Human resources professionals that have their eyes on the corner office and a "chief" title are starting to take the road less traveled. In today’s business world, individuals that train and focus on only one area of business are left disconnected from other functions and are less likely to have the overall business strategy front-of-mind when making crucial business decisions. Now, employees need to have an even more diverse set of skills and experiences to be considered for a senior level position than ever before. Managers of HR departments cannot just have a background in payroll or benefits; they also need a background in operations, finance, marketing, and technology, to stand out for C-level opportunities.
Are employees still focused on climbing the corporate ladder? The short answer is: no. Where did the term "corporate ladder" come from anyway? In fact, many individuals are staying away from the phrase altogether. As many employees are striving to reach the C-Suite, they are branching out into numerous business areas, learning the ins and outs of internal challenges. In order to break down internal silos, employees are developing skills in numerous business functions to become more in tune with the future needs of the organization. Understanding the future goals of a marketing department to target consumers, and learning how to increase ROI by working with the sales team, can make a significant impact on an employee’s outlook and understanding of a business. Chief Executive Officers are looking for individuals with experience in many departments in order to enhance the overall level of the executive staff and grow the organizational strategy into the future. CEOs are also looking to fill skill gaps by recruiting and hiring the right talent; this is where HR professionals have a strong advantage.
Tips and Tricks to Join the C-Level Leaders at the Table:
Become a leader: People take notice of leaders. Regardless of whether you are in a management position or not; take the time to understand other employees and listen to their wants, needs, and goals. People look to leaders for motivation and inspiration. To be a leader, you must earn respect from fellow employees and empower them. Start by listening to other employees.
Long-term ideas: Having the understanding of long-term goals and potential repercussions of short-term actions is very important for a senior level executive. Having the strong vision and detailed ideas for the future business plan shows not only a deeper understanding but also the ability to focus on the long-term. A leader understands that if the team falls short, he/she is responsible and will take full responsibility to make the long-term strategy work.
Try your hand in all business functions: Try them all: marketing, sales, operations… Cross training gives you a better understanding of organizational strategy and business objectives. Working side-by-side with each department and understanding different business functions allows silos to be broken down; leading to better communication across the entire enterprise. CEOs and Board of Directors are looking for leaders with a wide variety of areas of expertise to bring new ideas and fresh perspectives to the table.
Never stop learning: There is always a story to hear, or a new tool to use and as an individual striving to become a C-level executive, the learning should never stop. Technology advances daily and there are always new challenges facing executives. One important rule for someone that aspires to be in the C-suite is to always listen and always make time to learn. Join group conversations; whether it is in the office or on a discussion board. There are always others with great ideas that you can learn from. Don’t be afraid to ask for help to enhance your knowledge in a new area.
Find a mentor: When talking with most senior level executives, they all have a similarity that led them into this position. A mentor. Someone who once guided them and assisted in developing them into the leaders they became. Find that person who believes in you, and listen to them. It could be someone in the HR field, or it could be an individual outside of your organization. Take the time to listen and learn from other individuals. However, don’t forget that once you reach that C-level title, be a mentor. Someone else is looking up to you.
Human resources departments have transformed drastically over the past decade and have now become an integral part of every successful business. Many HR professionals are taking the necessary steps to join the C-Level team. There are no step-by-step directions to follow, or books to read, that will take an employee to the senior level executive team. Board members and other C-level executives are looking for individuals that understand the greater whole of the organization and can enhance the long-term strategy of the enterprise. There are many tips and tricks past, former and present C-level executives can give, but there is one overall theme from them all: LISTEN!
Do you have any tips for aspiring C-level executives?