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The Journey from Manager to Director

How can fast-trackers move from being a manager to a director or C-Suite member? This represents huge talent and an opportunity for both the organisation and the individual, but how do you ensure you don't miss the opportunity and ensure that the individual is capable of directing?



In this edition of the coaching conversation, I'm going to take you through the sort of experiences I have had helping fast trackers move from being a manager to a director or a C-suite member. Often these people represent huge talent for them and represent a great opportunity for the organisation at the same time. For the candidate themselves, they're looking at this with some fear and trepidation because clearly, they don't want to fail or miss the opportunity that they've been given.

One of the key aspects of moving from being head of a department to becoming a member of the board of directors is that you don't simply shed that functional responsibility. You're likely to be the operations director, the sales director, the finance director, but you're going to assume further responsibilities for the organisation like that.

You have a legal responsibility, you could go to jail just like anybody else, whether that's through fraud, through any kind of health and safety issue, etc. But more importantly, with the word director comes responsibility for direction. The board is the delegated authority from the shareholders to actually execute the plan, to build value for the shareholders and all the other stakeholders in the organisation. So, simply being a functional head, simply being a functional director, doesn't fulfil that. You do have to be capable of embracing the wider context of the role.

That can often mean a number of things that are not necessarily apparent. The first is that you are now an ambassador of the organisation. In fact, you are the manifestation of the organisation, the way you behave, the things you do, the things you say, are the organisation. So, whether you feel it's right to have a ‘them and us’ between the board and the rest of the management team or the rest of the employment team, it really an irrelevance - the fact is that as a member of the board, you are legally and effectively the embodiment of the organisation, and must behave accordingly.

Now I'm not advocating any form of an ivory tower. I’m not advocating that you don't deal with people in a natural and perfectly responsible kind of way. What I mean is that you’ve got to see it through a different lens. One of the things I say to people who are embarking on this journey is it's a bit of a one-way street. If you're promoted to the board and for whatever reason, it doesn't work out, you're almost one hundred per cent certain not to go back to your previous role. You're pretty much certain to get fired or moved into a far-flung distant place away from this particular event.

Therefore, there is a reasonable level of risk and you should only take it knowing that risk. However, no one can prepare you entirely for it. There's no apprenticeship course you can go on. There's no real induction course that says ‘you were a functional manager, read this book, study this piece online, and suddenly you're equipped to be a director' because that's just not.

Every board that I've ever worked with, every board that I've ever sat on has operated differently. It has its own characteristics, its home-style, which came from the leader but it also came from that mix mash of all of the people that are on that board or their personalities or their experiences or their styles. It blends in to create something quite unique. Therefore, from the person aspiring into this role, this person moving from ‘Head-of' to 'Director-of’; you’re never really going to know what it's like and to experience. However, there's no room for imposter syndrome. There's no room for lack of self-confidence, you're being elevated for good reason. They believe that you can do this. They want you to do this. And indeed, they're putting their money where their mouth is.

You almost certainly get all sorts of changes to the package and so on as this unfolds. So as a coach, my job is often to have this particular person thinks through the kind of changes they're going to encounter from joining the board. What does a board meeting look like? What's a board responsibility or community responsibility like? How am I staff going to respond? How are customers and other trading partners is going to respond? What am I going to see? And how am I going to embrace that?

Another part of the role of the coach is to help the coachee really understand that this is only one big step. It's only one step. It's not the end of your career unless you choose it to be, it could be the start of something else with these wider experiences, with this wider knowledge, with this greater experience package. You may be eligible for something else, which could be becoming CEO at some point if that is what you're looking for.

And so, as a coach, what you're trying to do is lay down the foundation stones for a very talented person to build the next part of their career on. However, as I said, it does come with a degree of menace. It comes with a degree of ‘if you're not successful, things will probably be more difficult than you want them to be’. Now that's not a reason not to take the opportunity because clearly. If you don't take the opportunity, it may never come again, but it is a good reason to do so in the full possession of the facts. And that's specifically very important in terms of having a good coach who can in an unbiased way, help you find out the best way to make the most of this opportunity.

In the next edition. I'm going to talk about that next step. I'm going to talk about how you go from being a director or a C-suite member to being the leader, the CEO, managing director, whatever that title is. So, if you found this useful, hopefully, I'll see you in the next episode.


So, there you have it, the latest edition of The Coaching Conversation. I hope you found it interesting. I hope you found it useful. You can find out more about our coaching programmes at

If you want to reach out you can send us an email at you can book a free 15-minute coaching session at which will give you a really good feel for how coaching can help you.

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