The more responsibility you have and the higher up you go in your organization, the more important it is to see beyond your own functional area.
CCL has found that a broad organizational perspective is one of the most important factors in the advancement of executives. Looked at another way, having a narrow functional orientation can lead to derailment. A promotion might take you beyond your level of competence — you may be pushed out, demoted or fired.
If you are too narrow in your perspective, you can expand it, according to CCL’s Ellen Van Velsor, author of the new CCL guidebook, Broadening Your Organizational Perspective.
First, determine what is getting in your way. It may be, in part, organizational forces. But it may be your own behaviors that are holding you back. Do you tend to:
Over-rely on strengths? Too much success in one area can lead you to over-rely on what has been working for you so far. Any strength can become a weakness, leaving you with a gap or limitation when it comes to the next job opportunity.
Ignore a flaw? You probably know your weak spots, or you’ve been given feedback about something to improve. Ignoring this insight is a missed opportunity — one that can potentially derail your career.
Avoid untested areas? If you shy away from a function or area, the lack of knowledge and experience may become an obvious gap. Don’t think, “I’ve made it this far” and assume it won’t matter down the road.
Focus on one type of work? Deep expertise is not a replacement for a variety of experiences. A track record of working in different areas or on different types of work demonstrates the versatility needed to move up in an organization.
Underlying these four patterns is the inability to learn, to take a risk and to be challenged by something new. So, go after a variety of challenging experiences — but be sure you will learn from them.
To boost your ability to learn from experiences, rather than just run through the paces, pay attention to three factors:
Willingness to learn. Understand that new experiences may provoke fear or anxiety. Your performance may suffer in the short term. What is your motivation and commitment to engaging in and learning from a new experience? How will you handle the emotions that come along with it?
Ability to learn. When going through a new experience you will want to determine what is important for you to learn. This requires vulnerability. Are you able to seek and use feedback? Do you learn from mistakes? Are you open to criticism without being defensive?
Learning versatility. You also need to understand how you learn — what’s your learning style. Once you’ve identified the tactics you prefer and use most often, you can try new learning tactics to make sure you learn the most from your experiences.
With a solid understanding and commitment to learning, you can find and create experiences to broaden your organizational view. As a result you will strengthen your overall leadership abilities, enhance your opportunities for advancement and improve your ability to adapt to an uncertain and turbulent world of work.
In addition to reading Broadening Your Organizational Perspective, you may be interested in two other CCL books: Creating Learning Experiences Without Changing Jobs and Becoming a More Versatile Learner.