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How Do You Know You Are Ready For a Corner Office?

Posted on 9.08.2016

By Alexis Robin,
pLink Coaching Center for Excellence


So, you are considering a seat at the C-suite table; how will you know when you are finally ready for that corner office?

Here are some good questions to ask yourself when determining if you have the potential to succeed in all that natural light. 

How self-aware am I?  

In Dan Goleman’s book “Focus”, he shares that self-awareness diminishes with promotions up the organizational ladder. Do you know your values, triggers, behavioral traits and reactive tendencies? Your leadership wake the energy you leave behind after interacting with your team, has a big impact in your ability to influence your team and encourage discretionary effort. Are you picking up on nonverbal cues from the people around you? Are you using your intuition and your emotional messages to complement your cognitive power when making difficult decisions? If you know yourself well and are constantly working on raising your consciousness and self-awareness as a leader, you have a higher likelihood of succeeding in the C-suite. 

On a Scale of 1 -10, how composed am I in high-stress situations?  

The bigger your scope of responsibility, the more impactful and complex situations and decisions will become. Are you able to stay cool under pressure? Are you comfortable sitting at the head of the boardroom table and not having the answer to every question? Can you receive feedback without getting defensive? The more composed you are, the more ready you will be. 

What strengths will I bring to this job? 

One of the biggest myths about being a CEO, COO or CTO,  is that you have to know how to do everything. The best leaders know what they are good at and surround themselves with people who complement their strengths. When you are working from a place of your strengths you’ll be energized and inspired. If you are trying to be all things to all people, you may end up wasting precious energy on tasks that someone on your team could do in half the time. Great senior leaders have the confidence to delegate things outside of their strength suite. 

How well do I see the forest through the trees?  

Having an agile mindset will help you shift between detailed information and strategic ideas. Ideally you’ll be able to quickly and easily shift from a whole system perspective to a specific operational perspective and back again with grace. This will prepare you for keeping up with the fast-paced conversations in the boardroom. 

How good am I at setting boundaries?  

The one thing I know for sure after coaching many C-suite clients is that your inbox will never be empty. If you are going to make time to reflect on your work, get adequate sleep, have an exercise routine and enjoy quality personal time, you must be able to set good boundaries. There will always be a meeting invite, a phone call to return, a full box of emails and a project that needs attention. If you are used to saying “yes” to everyone, you’ll want to break that habit before moving on up. 

Do I still have things to learn? 

Leadership is a lifelong journey, and not something you arrive at when you get the big title. Being willing to learn from interns to retired board members and everyone in-between is a sign that you are ready. As Fred Kofman says in his book “Conscious Business”, “Be a learner, not a knower”. 

Am I good at sharing my ideas? 

In Adam Grant’s new book “Originals” he dedicates an entire chapter to teach us how to share our original ideas so that people will accept them. It’s not enough to mention it once at a meeting and hope someone grabs onto it.  He says, “If we want people to accept our original ideas, we need to speak up about them, then rinse and repeat.” It’s best to practice this before grabbing your seat at the table on the top floor. Chances are this practice might even garner you an invitation to that corner office before you apply for the job. 

If after going through these questions, you think you still have a lot to work on, that’s a sign that you might be more ready for executive leadership than you think. In the end, being willing to take a good hard look at yourself and own where you need development is key to serving your organization at the highest level and being a good role model for the people who report to you. You don’t have to know everything before you get the job; you just have to be willing to keep evolving and learning every time an opportunity shows up.  


About the Author

Alexis Robin is the Co-founder of pLink Coaching Center for Excellence and an Executive Coach.  She lives in Lake Tahoe, CA with her husband and 11-year-old twins.  She hosts the radio show and podcast The Bright Side and you can find her relaxing on the beach, snowboarding in the mountains or flying around the globe to facilitate leadership development programs. 

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