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With our compass set and our vision of where we’re going clear, our next step is to develop a roadmap for our executive journey.  Regardless of where we are on the journey it’s never too early or too late to lay out a roadmap. Our roadmap might include multiple positions and opportunities or it might be the one remaining leg of the journey before retirement (although building a retirement roadmap is a sound practice).  By assessing where we are now against our vision of where we want to go, setting a specific goal for each leg of the journey, checking our progress along the way, and  putting in place a method to insure we sustain what we’ve accomplished, we have a better chance of getting to where we want to go.   

Identifying Where You Are Now

Whether or not we’re currently employed we should assess where we are now in terms of our performance, skills,  experience, and behavior, then compare it to what we’ll need to reach the next stop on our journey.

It goes without saying that the best method of getting the next job is to succeed at our current job.  Especially when we’re in a job we don’t like, insuring we don’t let that get in the way of our performance is essential.  Often if we figure out what we don’t like about our current position we can mitigate that issue.

The skills and knowledge we have today, both specialized and general, may not be the same skills we’ll need for our next position.   Identifying what we need to learn allows us to take a course, read a book or blog, or seek out someone to teach us.

We need to identify what experience we’re going to need that we don’t have so we can seek out opportunities to gain that experience.  If we’ve only ever worked in one industry or career field we have depth; however, our perspective might to be narrow.  A position in another industry would help broaden our experience base.  If we’ve only work in one specialty, seeking an opportunity in a different area might be beneficial.

Taking stock of our behavior is a practice that allows us to improve our day to day interactions.  How our peers and colleagues perceive our behavior will influence whether or not we’ll be successful when we collaborate with them in our current position and what type of reference they’ll provide for us in the future.

Setting Specific Goals

Setting specific goals brings focus to what we do every day.   Without goals it’s easy to get so caught up in our day to day business, we find we’re only sustaining the status quo or losing ground.

We’ve all developed the proverbial 10-year plan.  This is a reasonable first step, but it’s just that – a first step.

Mapping what we need to accomplish at specific intervals helps keep the focus on what we’re doing each year, month, week, and day to get there.

Converting our roadmap to paper is a powerful process that demonstrates commitment to our goals and becomes a tool we can use to check our progress.

Checking Progress

Defining how we’re going to check our progress allows us continually check whether we’re making the progress necessary to meet our goal.  When we don’t measure our progress we lose the opportunity to accelerate our pace or take advantage of options that are presented along the way.

Checking against our rolling ten-year plan allows us to check our progress each year, not only to determine if we’ve accomplished what we set out to achieve,  but if where we planned to go in ten years, still applies.  During that annual review we can also add one more year to the plan so it’s always a ten-year plan.

Checking in against our rolling one-year plan allows us to check our progress each month to determine whether we’re on the path so we can make mid-course corrections.

Checking in against our rolling one-month plan allows us to check in each week to see if we’re “moving the needle” and making progress against our annual goal.

Checking in against our rolling weekly plan provides us the information necessary to know when we need to speed up our cadence and devote more time or effort to achieving goal.

Sustaining Our Progress

Reviewing what we’ve learned at each destination along our journey is a tool for ensuring we store that knowledge in our consciousness.   During my personal journey I’ve learned that if I immediately begin to pursue the next goal before taking the time to review what went well and where I could have done better in achieving the last, I lose ground.

Reflecting on our achievement can involve writing or speaking about it, or if we really want to learn from our experiences we can teach or mentor others.

Whatever method we use to insure we’ve learned from each step of our journey will serve us well.

Leah Ward-Lee is a management consultant and business writer based in Dallas, Texas and the author of $1,000 Start-Ups.  Her next book, The Executive’s Toolbox, will be released in early 2017.