One of the great career transition challenges is to grow from being a project manager to a leader. The skills and attitudes we learn to become proficient in “getting stuff done” and bringing a team to successfully conclude a project can work against us as others evaluate different criteria: emotional intelligence, motivating others, and turning what others may see as conflict and hindrances into opportunities.
The career journey from worker to project manager may be easier because it is usually task focused. While the transformation from task to human-centered process is harder because it requires self-awareness, empathetic imagination, and intuitive understanding of the motivations and capabilities of others— a comfort level with people who think, act, and feel differently than we do.
This quandary often occurs in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) industries whose highly educated, effective, motivated, and ambitious people work hard to achieve success, yet are frequently frustrated and stuck by what I call the “get it done” dilemma. Those who get it done are passed over or do not create new opportunities for themselves because they are not perceived as “strategic” or “people persons”. Contrived urgency to work faster, combined with brutally long working hours, only exacerbates the pressure and anxiety.
Vinod came to me with his career problem. Highly educated and trained in India, he moved to Silicon Valley and had achieved a level of proficiency and success in his role as a project director to bring services to market. However, he wanted to be on a C-Suite track and believed his reputation as a go-to guy was now inhibiting him for his next career move.
We began with an Energy Leadership Assessment so he could examine his own attitudes and how he might appear to others.
His assessment reveals that he indeed inspires co-workers, shows a great deal of compassion for their problems, helps them in their work, and fosters collaboration, teamwork, and loyalty.
However, when under stress, Vinod tends to feel that he has a huge, constant weight on his shoulders, avoids conflict, and second-guesses his decisions.
This opened our work for him to explore his discomfort in social interaction and being intimidated and ill at ease when in the presence of those in higher authority or power.
From these realizations, Vinod was able to develop a plan and take steps to work on his intuitive and emotional intelligence and to learn to actively listen, engage with no agenda, and develop a more relaxed, not ingratiating, presence.
Vinod understands his leadership credibility is based on the eagerness of others to engage with him. So he can now actively work on management, team leadership, communication, and coaching skills as ways to enhance his competence and reputation both in how he sees his role in the world and how he can affect how others perceive how he shows up.
Leadership assessment opens awareness for growth through the discovery of those attitudes, activities, and responses that may have worked for us to function effectively before, but may hinder us moving forward to who we want to become and what we want to do. Once we know, we can be more effective to take action and build relationships to help us get there.