Be the CEO of Your Career

Your organization’s success depends upon its people and effectively utilizing human capital. Aligning competencies, culture, and direction is everyone’s responsibility.

Last week I facilitated a workshop titled, “Be the CEO of Your Career”.  The audience was predominately senior level developers who are navigating through the expert career ladder versus the management career ladder.  It’s my belief that all technical professionals, including accounting / finance, IT / IS, sales, marketing, HR, etc. are confronted with the technical versus management dilemma. How do you know which is right for you?

Technical and management skills are two separate disciplines and require a different set of skills. Neither is superior, rather just different. Climbing the corporate ladder doesn’t necessary mean that a management track is required. In fact, this has been a career de-railer for many. Many organizations miss the boat on promoting the technical expert to manager without enough consideration of the actual set of skills required to effectively lead, and handle the minutiae a manager must juggle.

Technical positions require a high level of attention to detail, a very narrow focus, a specific style or flare, and a personal drive to be the best. I’ve never known any top performer who didn’t demonstrate (often in the extreme) all of these skills / characteristics.  A passion for never-ending improvement is a sign of a true expert.

Management / leadership roles require that you take a bigger picture view and have a true understanding of the overall business needs. You manage things and processes, but you need to lead people. In short, management is a people business. Managers typically get promoted because of their expertise, but the good managers evolve into solid leaders when they coach their employees to be better than they were and put their expertise and EGO on a shelf. Packing parachutes is a leadership requirement.

My objective in writing this is to entice you to investigate, evaluate, and identify ways to align your strengths (career goals) with your organization’s strategic objectives and financial outcomes.  This will help you navigate and elevate your career.

Your first assignment is to know your organization’s mission statement, values, strategic objectives, and financial goals. This may seem elementary; however, on the contrary, I continue to be amazed by the number of people “working” that have no idea why. Gallup polls state that 20 percent of our workforce quits every day, but they still show up to work; 60 percent of us just do the minimum to make it through the day. This means that only 20 percent of employees are creating opportunities or being resourceful by solving problems. Do you know how your work impacts your company’s initiatives? Progress and gratification happen when you work with the willing toward a common goal.

Next we need to be self-aware and practice emotional intelligence. It’s challenging to be honest with ourselves and truly isolate our strengths. Yes, there are lots of assessments that can help. However, the process I prefer is amazingly simple. Once again the challenging part is listening to the feedback and having the discipline to change behaviors. My “keep it simple” method is old fashion communication.

Feedback is a true gift if you can give and receive it well. If you are sincere about planning your future and working the plan, build a team of trusted advisors and ask them candid questions about your technical and functional abilities. Don’t be defensive! Listen to the feedback and don’t respond until you have developed a plan of attack to improve. Include action steps that align with your career goals with your organization’s strategic objectives and financial goals. Communicate your plan to your trusted advisors and update them at least four times per year.

No matter which ladder you are climbing, communication is a skill that is critical to your success.  Communication challenges happen to all professionals from staff level to CEO. The true challenge is the illusion that communication actually happened. The next time you are faced with a communication frustration ask yourself, “Do you want to be right or happy?”

Stayed tuned, as I will discuss “Career De-railers” in the October issue of the Aureus Group newsletter.


Chris Carlson, Aureus Group Regional Manager, CPC
Chris Carlson, Aureus Group Regional Manager, CPC

About the Author, Chris Carlson, CPC

Chris is an experienced executive in the staffing industry. She has extensive experience in developing and implementing operational analyses and programs and has assisted hundreds of firms streamline processes and upgrade the competencies of its workforce. Finding innovative ways to generate new business and build teams is her passion. She has developed and executed many successful strategic marketing plans. Chris began her career at Aureus Group, a full-service professional recruiting firm, in 1994 and currently serves as the regional manager of Aureus Group specializing in the Finance & Accounting, Systems and Executive search areas.


In addition, Chris is a Certified Professional Consultant, and has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and a Master’s of Business Administration from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

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