Emerging Leaders: Four ways to advance your career

What are those gaps between expectation and performance, and how can women overcome them to advance their careers?

That is the question I put to Kieth Cockrell, divestiture executive with Bank of America, when we spoke about the steps women can take to advance and become business leaders.

1. Great performance is “hormone blind”

“When I’m thinking about filling a key role in the organization,” Cockrell explains, “I don’t really see differences between men and women. For me, it comes down to great performance. That’s just table stakes.

“There are plenty of people who do good work. What I’m looking for is superior results and a commitment to doing exceptional work.”

2. Performance without relationships goes nowhere

For those wanting to transition from individual performer to leader, Cockrell relates his own realization of just how much more can be achieved through rallying a team.

“There’s so much more that an army of people can do versus what I could do alone,” he says.

But how will you know when it’s time to transition from performer to leader? According to Cockrell, it’s a personal evolution every leader comes to on his or her own time.

“Eventually you realize that you don’t have all the answers. There are other people who have different perspectives, experiences and intelligence,” he says.

“Over time, I have learned to listen a little more versus always thinking that I had the right answers.”

Even leaders need to stay grounded with a core group of intense, strong and powerful connections.

“I’m a big believer that you have to work hard and perform, but you also have to develop relationships. Performance plus relationships lead to advancement,” Cockrell explained.

3. Stay in your sweet spot

Trust in oneself, according to Cockrell, is a universal trait, and one particularly inherent in future leaders.

“A lot of people focus on the feedback that they’ve received on the things that they need to do to be better,” he says. “I encourage you to listen to that feedback but also know who you are and the things that make you special.”

Cockrell refers to this innate self-confidence — while still being open-minded to performance feedback — as the leadership sweet spot.

And once you find it, Cockrell insists, own it: “Do your best to stay in your leadership sweet spot because it’s not work. It just comes very naturally and you have the opportunity to be impactful.”

4. Articulate your interests

Cockrell suggests that women shouldn’t be shy about letting current leadership know of their further ambitions.

“If there’s one piece of advice that I would give, in general, it is to not allow people, including your boss, to assume what’s in your best interest,” he says. “If anything, it’s your obligation to ensure that the people who are in your direct chain of command have an understanding of what your interests really are, your willingness to relocate and your readiness to take on greater responsibilities.

“You may not be able to articulate exactly what you want, but make sure that people don’t make assumptions about what the best career choices are for you.”

Jo Miller is CEO of Women’s Leadership Coaching Inc. Twitter handle: @womensleadershp

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