Job Hunting

Are You Experienced?

Shelter-in-place may be a hot topic these days, but development-in-place could prove more valuable to corporate executives.
Lisa YoonFebruary 20, 2003

These days, there’s no shortage of advice for out-of-work executives. Indeed, in the past six months alone, CFO.com has run scores of articles exhorting the unemployed to beef up their skills by going back to school, starting a company, or enlisting at a not-for-profit.

But what about managers who intend on staying put in their current positions? Is it possible for gainfully employeed executives to expand their horizons while punching a time clock at the same job day in and day out?

Yes, according to researchers at the Center for Creative Leadership. The CCL advises executives to take a good look at their current jobs for assignments or challenges that will allow them to expand their repertoire without changing jobs

“Experience is indeed the best teacher,” writes CCL VP of leadership development Cindy McCauley in the February edition of CCL’s monthly newsletter. “But the lessons don’t have to come by chance.”

According to the CCL leadership-development guide, Eighty-Eight Assignments for Development in Place, by Michael M. Lombardo and Robert W. Eichinger, career-enhancing assignments come in five flavors:

Small projects and start-ups. These offer a range of challenges including persuasion, learning new material quickly, working under time pressure, and working with new people.

Small-scope trouble-shooting projects. Such projects emphasize team-building as well as individual responsibility. Relationships are key, too, in dealing with both a boss and subordinates. This also is another good way to practice working on a tight deadline, says Eighty-Eight Assignments.

Small strategic assignments. The tasks offer a good intro to the world of strategy for operations types.

Training and coaching assignments. These duties provide intellectual stimulation and can give way to self-awareness.

Finally, not all skills-developing assignments happen at the office, write Eichinger and Lombardo. Activities away from work, such as volunteer work, professional organizations, and coaching Little League, emphasize individual leadership and working with new people.

Apparently, there are lots of executives out there who could use some skills-building assignments. Sixty-one percent of senior managers polled by staffing agency Accountemps characterized their peers as good or excellent in their roles. That leaves more than a third of executives doing only a fair job — or worse.

“Effective management requires more than simply assigning tasks,” said Accountemps chairman Max Messmer. “Strong leaders have a strategic mindset, sound judgment, enthusiasm for their work and the ability to prioritize competing projects. They also must be able to cultivate these same qualities in the people they hire.”