If you are a strong leader, with a proven track record of results and looking to advance, chances are you are going to be asked to take on a job you know nothing about. On paper, you will be completely unqualified. Welcome to the world of succession planning developmental assignments.
Much research has shown that the best way to prepare leaders for broader, more strategic responsibility is to move them into diverse roles and assignments. The Lessons of Experience, High Flyers, and The Leadership Pipeline, all offer insights into why and how this works. Leaders who can produce results across a variety of organizational contexts become valuable utility players with broad perspectives on the business.
So, if you are asked to take on a job you know nothing about, that’s a good sign. Time to embrace that queasy feeling. Oh, and also get used to it great results in this role will likely lead to the next “how did I get here” challenge.
I have done a number of these assignments in my career and been around others doing the same. I have seen these assignments both catapult and derail careers. The bottom line, these jobs are about learning, but they are still big jobs with a strong expectation of results.
Tips for Achieving Results in a Developmental Assignment
- Begin with confident humility
- Discover who’s already leading the team and learn everything you can
- Build great peer relationships
- Admit what you don’t know
- Involve everyone early in the game
- Get to know your team one person at a time
- Don’t change too much too fast
- Ask lots of questions and then ask some more
- Inspire transformation
- Celebrate, recognize and give the credit to the team that did the work
- Build results that last beyond your tenure
- What would you add?