🚨 Blind spots

The skills that advance your career could end it early

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The skills that advance your career could end it early

In the early stages of a career, some of our innate traits can turn into rocket fuel. 

Take self confidence. If you’re fortunate enough to have it in spades, you probably have an easier time voicing ideas in crowded meetings, never have to expend psychic energy combating imposter syndrome, and most likely feel comfortable volunteering for complex tasks.

Or, let’s say you have a rich and deep technical acumen. That gift lets you sit down, get to work, and elegantly solve problems that others find complex —often with ease and in record time.

Let’s be clear. These are good traits, which is why they often lead to promotions and recognition.

BUT.

As one climbs higher and higher up the career ladder, the corporate atmosphere shifts.

The oxygen seems to get thinner, as job descriptions (and associated KPIs) expand —and the stakes get higher. 

See, as execs become more and more senior, their roles morph. They move from doing the work to managing those doing the work. And shifting your whole job from maintaining your own individual performance, to people management isn’t easy.

And why should it be? It’s a very different role. And as I’ve written many times in the past, managing people is plenty hard.

PLOT TWIST

Being a talented engineer or art director does not mean you will automatically become a talented team leader.

Remember that deep focus and elite level expertise on technical details that got you promoted? Well that stuff can —all of a sudden— crowd out a broader strategic vision. 

Or, that good ol’ self confidence, that was once a secret weapon? Well, that might now overshadow collaborative efforts, or much worse, feel overbearing to the people you manage.

Ah, and then there’s that intrinsic satisfaction you get from “rolling up your sleeves” and “just doing the work.” Who could forget that? Well, maybe you. See, a desire to do things yourself is the fastest way to alienate talented people just below you in seniority. That mentality, the one that served you so well throughout your rise, can really disempower your team, who need time and space themselves to shine.

And I haven’t even gotten to how corporate seniority (and more $$$) can quickly blur the line between extraversion and egomania.

This is what it looks like when strengths start morphing into blind spots.

UM, WOW. OK, NOW WHAT?

Start with this truth: successful leaders are the ones who evolve, blending their intrinsic strengths with an acute awareness of when and how to adapt them.

Not sure where to start? Well, here are 3 common areas where marketing/agency leaders often stumble. Recognize any?

1. Innovation bias: Innovative leaders soar in fast-paced, creative environments. This makes logical sense. They drive agency success by way of fresh, satisfying (or even groundbreaking) campaigns and seizing rare but valuable opportunities. However. Leaders with innovation bias are so busy innovating that they can underestimate the value of proven methodologies, executed well or data-driven decisions. 

2. Execution bias. This is the opposite of no. 1. Craftspeople with execution bias excel at tactical delivery. They often enjoy a lot of success in structured, deadline-driven settings. As it happens, they’re usually awesome middle managers too, knowing their teams’ strengths and their clients’ likes better than most. But, all of this attention paid to (important) details, and (effective) tactics can mean no time at all spent thinking about long-term strategic visions or a damaging slowness to adapt to rapidly changing market trends. 

3. Expertise bias. These leaders have climbed the ladder thanks to their deep, rich, celebrated expertise in a specific and valuable marketing domain. And yet. When they reach the top of the org chart, they can find themselves unprepared for the broad based aspects of leadership, like cross-functional collaboration or organizational change management.

OK, WHAT’S THE POINT HERE?

It’s weird but true: the same thing that makes you good at your job can quickly turn into a blind spot.

That’s bad.

The good news:

Simply being aware of this phenomenon can help you prevent your strengths from becoming weaknesses. If you’re a marketer looking to rise within a larger team structure, recognize how these common superpowers can quickly turn into kryptonite early on.

Here’s a little bit of practical advice on how you can recognize these biases to help future proof your career: 

Engage in reflective practices. Get your thoughts down. Systemize your reflection, by setting aside a set time every day to review what went down. what worked, and what didn’t —and why. Pro tip: Earlier this year I shared a system for solo creative thinkers called “THE TRIP.” It’s a handy system for making your work day more efficient, but it just as easily could be applied to reflection.

Seek honest feedback, from people both more senior and less senior than you. And be open to what you hear. It’s invaluable in recognizing and addressing potential blind spots.

Find mentors, in both directions. Experienced mentors can offer insights into navigating these transitions, while junior mentors can keep you fresh and connected. In my personal experience, newer employees more to share with more experienced and senior execs then they both think.

Embrace continuous learning, not just in your field, but in leadership and emotional intelligence.

Bottom line: you gotta evolve as you climb. Keep adaptable, aware, and evolving, my friends.

Your future-CEO-self will thank you.

Written by Jon Kallus. Thanks for reading. This issue has been sponsored by Thumbstop.

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