Become a 21st Century Executive

Serving as a guiding inspiration to help the next generation with making the right career choices, The 3 Minute Mentor team have created a new book, Become a 21st Century Executive: Breaking Away from the Pack. This easy-to-read and clear-cut manual for any worker, manager, and leader of any sort who finds themselves muddling through their job and career.

In each chapter, Become a 21st Century Executive provides practical advice on how to avoid being a stuck-in-the-middle manager, and how to start behaving and becoming a 21st century executive.

Avaialble at now.


The 21st Century Executive: How to become one

Like most middle and senior managers, I travel a lot. Bad weather on one trip left me stuck at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. To kill time, I browsed the airport bookshop looking for an interesting business book. What I found, however, were a lot of books about “being at the top.” In the world of business books, everyone apparently wants to be a CEO of a company. 

To make things worse, few if any, of these books had been written by people who are trying to build a career today. In fact, most of them had been leaders in the last century, before most of today’s Millennials even got their first job. Back in the 1980s there really was no Internet, never mind Facebook. Nowadays, why do you need to trust someone who says they have knowledge when you can Google the answer to every question instantly? Given the massive changes to how we currently work, it is easy to see why there are few good resources for today’s leaders, climbing through middle management, and hoping, if not get to the top, be somewhere close.

To bridge this gap, I created an on-line series of mentoring videos known as “The 3 Minute Mentor.” Designed for the digital age, these give simple and practical advice on how to build your career and manage more effectively. While turning 36 of these episodes into the book “Become a 21st Century Executive,” it became clear that there are four common cornerstones to building a 21st Century career.

These four cornerstones - Narrative, Experience, Ownership and Ethics – are not only what matters to the next generation, but what it takes to manage them. According to PWC over 50% of the workforce will be Millennials by 2020. That means you too may need to understand them if you are to manage and succeed in the 21st Century. 

A 21st Century Career has a NARRATIVE

Unlike previous generations, the Millennial career is based on PURPOSE. While their parents and grandparents were focused on getting a job, and that might mean any job, today’s new workers want to know how it drives their ‘life-story’ forward. When choosing between employers they often ask about their Corporate Social Responsibility programs and how they are part of their community. For most, when starting out, money is not the only consideration. 

According to Gallup Research, 55% of the U.S. workers are not engaged at work, 16% are actively disengaged. We need to be sensitive to this when it comes to Millennials. They will look to commit to something they have a PASSION for. In fact, they may prefer to have no job than to take one they have no passion for, which is fine if they can still live at home. Managing these Millennials will require you to not only understand their passions but to engage them.  

Having identified their passions, Millennials are likely to align their GOALS toward their purpose. They won’t want to do something that does not drive them to their purpose. Finding ways to link goals to purpose becomes an essential step for them and you.

Maybe hardest for the Millennials is understanding that they must make CHOICES and live with them. For the rest of us, this seems to be an obvious life lesson. This next generation may not have learned this yet. Those that do will succeed more fully and more quickly than those who do not.

A 21st Century Executive has the right EXPERIENCE

To be truly successful you need be offered good opportunities and know how to take advantage of those opportunities when they present themselves. There’s not much you can do about the luck side of this, but there is a lot you can do to prepare to take advantage of the luck when it comes your way.  

In the book, Become a 21st Century Executive, it is suggested that you focus on four different skill areas: CONTEXT, APPROACH, NETWORK and PRESENCE. To put it another way: Your career growth and development are based on what you know, how you use what you know, who knows it and how you are able to communicate all of this. If you work on these four elements as you move through your career and use these elements to evaluate different career opportunities, your chances of success will be much greater. The book covers more details on each of these skill areas.

There is also a fifth element, but it’s the hardest to explain or encourage people to explore. That element is ‘HUNGER.’ Are you the one who is willing to ‘take the bat’ when someone is needed or do you hold back? Are you willing to take the tough assignments or do you back away fearing the risk? If you have the hunger and the right skills, when opportunity comes knocking you will be ready and able to answer.

A 21st Century Executive takes OWNERSHIP

Despite the model that is set for us by politicians, it is my experience that in business, the people who achieve the most are those who hold themselves ACCOUNTABLE for what they do. They understand when they take an assignment or role that it is their responsibility to complete it. To be successful at work and in life, being personally accountable for what you do will always mean more than what others believe or hold you accountable for. This is one of the key elements of integrity. 

While a 21st Century Executive or leader will always hold themselves accountable, they should also know that they cannot do everything on their own. To succeed they need to learn to DELEGATE to people below them and escalate to those above when they need help. Delegation, as any good manager knows is not the same as abdication. Abdication is the delegation without the accountability.

Once you learn to delegate and escalate, you quickly work out that there are people around you who can help and whom you can help. I have never met a successful person who did not have a MENTOR of some sort and often more than one. A modern leader will have a stable of mentors they seek advice from and will offer the same support to those around them.

More than mentoring, we also need COACHES and must be willing to coach others. Unlike the mentor, who has a more abstract view across a wide period of time, the coach is willing to help you in real-time. Learning to lead is about learning to coach.

A 21st Century Executive lives their ETHICS

On Michael Hyatt’s website, he advises people to “Commit to total transparency. Because of technology, you don’t really have a choice. You might as well embrace it now; it’s a much easier way to live. You will never have to worry that someone is going to discover something about you that you don’t first reveal.” 

When I grew up in IBM, being transparent was all about hiding behind someone else when you had to deliver bad news. An example; telling an employee that they were not getting a raise because “our boss doesn’t think you are doing a good job” was being transparent or ‘see through’. While it might be the truth, and the boss doesn’t think the person is performing, rather than saying “I don’t think you are doing a good job”, it was easier to blame the boss.  

Today, TRANSPARENCY is more about open communication and HONESTY. Giving people the bad news whether they want it or not. A way of saying ‘you know what I know.’ But clearly that is not always a useful or helpful approach, sometimes things are just secret. Even if it’s not secret, productivity can be damaged by the team fussing over things that may never happen or that they cannot influence. 

The 21st Century Executive expects, drives and uses TRANSPARENCY as a key tool. Additionally they will expect it in others. Without transparency there is no TRUST and without trust there is disengagement. 

Tom Peters, the Business Guru, summed up the whole area of ethics well. He said, “There is no such thing as a minor lapse of integrity.” A 21st Century Executive demonstrates INTEGRITY to those around them and expects it of others.

Becoming a 21st Century Executive

When I worked for Sun Microsystems, I remember our then CEO Scott McNealy saying, “You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.” For the 21st Century employee, with Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and Instagram, privacy may have well been replaced by transparency. The next generation of workers are going to live life in the open. Managing and leading this generation is going to require not only understanding them but demonstrating that you too are a 21st Century Executive with these same qualities.

In the end it does not matter what it was like for us or how our first bosses did it. Millennials do not care, and why should they? The world has moved on and what it takes to succeed today is different.

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