Many young inspired and ambitious professionals dream of being an executive one day. That’s what it is a dream, 20 years later in your career seems like forever and it can be easy to fall off and become jaded along the way.
I know that I currently fall into this category of the optimistic and naïve entry level finance professional. We all dream of having a strong impact, mastering our craft, growing into a strong leader and being an influencer.
I started to look at all the executives within the company I work at and I noticed something different but subtle about them. I notice it all has something to do with the way they think, how they carry themselves and their daily habits.
After getting a chance to speak with some of these executives I now realize that it all starts with the proper mindset… an executive mindset to be exact.
This executive mindset is not only for corporate warriors, it can also be used for entrepreneurs that start from the bottom and build their way to the top.
What is the Executive Mindset?
Having an executive mindset is the ability to think at all levels of the organization. You must think up, down, horizontally and through time according to the Harvard Business School Review (https://hbswk.hbs.edu/archive/the-executive-mindset).
How do you develop this Mindset as a professional who is at the entry level?
To answer this question, I will outline what I am currently doing to develop my executive mindset. Within my first year of working in corporate finance at a F100 financial services company, my aim was to learn as much possible as quickly as possible.
At the entry level your main responsibilities relate to a lot of processes and tasks that pertain to the micro level, but still are important and need to get done to make the macro level work.
The first thing I did was ensured that I understood how to do these processes/tasks accurately, quickly and effectively. While I was learning these tasks I would always ask; Why am I doing this? What is the VP going to do with this report I am giving them? What other departments and teams will be impacted by the work I am doing?
It will be very easy to just put your head down and grind out the tasks without questioning things. Always be on the lookout for opportunities to ask good questions because this shows that you are truly interested in the work and may cause your manager or coworkers to rethink the process to improve it.
The second thing I did was develop relationships with people across the organization in terms of department, function and title hierarchy. This is very important because there are some things you will never know without someone telling you secrets and they may even teach you things that will accelerate your learning curve. You also want to be able to learn more about other departments and functions because as an aspiring executive you must be able to understand the entire business to make decisions to drive profitability and growth.
The third thing I did was to read everything. Read as many of your company’s financial reports, management reports, analysis reports, presentation slides or whatever you may find. These documents are full of important information and can get you up to speed on the level that executives are operating on.
When reading these documents, I dissected the entire report to ensure that I understood everything that was there. If I couldn’t figure something out I would write down the question or mark up the report and then have my questioned answered by someone that can help you.
The fourth thing I did is kind of silly, but I would just imagine and act like the CEO of the company. I didn’t act like externally because people would think that I am a show off or try hard, but internally I had the mindset of being the owner of the company.
I also notice work is more enjoyable this way because you are locked in and are brining your passion with you. Once I had this mindset my productivity, overall happiness, job satisfaction and knowledge increased a lot.
If you aspire to be an executive one day I urge you to read the Harvard Business School article on the executive mindset and try to implement some of the tactics I used. Hopefully as I progress in my career I will discover new tactics that will help me grow into that executive mindset. I am truly enjoying this journey and I hope to inspire others to act on their goals and dreams.