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Want to Get Ahead? Focus on Business Impact, Rather than On Office Politics

Source | LinkedIn | Adam BryantAdam Bryant is an influencer | Managing Director at Merryck & Co

Jim Buckley’s experience includes roles as president of Apple’s $7 billion Americas business and head of Spencer Stuart’s global technology practice. He is also a colleague of mine at Merryck & Co. In our conversation, he shared some of the most common themes that arise in his mentoring work with senior executives.

Q. In your work advising senior executives, what are the themes that come up most often?

A. One consistent theme is that executives are often concerned about what they need to do to get the next promotion, whether that’s a CEO role or a senior management role. They want answers for that. And that’s one of the tougher things to mentor them on because the way you get to those senior levels is to execute effectively on what you’re doing now.

So I try to get people to stop thinking about the political relationships – who they need to impress and score points with to get to the next level – and think instead about what they can do to help the business. How can you grow the business, improve the business, improve its profitability, manage the people more effectively? You move forward by developing great people who execute well, and those people will carry you to where you want to go next in your career.

Q. One CEO I interviewed said that he felt people typically managed in one direction well – either up, to their bosses, or down, with the people who report to them.

A. People find their comfort level where they believe they’re adding value. It can be either that they think they’re making an impact by spending most of their time managing up and hoping it’s noticed as opposed to managing the people who are responsible for the business metrics and getting them to perform. I believe that the second approach is more important.

Every environment does have a certain amount of politics, but I would say that the time spent playing politics needs to be tempered. It becomes obvious when people spend too much time trying to do that.

Q. Other themes?

A. Two that seem to trouble everyone are time management and prioritization. In this 24-hour work cycle we live in, there’s no time off, and I find people struggle with managing their time and how much time to spend on different priorities.

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