A second dysfunctional model links career advancement with the analogy of climbing ladders. This analogy may be viable for large companies with a sophisticated approach to management development. But most companies we work with adopt a â€œJust in Timeâ€?approach to leadership:
When we need a new leader we will find the person best qualified as quickly as possible. We will take this to retained search and ask for the best qualified candidates within the company or outside the company.
Most in-house executives correctly assume a recruiting bias for hiring outside the company rather than promoting from within. Few companies groom executives for higher-level positions, thus promoting an in-house person is sometimes as much a leap of faith hiring an outside person. The in-house person, however, may come with a track record of faults and political enemies. Rakesh Khurana has written about the tendency of Boards to hire outsiders rather than select insiders.
The successful people we interviewed do not think in terms of ladders. They think in terms of traversing the careers of their professional lives. The skiing term of traversing means moving from a straight line to a zigzag pattern along different terrain. During your Alpine ski run you may traverse over ice patches, powder snow, or come up against moguls.
â€?Moving up a ladder requires steady discipline and persistence in the face of obstacles.
â€?Traversing requires also requires discipline combined with maneuverability.
Ladder climbing was a great metaphor for career management for industrial-based economies of the mid 20th Century. Traversing careers is a more appropriate metaphor for the first quarter of the 21st century.
Letâ€™s get back to the example of Jack.
Jack needed to understand and accept that his career may have begun as an employee but it would most certainly end as a consultant.
Jackâ€™s career would not be a single career comprised of a series of corporate jobs. It is more like managing two criss-cross careers â€?one focusing on employment assignments and the other focusing on project assignments.