It is helpful to focus on each tactic while keeping the strategic skill in mind,
and choose those tactics that are needed to reach that next rung. Chances are
your company is looking for most of the following 10 strategic attributes to
1. Own the business. Do you own and drive your business line and understand how it interacts across divisions? This is the quintessential big-picture
skill, which can earn you a seat at the strategy table. The tactic here is to
spend the time to know what’s important across the company and not just
in your silo. Listen to your peers and take notes. Keep an up-to-date list of
top data that helps define your group, such as monthly production numbers,
revenue and key performance indicators.
2. Drive the business. Leaders lead meetings. They set agendas and come
prepared to discuss the issues with data that supports the issues in detail.
One tactic here is to come to every meeting with a written agenda. You
may not need it if someone else leads, but it will help you crystalize your
thoughts. Bring the numbers with you even if they are not required. Use data
to support your views.
3. See the context. To move up the ladder you need a clear point of view
on the business; its initiatives, strengths and challenges; and the competitive
landscape. If not, structure your time so you can spend five to 10 minutes every
day focused on what your competitors are doing. Follow them on LinkedIn.
Read industry magazines. Be in tune with what is happening in the market.
4. Build networks. Do you have strong external industry relationships that
can be marshaled to enhance the company’s business and identify new
business opportunities? If not, network at industry events. Keep up with
professionals in and around the industry. Offer to speak at events and train
other professionals. Become known in the industry.
5. Manage human capital. Upper management must manage people
and career paths as well as teams and long-term projects. Being effective at
recruiting and maintaining talent to support the business plan also is
critical. The tactic here is to treat your direct reports like you treat your deals
Beth O’Brien is president and CEO of CoreVest American Finance, the leading private lender to residential real estate
investors. Previously, O’Brien was executive vice president at Auction.com and president of Auctionfinance.com,
where she founded a proprietary private money lender geared at the investor market. O’Brien also held positions
at Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. She has more than 25 years of mortgage industry experience and has overseen
more than $15 billion in transactions. Reach O’Brien at corevestfinance.com.
and projects. Have a formal project plan, meet periodically with each team
member to check on progress toward goals. Treat recruiting and retention
goals as projects that carry equal weight to training and development.
6. Represent the company. Do you have the skills to represent the
company in negotiations or on presentation panels? If not, use these
tactics to cultivate that skill: Build trust by giving clearly written updates on
initiatives and in-depth reviews of important industry events and meetings.
Clear, effective communication builds trust and empowerment. Strive to
communicate with a regular cadence.
7. Be the architect. Senior-level executives provide the vision for presentations, policies, procedures and systems, and are not just the technical
draftsmen that work on those items. The tactics here are to have a vision
statement in mind for each piece, and then edit ruthlessly and stick to a
clear communication plan. Also, don’t be afraid to innovate.
8. Don’t make excuses. At the top of the ladder, you must own all aspects
of profit and loss and be accountable for it whether it is controllable or not.
To prepare for this accountability, get in the habit of running sensitivity
analyses. This will provide a range of expected outcomes making it easier to
develop attribution models. Attribution can help accuracy in future planning
9. Communicate clearly. Can you develop longer-term plans, including budgeting, headcount and space needs? Can you communicate those plans with a
clear message and always be prepared with recommendations and analytical
support? If not, become a consumer of data and learn to synthesize and draw
conclusions for the business from the reporting. This is critical to do both on
a snapshot basis and over trend-line reporting. The snapshot makes you look
crisp and the trend line makes you look smart. Make the data work for you.
10. Enjoy the trip. To reach the top, you must show the enthusiasm and
interest of someone enjoying the journey. One tactic here is to complain to
your spouse or partner if you need to, but always be constructive at work.
Everyone wants to work with people who enjoy the work. n
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