What It Takes To Break Into the Executive Suite

by Michael Haberman on December 14, 2011 · 1 comment


An article recently published by SHRM, written by Rebecca Hastings, entitled What It Takes to Break the ‘Glass Ceiling’ offers the findings of a study on what it takes for women in business to break in to upper management. It is a very interesting article and I highly recommend reading it. However, I think the points that Ms. Hastings makes for women actually work well for anyone in lower levels of Human Resources, or for that matter any job, to break into the management ranks. So I will take that approach to her points and talk about the four points on what it takes to break into the executive suite.

These four points are:

  1. You must be intentional about building and communicating your value. You must be clear about your value and communicate to those above you. Often a person’s worst enemy in their progression is their own self-doubt. If that is an issue for you, study the works of David Schwartz (The Magic of Thinking Big) Brian Tracy, or Napoleon Hill.
  2. You should identify and enlist sponsors and mentors. Having senior people who can provide you with council and guidance is important in your career growth. However, you cannot wait for them to come to you. You must seek those relationships yourself. As Ms. Hasting’s points out “You need to be proactive in developing cross-functional relationships while gaining a solid understanding of the business,” Suzanne V. Forsythe, vice president of human resources for STERIS Corp., said, in the report.”
  3. You should seek assignments and promotion to positions with profit-and-loss responsibilities. Understanding the “business” is a key competency for any HR professional today. So taking assignments out of HR in order to gain experience in a profit-and loss position of responsibility can make you much more effective, credible and promotable.
  4. You should invest in personal and career growth initiatives. If you intend to make it to the executive suite you need to engage in a concerted effort at continual learning. In some cases that education may be at the behest of the company but in other cases you must take charge of your education. Continual reading, classes, degrees and seminars are always to advance your career and in particular certification.

If you pay heed to these four points you will enhance your efforts to be on the path to the executive suite. So take charge of your career whether or not you are male or female.

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