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.
We’ve found that a broad organizational perspective is a critical leadership competency and one of the most important factors in the advancement of executives. Looked at another way, having a narrow functional orientation can lead to career derailment. A promotion might take you beyond your level of competence — you may be pushed out, demoted, or fired.
Need a Broader Perspective? Here’s What to Do.
If you’re concerned you may have too narrow a perspective, you can expand it. Our guidebook, Broadening Your Organizational Perspective, explains how to get a broader perspective.
First, determine what’s 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 flaws? 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 4 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. (That’s a key indicator you’re an agile learner, which is critical for a long career.)
To boost your ability to learn from experiences, rather than just run through the paces, pay attention to 3 factors. Do you have:
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’ll 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. (In addition to Broadening Your Organizational Perspective, you may also be interested in Becoming a More Versatile Learner.)
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.
Ready to Take the Next Step?
We can help your senior leaders get the broader perspective they need to lead your organization into the future. We offer executive leadership programs, including Leading for Organizational Impact, tailored to the challenges of top leaders of functions, departments, regions, and business units.