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How to Make the Leap from Director to Vice President With Success!

January 29, 2015

When I think back to my days working in the corporate world, I remember very clearly the moment I was promoted to Vice-President. I was meeting with the President of the organization I worked for at the time, and he spoke to me about my successes throughout the year. Then he congratulated me and said I was being promoted to a newly created position of Vice President. He shook my hand and it was a done deal.  The role transition seemed like a no-brainer for me if I wanted to progress in my career, but I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a part of me thinking, “Oh my God, what does this mean? Can I handle it? Will I be able to manage a fulfilling life outside of work?” But I decided to step into my fear and go for it, and I am really glad I did.

Now as an Executive Coach and owner of Potential Unlimited, the majority of clients I work with range in titles from Director to CEO. I see a lot of trends with these leaders. One of the challenges I notice is making the leap from Director to Vice President.  At this level, often individuals need to change the way they work. If they don’t, they will burn up with stress.

People develop ways of working and beliefs about what has brought them success in the workplace as they progress along their careers. And then they get to a point,usually somewhere around the Director to Vice President transition, when some of these ways of working just don’t work as well anymore.

What 3 Big Shifts need to occur now that you are a Vice President?

1. Delegation and control. Starting out in our careers, we don`t have staff. We learn to do things for ourselves. Then we get promoted and gain staff to help us out. This is wonderful, except we still tend to take on more of the day-to-day projects than is really needed. We feel the desire to be in control and in-the-know of everything at all times. As your scope expands and team grows, keeping tabs on all the details becomes more difficult to do.

Micromanaging has a negative connotation in the workplace, yet so many leaders do it without even realizing it. If you are spending time working on fixing little errors in your staff`s work or constantly seeking status updates or find yourself telling your team members what to do instead of asking them questions to help them figure out their own processes, you are micromanaging.

Tip: Before diving into anything at work, ask yourself, ‘Do I need to be the one that does this?’ Then delegate it and give others a chance to learn.

2.Learn Stress Management Techniques That Work For You. I have worked with quite a few directors, particularly women in this case, who are offered Vice Presidents’ roles and either turn them down or really stress the decision. Their fears play havoc with their decision-making. They are concerned because of the stress in their current roles and fear what this next move could mean to work life balance. There is also a part of them when you go digging deeper that is scared she can’t do the next role. The fear of failure and fear of not being good enough (either at work or at home as a working Mom) really seems to shine through when making this specific leap for some people.

Tip: There is always going to be the fear of the unknown in our lives. It is fine to make a decision to stay where you are at, but first you need to really understand why. Sure, being a senior executive can be stressful, but don`t tell me you haven`t faced stress as a director or manager or even just starting out in your career. I think for myself personally, some of the periods of greatest stress were actually the middle part of my career. I didn’t have a lot of people on a team to help me so I was expected to be the doer yet perform at a high strategic level if I wanted to show I had what it took to go further. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Do something that scares you every day.” Great advice.

Examine the real pressures of the job and learn what the pressures are you’re putting on yourself. Often we have these additional expectations we feel, fueled by our fears and the need to please that adds more stress than the job itself. Check your fears at the door, go into work and do your best and carve out your boundaries. I often ask myself when my fears go wild about the future, ‘What is the worse thing that can happen?’ Often it really isn’t that bad and you’d survive in your life quite fine if the worst case happened. And some times the worst thing you can imagine, could actually end up being the best thing for you. When you can change your perspective, you can change everything.

More times than not when I work with women through these progressions and support them as they make the leap,  they are glad they went for it. When I check in with them a year later, these Vice Presidents have adjusted nicely to the role. Scientific data on the brain shows that fear lessens its impact on our brain as soon as we step into it. So whether it is a big meeting you are preparing for or making a career leap, allow yourself to jump into it without too much humming and hawing. Trust your gut instinct.  Looking for help managing your stress, check out my Mindfulness Living and Leading program (group sessions and one-on-one coaching are available).

Fact: Making time for exercise in your life, despite your busy schedule, is one of the best stress busters!

3. Keep technology in check.Technology has allowed us to do so much in our days, which is great. But sometimes there is a fine between being productive and just plain spending too much time on technology for the sake of it. Being responsive at any hour on technology has become the new face time. For instance some may think, ‘Wow, Nancy responded to an email at midnight. Isn’t she a great leader.” I say unless it is a major issue that she is working on that particular evening, she is not a great leader and may be negatively impacting the culture.

Tip: We all need breaks to re-charge our batteries. I am a big advocate of working in intervals. And when you are off, you need to be really off (returning emails doesn’t count). I have coached others with great success to work in this way and have converted to this way of working myself. My coaching sessions are 50 minutes in length. This gives you and me an extra 10 minutes to re-charge before we jump into our next appointment. This time, if used wisely, will help your next meeting be even more productive.

Fact: If you are working on a project or at home spending time with your family and you check your smart phone for 10 minutes, it takes 3 times the length of time you were on the device to really clear your head once you have returned to your original task. That 10 minutes ends up costing you 40 minutes! Set dedicated times to check your devices so you are not constantly distracted.

Going forward

If you are a director contemplating a move to a Vice President’s role or if you are currently a VP, my biggest piece of advice for you is to use your gut instinct more. If you can feel your thoughts are continually wrapped up in something, physically get up and move. That is the best way to shake your brain out of that mode of stressful thinking. Give yourself a short break and then when you return you can ask yourself, ‘What should I do?’ Listen to your gut and go for it. Don’t second guess yourself. Once you’ve done your due diligence, trust your judgment. Remember that you are a smart person. You wouldn’t have made it this far if you were not.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Gary & Marilyn Greenham permalink
    February 19, 2015 9:20 am

    well done

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