Career Strategies: How to Get a C-Level Job

If you’re climbing the corporate ladder and have designs on the C-suite – CEO, COO, or CFO – a Stanford University professor has some excellent advice.

In essence, he advises getting a strong, generalist-background in business.

“The higher you get in an organization, the more likely you are to encounter problems from a variety of different areas,” says a Stanford Graduate School of Business labor economist, Edward P. Lazear, Ph.D.

He believes it’s important to be a generalist, especially for professionals wanting to become a CEO because of the broad issues the job entails.

ID-10081528 stockimagesDr. Lazear contends “those people have to be generalists” according to Stanford GSB News in its September 2010 newsletter.

The economist has won numerous honors, and written 11 books and more than 100 articles. He was an economic advisor to President George W. Bush, and was chair of the Council of Economic Advisors from 2006 to 2009.

He’s also counseled the governments of Czechoslovakia, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, and Georgia.

“A good CEO is someone who’s very good, possibly not excellent, but very good, at almost everything,” he asserts.

“People who are most likely to end up in leadership positions are ones who have had many different roles throughout their career,” explains Dr. Lazear.

He points out that successful companies make it a practice to give various jobs to talented employees to groom them for leadership.

In other words, the broader the skills –the more desirable a person is for the CEO’s role.

No. 1 needed skill

A salient skill: The CEOs ability to hire the right people to fill the senior executive’s gaps in knowledge or experience is very important.

CEOs must understand enough about the company’s needs in any given area to evaluate, recruit and hire talent.

… it’s important to be a generalist, especially for professionals wanting to become a CEO because of the broad issues the job entails.

“Putting together a team is a generalist’s skill. ‘Just hiring someone’ is not so easy,” says the economist. He believes specific highly visible jobs, such as banking, high-level finance or marketing, are great catalysts leading to the C-suite.

Dr. Lazear says jobs in “publicly observed decision-making situations” puts ambitious people in the right environment at the right time so that others can watch them in action. He believes it’s inevitable that others will become followers as the leader is born.

But he has a warning for an ambitious person – don’t just go through the motions – don’t assume that a variety of jobs or working in a marketing job is enough.

He suggests something akin to physical training for the Olympics – increase your strong points in multiple areas so “you can enhance your probability of going into leadership.”

Excellent advice to which I’d add: In everything you do, do it with enthusiasm with a positive outlook.

From the Coach’s Corner, here is additional reading:

7 Tips for a Young Professional to Become a CEO — For a professional to jump to the senior-management level in the 21st century, it’s imperative to demonstrate seven core competencies. Consider them part of your personal branding for success. It starts with speaking the language of a chief executive officer, and understanding the big-picture needs of an organization to get to the top. It requires a positive personality. No, it isn’t necessary to perform at a Ph.D. level in all the competencies, but it’s important to excel in them.

18 Leadership Strategies to Earn Employee Respect — Even though Wall Street gets ecstatic over productivity growth, merely slashing costs and jobs to create profit is not sustainable for profits. Investors mistakenly believe the earnings for such publicly held companies are good, but it will not last. Workers are realizing they’re not sharing in the wealth. Poor morale will cause profits to plummet, and consumer demand will continue to plunge.

Key Differences between Leaders and Managers — It’s possible for a run-of-the-mill manager to become a leader in management   Published reports in Google News are an eye-opener. If you Google “leadership crisis,” you’ll get at least 9,000 search results for business and the public sector. If you enter the key words, “management crisis,” you’ll probably see twice the results.

5 Personality Traits Why Managers Are Promoted into Leadership — In selecting candidates for leadership, the risks can be great for both the company and managers in lost time, effort and money. So when deciding which of their corporate managers should be promoted into a leadership positions, naturally, companies don’t want any surprises. Among the distinguishing personality traits, companies prefer to promote managers who demonstrate abilities in strategic vision and planning.

7 Thought Leadership Tactics for Strong Performance — For a company to achieve strong performance, its culture and employees must be aligned with business strategy to provide value. But more and more, it seems employees can’t even articulate business strategy. Therefore, management must identify and communicate effective programs that are aligned with employee behavior in order to blaze new paths and fuel business growth.

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”

-Dwight D. Eisenhower 


Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

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10 Strategies to Overcome Stress and Energize Your Career

If you feel stressed at work, join the crowd. Job stress is everywhere. It causes absenteeism, lower productivity, weight gains, high legal and insurance costs, accidents and turnover.

Stress costs business about $300 billion a year, according to the American Institute of Stress (AIS).

It’s no surprise that the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), says there are several warning signs of workplace stress: headaches, lack of focus, short fuses, sleep deprivation, ulcers, and workplace injuries.

NIOSH says employees are worried about downsizing, increased use of temporary workers, and lack of control over their careers.

So, if any of this sounds familiar to you, there’s nothing like a fresh start to energize a career.

For stepping stones to a new approach, here are 10 career strategies:

1. Perform a SWOT analysis of both your personal skills and your job

Identify all strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Assuming you have the passion and skills for your job, then if you still feel overwhelmed at times, the cause might be stress.

Identify the underlying reasons: Relationships with the boss, co-workers and customers; and finances, at work and home.

Launch a campaign to reduce your stress factors by developing a diary of your stress. Analyze how you react to stress. Are your reactions productive? If they’re not, learn relaxation-response techniques, such as deep-breathing exercises or the art of positive thinking (seeing every challenge as gift).

Write a balance sheet and seek the answers to these questions: Is this a real problem? Is it quantifiable in dollars and cents? Is it worth fixing? Do the cons outweigh the pros?

Instead of focusing entirely on the challenges, spend more energy creating possible solutions. For every problem, write 10 possible options.

Alcoholism adversely impacts one out of every 10 Americans. If you need help for drinking, see Alcoholics Anonymous. If you’re troubled by the drinking of friend or relative, check out Al-Anon.

If you determine acceptance is the only answer to your situation and no amount of footwork will solve the problem, it will help if you write a gratitude list. It’s common for a person to dwell on the 10 percent that isn’t working in her or his career instead of the 90 percent that is. Otherwise, if you need to make changes, get busy and set realistic goals.

2. Design a motivating theme to jump start your day

There are days when you need a little extra emotional edge to succeed. You can’t think of one? Some people are motivated by the Nike branding slogan, “Just do it.”

Others rely on listening to music in headsets as they exercise, such as the lyrics in the 1982 Survivor’s tune, “Eye of the Tiger”: “Don’t lose your grip on the dreams of the past; you must fight just to keep them alive.”

By the way, do you exercise?

3. Get enough rest and recreation

Is lack of sleep preventing you from exercising? The temptation is to ignore the signs by thinking lack of sleep is a result of stress. It was surprising to learn that former NFL great Reggie White apparently died of sleep apnea, which afflicts perhaps as many as 18 million Americans. Most often, sleep apnea causes a person to unknowingly stop breathing while sleeping because of a blockage in the breathing passage. Symptoms include feeling tired during the day and high blood pressure, which lead to a stroke or heart attack.

The diagnosis entails an overnight study; patients are wired to measure their sleep patterns. If sleep apnea is the diagnosis, then usually the patient undergoes surgery or is fitted for a mask and a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) breathing machine, which leads to spectacular results. The CPAP machines cost about $2,000 but insurance companies sometimes have to be lobbied for coverage.

Focus on your hobbies whether they be gardening or playing golf.

4. Improve your management of time and priorities

Does it seem you have too much work and too little time? If so, you might evaluate your time-management skills. While it might be apparent, many people waste time because they don’t fully understand what’s expected of them in their job priorities.

All employees deserve to learn answers to three questions: 1. What’s expected of them? 2. How are they doing? 3. What’s in it for them?

Invest time to understand the big picture and your responsibilities in helping the business attain its objectives. If training is warranted, then negotiate for it and make certain your performance matches your job description goals.

Strike a balance: Make certain you’re perceived as a team player; especially on jobs that aren’t necessarily of benefit to you. On the other hand, learn assertion techniques and don’t let others treat you as a doormat. I recommend the best-selling book, “When I Say No, I Feel Guilty,” by Dr. Manuel Smith.

5. Use education as a powerful tool for success

Obtain the highest degree you can, and invest time and money in continuous education. Preferably, a nonprofit university is best —for quality of education, savings and image. Remember knowledge results in power, but only if it’s used.

Join professional organizations for professional growth, and learn transferable skills so that you can rebound from a layoff or be prepared for unforeseen opportunities.

6. Make certain your communication skills are up-to-date

That includes interpersonal, verbal, and written skills. Don’t be one of these statistics: the National Commission on Writing reported U.S. companies expend $3.1 billion in training each year because their employees can’t write properly. (For tips see the 25Best Practices for Better Business Writing.)

7. Get a mentor

A mentor is someone capable of being objective about your strengths and has the desirable expertise. A good mentor will be honored to be asked for help. Make certain you express your appreciation and learn all that you can so that you can become a mentor yourself someday. A mentor of the same gender is suggested.

8. Act with confidence

Once you’ve performed your SWOT analysis, start growing your confidence: write out a series of affirmations about your abilities, dwell on your past successes, and remember that you’ve been prepared for future adversity. Without being ostentatious, learn to market your skills with your bosses, colleagues, industry peers, and customers. Start by public speaking or writing articles.

9. Look around for someone to help

No matter what your struggles, you can always find someone less fortunate, which will give you a better perspective.Consider Winston Churchill’s words: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

10. Consider self-employment

If your SWOT analysis identifies entrepreneurial skills, it might be worth becoming your own boss.It’s very hard work to own your job, but a career as an entrepreneur can be very rewarding, especially if you’re skilled at finding needs to fill.

Good luck!

From the Coach’s Corner, for more insights on managing stress:

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.”

-Hans Selye


Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.