Author: CB Bowman, MBA, CMC, MCEC

CB Bowman is a Certified Master Coach and the founder of the Association of Corporate Executive Coaches. She specializes in executive coaching, human capital management, and career management. Bowman’s hallmark is her “ability to creatively cut through clutter quickly and help you reach your goals.” She is certified in 360-degree leadership assessment, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Strong Campbell and other career and personality assessment tools. Bowman is uniquely qualified to provide counseling management in bereavement issues related to professional crisis, workplace trauma, downsizing, and mergers and acquisitions. In academe, Ms. Bowman is an instructor at Rutgers University’s Center for Management Development, where she teaches The Challenge of Leadership and Implementing Organizational Change, et. al. She has also delivered programs on Leadership for Rutgers in its Advanced Academy for Minority Business Enterprises. Formerly adjunct professor of Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management at Mercy College, she has also served as adjunct professor of Marketing at Pace University’s Lubin School of Business. Ms. Bowman has been quoted on the Internet and in the media, including television interviews on Good Day, New York and in The Wall Street Journal and Female Executive. Her articles have appeared in the National Business Employment Weekly, Black Enterprise and The Stamford Advocate/Greenwich Times. Certified to serve on public and advisory boards, CB has sat on the Board of Directors for the Society of Insurance Trainers and Educators (SITE), and also served as its North East Regional Vice President; and the Center for Preventive Psychological Care. In 2002, she was appointed by the Mayor of North Plainfield, New Jersey to serve on the town’s Historic Commission, which she chaired for four years. Bowman holds a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and fine arts from the New School for Social Research in New York, and Parsons School of Design. She earned the Master of Business Administration degree, with a concentration in marketing, from Pace University’s Lubin School of Business, and was also a member of its Board of Directors. She has also earned a Certificate in Human Resource Management from New York University.

The ROI of Executive Career Coaching

Professional athletes have long known the secret to success is hiring a coach. Take any sport—tennis, football, boxing, even the Olympic athletes—and behind every one of them, especially the high achievers, you will find a coach mentoring and supporting that athlete.

Large organizations like CocaCola and Mayo Clinic brought in coaches for their executive teams. About 10 years ago, Mayo Clinic conducted a pilot program where they compared the effectiveness of consultants versus coaches working with their employees. They found that coaches helped retention and improved executive job satisfaction, as well as employee performance. When they hired coaches (rather than consultants) to make a difference, not only did the individuals benefit, but so did the organization.

So what does this mean to you as an executive job seeker? If you are thinking about a career change, want to improve your current position, or move up the organization ladder, working with a professional career coach can help.You would hire a contractor to build your house or an accountant to prepare your taxes—the same applies to your career. A professional career coach will  help you expedite your career transition.  Those who have worked with an executive career coach agree; it’s much faster than trying to figure it out all on your own.

Career coaching is designed to help you fulfill your career desires through step-by-step programs customized to your needs beyond just career advice. Working with a coach will help you:

  • Gain clarity on what you really want and how to get there from where you are
  • Identify career possibilities that will connect with your purpose and passion
  • Learn your strengths, skills, values and more through assessments such as interest inventories, personality type instruments, etc.
  • Match your skills,interests and passions with ideal career path, jobs and work environments
  • Create a plan to explore and pursue a new career direction
  • Overcome obstacles in your progress, whether due to employment history, lack of the “right” qualifications, or personal/family issues
  • Identify the best communication of your unique value in your executive resume, LinkedIn profile, executive bio, and other career documents

With an executive career coach, you receive the support and direction to find what’s next for you and stay accountable to take the steps that lead to achieving your career goals.

The return on investment when hiring a career coach repays itself almost immediately. The benefits multiply themselves for a lifetime.

6 Tips You Need to Improve Your Career Management Strategy

1. Set Goals: Your role might have changed or you might be re-examining your current job with a new perspective. Start by determining what’s expected of you and set goals on how to meet those expectations. Do your homework. What priorities do you need to focus on in the next 30, 60, and 90 days? What resources need to be put into place for your success? What results will you deliver, and how will those be evaluated? Document this goal-setting plan to follow throughout the year.

2. Build Relationships: Determine and understand the formal and informal power lines. Build and manage your team and productive relationships with peers, subordinates, and management. Create goodwill by being both a team player and a team leader—show initiative. Equally important, under-promising and over-delivering will help you manage expectations and enhance trust.

3. Keep a Career Journal: A work journal is rather like a diary in that you must keep it faithfully, week by week, if it’s to have any value to your career. It should be a comprehensive record of your achievements and will make it easy for you to update your resume/CV and, of course, prepare for your performance evaluations or promotions by having facts and figures in writing. It should be detailed enough to record your contributions to progress, productivity, efficiency, cost cutting, problem solving, etc. The easiest plan for keeping a career journal is to set aside time at the end of each pay period for recording what you did to earn the money. Don’t procrastinate with this step! It will be difficult to remember a year from now what you did last January.

4. Keep Lifelong Connections: Maintain a lifelong network, not just when you need it, advises Harvey McKay, author of Sharkproof: Get the Job You Want, Keep the Job You Love. Maintain a network of contacts by keeping in touch periodically with those you know and by continually expanding your current contact base. These steps are critical to having a network to tap into when you need to.

5. Plan Your Career: Define the next step for your career, how to achieve it, and begin to prepare for it. A well-known study of Harvard students 10 years after graduation showed that those who had specific goals made three times the annual salary of average Harvard graduates. However, this number was increased exponentially by those graduates who had taken an extra step. Those who had specific written goals made 10 times the average amount in annual salary! Although money is definitely not the sole measure of success, this study illustrates the power of planning, focus, and direction.

6. Conduct an Annual Career Fitness Assessment: To keep you on track, intentional, and proactive with your career going forward, a quick glance into the fitness level of your career is essential. Assess your promotability, job fit, and industry health.

  • Promotability—Are you stuck on your career ladder? Quickly assess your promotability to determine how ready you are for the next step up. If you are doing all the right things, you should definitely be paving the way to a promotion. If you are not being promoted, you need to identify what is standing in your way. Develop an action plan if needed.
  • Job Fit—Determine if you are in the right organization and in the right job. How closely do you think you fit your job? If your talents and skills are being well used within your organization, you should be a great fit. Your job satisfaction is another key, and if it is being negatively affected by your inability to use your natural strengths, you need to think about what changes need to take place. Should you consider a career change?
  • Organization/Industry Health—Will your current career support you for the long haul? Determine the health of your industry and organization. If you have done the research and find out that your industry and/or organization are struggling to keep up with the rapidly changing world, what options do you have to make a change? What steps can you take to prepare yourself to work in a new industry or for a new organization?

If it’s been over a year since you last reviewed your career management strategy, it is definitely a good time to review your career goals, reevaluate your career direction, and create some specific plans to meet those goals. Be intentional and energetically engaged in your performance, relationships, and the value your work brings to others, as well as the personal and professional rewards that you want and deserve!

Senior Executive Career Management

Can You Manage Up? Eight Questions For Increasing Your Influence

As I travel around the country speaking and training people to hold potentially difficult conversations, I am frequently asked if the skills and processes which I teach can be used with one’s boss. I forcefully affirm that one can be more effective as a communicator no matter to whom they may be speaking. Many times people respond with something like, “Well, sure it works if they have had the training.”

Often I am disappointed when I hear such a response because the underlying assumption is that they can’t manage the communication dynamic based on their current skills; that success hinges entirely on whether or not someone has had the class. Such a statement essentially becomes the excuse for not practicing the skills that they have learned. The statement also signals that people may be uncomfortable in a situation where they don’t know what the outcome may be. This is certainly understandable.

But let me be clear. “Managing up,” as some call it, is not about manipulation. It is really about being more influential or even selling an idea or solution in a way that helps your manager understand the situation from a different perspective. If the additional insight will have an impact on results, then any right-minded manager will be interested in what you have to share.

The challenge in holding a conversation with someone who is in authority over you has to do with the quality of the relationship. The quality of respect and relationship will have an impact on results every time. Given that the quality of the relationship is what may provide consideration for your idea, let’s consider some questions that may help you determine the status of your relationship and allow you to gauge what improvements need to be made.

What is your current standing with your manager?

If you have been argumentative or combative each time your manager has made a decision or set a direction, then you probably don’t stand much of a chance of being heard or influencing the current situation. This can be a difficult situation which will take time and effort to correct. By following some of the suggestions below and consistently managing your behavior when you don’t agree, you will be well on your way to building a more positive relationship.

Can you create a different atmosphere with your manager going forward?

This may take a degree of humility on your part. If I wanted to create a different space with an individual with whom I had not frequently agreed and if I had acted badly in the past, I might begin the attempt with the following statement: “I have some pretty strong differing opinions on this course of action. Would you be willing to talk about them with me?” If your manager indicated that he or she was willing to talk about the current issue, you at least succeeded in getting your foot in the door.

If they are not willing to engage with you, then I hope that you will take the opportunity to consider what you might do differently going forward. Taking the time to ask questions to enhance your understanding, keeping your emotions in check, and complaining in front of everyone that the manager’s decision is wrong are behaviors that should be eliminated if you hope to improve the relationship.

Can you set your own perspectives and opinions aside to hold the conversation?

If you are the type of person who always has to be right, then this may be difficult for you to do. You need to recognize that you might not know everything and accept the fact that there is something that you need to learn rather than being firmly entrenched in your own views. Sometimes these types of conversations can turn into a debate. That is the last thing you want to have happen.

We have all had experience with people who continue to push their own views. When you don’t agree with them, they seem to want to push harder. Because I communicate differently, I have often wondered why they do this and have wondered, “Why can’t they recognize that no one is going to endure a barrage of ideas and suddenly come to the realization that they were wrong!” When one party insists that they are right, then the other party tends to become more defensive and reinforces their own position. This whole scenario does not lead to an exchange of ideas and a mutual collaboration of any kind.

Are you willing to prepare to hold the conversation?

If your manager is willing to talk about an issue, the next question I would ask is, “Would you be willing to allow me to prepare to hold the conversation?” If they answered yes, then I would ask them a few questions that would help you to think through the issues around the current situation. For example, you might ask any of the following questions, “What about the current situation should I understand? What is the ultimate goal in the current situation? Of all the issues that we are currently dealing with what takes priority? What criteria do I need to consider that would help me understand the current situation?”

Be sure to establish a firm timeline for holding this conversation. Some leaders would rather talk about the issues right then in the moment. You need to control their potential impatience by identifying a specific time to talk that day.

Do you have sufficient evidence or data that would support your view?

Sound data should be the basis of all good decisions. If you have information that you believe would help the manager make a different decision, be prepared to share that information in a spirit of collaboration and support. Don’t be surprised if the manager is already aware of the information you are offering. If they don’t, allow them time to consider what data you are offering and allow them some time to make their decision given the new information.

If they still don’t make the decision that you would like them to make, then ask questions to try to understand their perspective. This has to be done very carefully. If in the past you have been obstinate or contrary your tone must be calm and you must approach them in the spirit of learning. They may have a different set of priorities or a different set of criteria for making a decision than you do. If they do, then ask them to help you understand and teach you the basis for making such a decision. You may not agree with them, but you will learn a lot about how to interact with this leader going forward.

Are you prepared with a number of different solutions?

Because many managers are Type A personalities, they are often frustrated by individuals who want to expose a problem and then have no suggestions for solving that problem. If your manager has taken the time to answer your questions, you should have been able to recognize a number of their concerns. You need to be prepared with more than one solution that addresses their concerns. If you have information that they may not have, then you have the opportunity to prepare solutions that include the information that you have. Taking time to think through and offer solutions will help you be seen more positively.

Are you willing to support them if the decision doesn’t go your way?

This is hard for many people to do. You may be right in what you are proposing, but if you can find it in your heart to support this person, it will vastly improve the quality of this relationship. When you express support, you increase the chances of being supported later.

Can you honestly thank them for engaging you?

If they have taken the time to explain themselves to you, answered your questions, given you the time to prepare and think through the issues, and given you more time to actually discuss the issues, I would hope you could sincerely thank them for their time and consideration. This will set the foundation for speaking with them in the future. It will tell them that you honestly want to understand and that you want to share from the perspective of improving the work or the outcome.

It is possible to manage up, but you have to do it from the perspective of being part of the solution, not part of the problem. You can disagree without being disagreeable. And you can make a difference if you take the time to understand how to approach an individual that allows them space to think and reason, rather than feel like they have to defend themselves or their ideas. When irrationality rules the day, irrationality will make the decision. We could all do a better job of understanding how to respectfully approach one another when we disagree.