When you reach that point in your career where you’re an experienced general manager, and you want to make the leap into your first director role, what can you do to speed the process along?
Irrespective of what stage you are at in your career, and despite the workplace still being a multigenerational landscape, you will have to flex your style to become a director in the millennial age.
Becoming a director is not something that happens for every manager – moving from specialist to manager seems like a natural progression, but the move to director seems much harder – and it is. It’s an entirely different skillset, and there are far fewer director jobs than there are manager jobs – only a very select few will make the grade.
So, what skills will you need to develop to become a successful director in the millennial age?
Manager vs Director
Firstly, let me point out the differences between being a manager and director. To the untrained eye, a director can just seem like the next natural progression from a manager role – essentially the same but with more responsibility.
You can be in a manager role for years and still not develop the niche skills needed to be a director – it’s not a case of ‘I’ve been a manager for seven years now, when will I get to be a director?’
The skills are deceptively different.
It’s as much a mindset shift as anything else – some managers will never meet the requirements needed to become a director.
Becoming a director means going from managing one team to being comfortable leading a vast array of different people at different positions in the organisation – often people who don’t know you, and who have no prior knowledge of your skills and experience. Some managers tend to rest on their reputation and come to expect that their team trusts and believes in them because of bonds formed over a long time.
It’s not so much about winning over a whole new set of people, it’s believing yourself that you are equipped for the role, and being able to confidently earn the trust of an entirely new, large group of people.
You will need to work on the following skills in order to become a successful director in the millennial age…
1. Leadership Skills
You’ve been a manager for a few years and have got some successful results under your belt; unfortunately, this does not mean you are a leader.
As Harvard Business Review states – managers are likely counting value, not adding it. A director will embody the vision of the company, and work towards the vision every day. It is less about the smaller daily results and more about the broader picture.
Working towards becoming a director will mean putting the utmost importance on constant learning. How many books does a CEO read per month? Statistics continue to state around 4 per month, with Bill Gates admitting he reads 50 books per year.
And it’s not just books, either – the millennial age is demanding of newer, more cutting-edge technology on an increasingly regular basis. HBR identified that ‘digital directors’ are needed to keep up with digital transformations; that is – top-level employees (of any age) who consume and keep up to date with new technology constantly.
As we approach 2020 we move into the millennial age – where the majority of the UK workforce will be made up of those born between the early 1980s to the mid-1990s, there is a shift beginning in the way that workforces prefer to be managed.
Not all of your employees will be of millennial age, but leaders need to recognise that the generational differences call for separate coaching styles. Millennial age employees will be more aware of mental health issues, diversity and inclusion, where baby boomers are less so.
Leadership is moving away from the overbearing aggressive styles of the last half of the 20th century, popularised by Alan Sugar in the 2000s; now the most successful companies are led by level-headed CEOs such as Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
Moving from managing processes to leading people calls for a shift in delegation skills. Understand the nuances of delegation and how getting it right is crucial for the business. Only the best delegators will make it into directorial positions.
Team, Task and Individual
John Adair’s Action Centered Leadership Model is still as relevant today as it was when he first created it. Based on the functional leadership theory, this leadership model highlights that while equal management of the team, the task and the individual is needed for a business to succeed, a director needs to step even further from the picture and view all of the parts from above – as if from a helicopter.
2. Developing and Empowering Your Team
Making the move from manager to director means that you will not only already be an excellent manager, but you will also need to know how to train and develop your fellow managers going forward. Being able to shift your mindset from manager to director is all about confidence and inner belief that you can step in and develop those who were once your equal – those without 100% confidence need not apply.
However, a director will also need to possess the skill of full self-awareness, be able to recognise that they do not have all the answers and to learn to accept when they must rely on their team.
Becoming a director in the millennial age also means learning – if you are not already equipped with it – the trait of humbleness. This characteristic has recently been identified as one of the four most critical leadership factors.
3. Building Team Culture
Company culture is more important now that is has ever been, with overwhelming research to suggest that businesses with poor company culture are far more likely to fail.
A ‘good’ company culture in the millennial age means harbouring an environment where employees are respected and valued, where there is a vision shared and worked towards by everyone, and where communication, transparency and teamwork are paramount.
4. Think Globally
Being a director means switching your priorities from thinking locally to globally. If you’ve been in a managerial position for several years, it can be hard to unlearn your priorities from where you only had to consider one department of the company – directors think globally.
This includes not just your organisations’ global business goals, awareness of trade deals and overseas markets; it means being politically aware and astute in an ever-increasing complex political landscape.
About Martin Veasey Talent Solutions
At Martin Veasey, we have been working with blue-chip and SME businesses for over 35 years, both in the UK and around the world.
We are an independent consultancy company with highly qualified staff, including many degree and Masters educated consultants, with memberships of professional bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and the British Psychological Society.
We have unique expertise in hiring for senior roles in Board & Senior, Supply Chain & Logistics, Purchasing & Procurement, Manufacturing & Engineering, Pharmaceutical & Life Sciences, Sales, Human Resources, plus many more.
If you are looking to work with a