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The Hidden Speed Bumps On The Road To Success – Three Key Career Derailers

Written by: Karin Wellbrock, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor Karin Wellbrock

The challenges I encounter as a coach working with managers and leaders are often unseen 'career derailers.' These seemingly harmless tendencies can subtly but profoundly disrupt your ambition to climb the corporate ladder. In many cases, these derailers are manifestations of deficiencies in critical leadership competencies (Korn Ferry).

woman in yellow sweater climbing up the stairs

From my client interactions, I've identified three common derailers: Trouble with people, a failure to inspire, and a lack of strategic thinking. Recognizing these derailers is the first step towards overcoming them. So, let's pull back the curtain and look deeper into these roadblocks to success.

Derailer 1: Trouble With People – The Shielded Personal Learner

Picture Peter, a middle manager known for his straightforward communication style. As a result of his steadfast approach, he has lost his professional relationship with Jodie, a key member of the project. This illustrates our first derailer: trouble with people. Peter's resistance to change and personal development can stifle the collaborative spirit that is key to organizational success. There could be several reasons for his rigid stance, including a fear of risk-taking, a preference for familiar methods, a desire for perfection, or a perceived lack of time for self-improvement. Moreover, Peter could overuse some of his managerial skills, such as planning and then taking action, which could upset Jodie.

Peter's unwillingness to evolve will exacerbate his lack of self-awareness and inability to adapt to changing situations, which are two of the most critical leadership competencies. We should, however, remember that we are all works in progress. If we wish to develop, these competencies can be nurtured over time.

Derailer 2: Failing To Inspire – The Taskmaster Leader

Meet John, an energetic and ambitious manager with his sights firmly set on reaching the ranks of middle management. His unyielding pursuit of results often leaves his team feeling overburdened and underappreciated. Our second derailer is a failure to inspire. John's tendency to see his team as separate entities rather than a unified whole can aggravate conflicts and dampen team morale. Assigning work and defining responsibilities to individual members is frustrating because he does not bring the team together and resolve issues in a broader context. Whenever possible, he prefers to meet one-on-one.

However, it's essential to remember that leadership is getting work done through others by inspiring them. John's one-size-fits-all approach to communication isn't inspiring, and he should learn how to understand and adapt to the needs of each member. A harmonious and productive workplace can be achieved by balancing task orientation with people orientation.

Derailer 3: Non-Strategic – The Tactical Executor

Finally, let’s turn our attention to Emma, a veteran senior leader who’s gained considerable acclaim for her extraordinary sales achievements. However, her preference for tactical tasks often eclipses her capacity for strategic foresight, leading us to the third stumbling block: a lack of strategic thinking. Emma's reluctance to strategize might stem from discomfort with complex problems, a risk-averse nature, or the belief that the future can't be foreseen. It is possible that she tends to overuse her action orientation and get things done.

However, as leaders, embracing complexity and uncertainty is part of the package. Besides strategic thinking capabilities, successful leaders have another crucial capability: seamlessly zooming in on details and tactics as well as zooming out to see the bigger picture.

Navigating Beyond The Derailers: A Compass For Success

  1. Champion Lifelong Learning: Embrace a continuous learning journey with enthusiasm. Regularly seek out professional development opportunities and feedback. Develop your personal learning curriculum, e.g., negotiation skills, conflict management, influencing without authority, etc., and dedicate time to improving interpersonal and managerial skills.

  2. Cultivate a Collaborative Spirit: Reflect on your approach to work: task orientation versus people orientation. Develop a plan to improve your communication skills to create an environment that celebrates teamwork. Practice different aspects of communication, e.g., effective delegation and conflict resolution. Help your team grow, as their success directly contributes to your own.

  3. Nurture Strategic Thinking; Learn to Zoom In and Zoom Out: Cultivate your strategic skills by learning from experienced mentors and attending strategic management seminars. Treat complex problems as opportunities for growth and learn to thrive amidst uncertainty. Observe yourself when you tend to zoom in – getting lost in the details – and practice ways to zoom out to see the bigger picture.

Charting a course around these professional derailers is key to keeping your career progression on track. However, it’s important to keep in mind that every professional path has its fair share of obstacles – they’re an integral part of the journey. It’s not the hurdles we face, but our reaction to them that truly shapes our career story. Occasionally, these challenges may signal a need for guidance – a coach who can shine a light on your path. With a coach’s deep understanding of the professional terrain, they can partner with you to craft individualized strategies. So, rather than viewing these obstacles as mere detours, transform them into catalysts for your ongoing professional development and success. Ready to turn your speed bumps into stepping stones? Let’s get started!

Follow me on LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info! Read more from Karin!

Brainz Magazine Karin Wellbrock

Karin Wellbrock, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

In addition to being a co-founder of Kay Group K.K in Japan, Karin Wellbrock is an executive coach and leadership consultant with over 30 years of global experience. A passionate advocate of human-centered, inclusive leadership, she creates exceptional results. To bring innovation to the workplace, she is conducting research in Japan and Europe to increase female representation in leadership roles. Her program "Leader-by-Design" demonstrates this. Dedicated to systemic change, Karin is a member of an all-women-led angel investment club in Asia Pacific, and mentors startup and NGO leaders and game changers in Asia and Europe. It is her mission to elevate 100 women to the C-suite.



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