Ambition - the drive and determination to succeed - is a key asset in business, but if it is not pursued in a disciplined and structured way then the risks to your career can far outweigh the benefits.
This is something that award-winning executive coach Dean Williams knows only too well from leading nearly 2,000 coaching sessions with high-flying executives at blue chip companies such as Samsung, HSBC and Barclays. In their eagerness to soar like Icarus, some inevitably find the new environment too hot and plummet.
Dean has just released a new book, Thrive - How To Achieve And Sustain High-Level Career Success (together with his associated talent workshops), in which he advocates sustainability as the primary focus for professionals wanting to achieve their maximum potential.
I met Dean to talk about the book, his talent workshops, his career, why sustainability matters, and what employers and employees can both learn from Thrive.
Dean, take us back.....tell us a little about your early career. Was there a trigger-event that sent you down this path?
A huge part of my early professional career was in selling - specifically within the financial services sector. Progressing from a salesperson into sales management/training, and how much I enjoyed it was a telltale sign that I had a natural aptitude for wanting to see others improve and develop. I loved getting the best out of colleagues.
What is the essence of your book, 'Thrive'?
The book is written for ambitious professionals who want to rise to the top - and, as importantly stay there. Via its patented 'Career Annulus', Thrive offers a blueprint to senior career success that will help any talented individual achieve their true potential.
It was written to be a clear-cut, no-punches-pulled, pragmatic guide to achieving and sustaining high-level career success. I know the process and formula works having helped a number of my clients over the years, but it's truly awesome to see it in print and able to reach a far wider audience.
What is the most common mistake made by employees with regard to furthering their careers?
In brief - rushing to advance their careers. You have to be prepared and ready for the step up. Inevitably your workload and responsibilities will increase and so will the expectations of you. When you step into a more senior position you have more eyes and ears on you ... your voice is amplified (people are listening to your every word); and you will be watched more closely (as if you were in a goldfish bowl).
Anticipating and planning this change is critical.
And what is the most common mistake made by employers?
Courting and promoting talent into senior positions without comprehensively evaluating their readiness - their skill, capability and emotional stability. Employers need to be more honest with ambitious candidates at times.
Why is 'sustainability' such an important factor in achieving business excellence?
Sustainability brings longevity to a role. Those that thrive in senior leadership positions are truly ready and looking forward to the significant increased demands of the role. They are challenged but not fazed, trusting their skill, capability and behaviour to meet difficulties head on. I have seen more than a few people take on the demands of a senior position without being ready - career suicide!
If you had to rerun any part of your career again, what would you change?
If I were to give advice to my younger self it would be 'listen more; and really understand what is being said'. I can recount many past occasions when somebody has shared an insight with me - true wisdom that I haven't seen in some instances until years later. Now I'm a great believer in timing and the right moment to hear a message, but discounting too quickly has been counterproductive at times. I could have developed certain traits quicker.
What are the most common issues you encounter when you're running your talent workshops?
I think the most common one is the realisation from delegates that you don't have the right to talk about your career ambitions unless you are achieving excellence in your current role already. You need to be smashing your objectives and key performance indicators, and ideally adding value right now. If you're not - chances are you're not credible and not ready for the next step. You won't be taken seriously.
Thrive - How to Achieve and Sustain High Level Career Success by Dean Williams and Mike Tinmouth (Grosvenor House Publishing) is available now, priced £9.99 in paperback and £7.19 as an eBook. Visit www.dwexecutivecoach.co.uk to order and find out more about the talent workshops.