Do you ever dream of landing a promotion? Who doesn’t? You could finally nab that corner office with a view. Your colleagues would start looking up to you as an adept leader (theoretically). Your newfound ability to buy a beach house wouldn’t hurt, either.
The reality is different. Promotions, no matter how fantastic they sound, can pose a serious challenge. Just ask leadership transition expert Michael D. Watkins. This former Harvard Business School professor, who now chairs Genesis Advisers, previously wrote the renowned transition guide The First 90 Days. In his newest book, he chronicles the obstacles that fresh-off-the-promotion leaders face.
Your Next Move: The Leader’s Guide to Successfully Navigating Major Career Transitions explores how to effectively navigate eight common types of promotions. The types of promotions in the book cover common challenges that leaders face, from leading former peers to politicking correctly in your new position.
Each chapter in this guide is dedicated to one kind of promotion. Starting with a case study of a person facing the situation in question, you learn what risks come with the promotion, why they happen, and how to navigate your new role successfully. Watkins uses academic research, diagrams, and bullet lists to help you understand his points. You’ll also learn how your company can help you with your transition in each chapter.
The first chapter describes leadership challenges you might face after being promoted to a new position within your company. In the next chapter, you learn how to effectively navigate the challenges associated with leading former peers, such as asserting authority and changing your relationships.
After that, Watkins moves on the challenges that higher-level leaders face. The “corporate diplomacy challenge” tells authoritative, results-oriented managers how to successfully politick, influence, and build alliances. The “onboarding challenge” shows you how to ease into a new organization without being alienated by the existing culture.
Next comes a relatively condensed chapter on moving to a new location (this is such an involved topic that it really deserves a book of its own). After that, you learn how to navigate the turnaround of a troubled organization, and realign a complacent organization in order to prevent crises.
Your Next Move concludes with a chapter on handling a mixed scenario, or “business portfolio challenge.” Here, you figure out where to focus when different parts of your company are at different states of the STARS (start-up, turnaround, accelerated growth, realignment, sustaining success) continuum.
Your Next Move prepares you well for any number of promotions. Watkins admits in the first chapter that the book doesn’t cover every single transition challenge. But “if you can deal with these eight tough transitions, you can deal with just about anything,” he writes. What he does cover, he covers thoroughly, so you’re exposed to elements that could appear in a multitude of challenges.
As with any preparatory guide, it is best read with a level head. If you read it in advance of a promotion, as part of your general business education, you’ll learn what to expect. When you are promoted, some of the scenarios Watkins describes won’t come as a surprise. Instead of firefighting, you’ll have an idea of what questions to ask. I think this is the best way to read the book. I’m not sure how helpful it would be if you’re already in the midst of a stressful promotion–the book doesn’t address survival in depth.
The book assumes basic business knowledge; expect “businessy” language. Personally, the only jargon I found overwhelming was the author’s frequent mention of STARS. I thought that despite some technical and academic language, the book flows well.
Watkins’ intimate knowledge of transitions makes the book a valuable read. There’s no question that Watkins really knows what he’s talking about. You don’t risk getting uneducated advice in Your Next Move. Watkins integrates a lot of his own rigorous research, but puts it into language most business-minded people can understand.
Overall, I recommend it. It is valuable for anyone with a general business interest, not only those who anticipate an imminent promotion. Read it before you even expect to get promoted, so that you learn how to start off on the right foot.
Disclosure: We were sent a free copy of this book.