With this kind of focus, you’ll make a lasting impression in your current role. In short, you’ll be getting noticed for all the right reasons. You’ll also be preparing yourself for the role ahead
Each of the steps covers a crucial component of what it takes to be an upper-echelon professional executive.
A key test for me about the value of steps in a framework is if you remove any element of the framework. Try it for a minute. What happens when you don’t have a game plan, a routine, a supportive entourage, assets and a track record?
These are the personal strategies that the absolute best bring to both the boardroom and life.
It is THE path to becoming the Chief of your Career and Life.
Resources for Implementing the GREAT Method of Career Planning
Start with: The Chief Ready Scorecard
If you’d like to know how to get better at each step here are some resources. But first, you can go and give yourself a score at the Chief Ready Scorecard here.