If you have ever been in line for a ride at Disney World and you see those people who go to the front quickly because they have a "fastpass," you begin to kick yourself for not thinking about that in advance. These people came to the park armed with knowledge about how the Disney world works and a plan on how to take advantage of the opportunities afforded to them.

Organizations are no different. Some individuals get the fastpass and get to the front of the line quicker for new leadership opportunities. Don't wait in line for possible opportunities for greater influence or leadership. Get a leadership "fastpass."

Where Do You Get the Leadership Fastpass?

You can look for the "Leadership Fastpass" in your organization but good luck in finding it. Organizations don't have a leadership fastpass office. You can do a search of your internal company webpages for the Fastpass Form but I am guessing you won't find one.

A leadership fastpass is just an opportunity to influence or lead where there is an organizational business need. You can be patient and get better at what you do. You will then have to wait your turn to be tapped on the shoulder.

Or you can find the opportunities yourself. This is what I refer to as mining for business opportunities. Here are some activities to mine for business opportunities to help you get a leadership fastpass:

• Learn More About the Role of the Person You Report To. Don't just learn about all the perks they get and the bigwig retreats they get to attend. Learn about the challenges on their plate they don't seem to have enough time for -- those that are important but not urgent. Maybe you are ready to be the lead on one of those challenges that they don't have the bandwidth for.

• Have a Regular Development Session with the Leader You Report To. Have a straightforward discussion about your readiness to be next in line for his/her role and where your readiness gaps are. Discuss what might be intermediate steps that will increase your readiness. Maybe there are responsibilities that he/she could delegate to you.

• Get to Know Your Interdependent Peers. Networking outside your function/unit (within your organization) is always important. Networking with a purpose. Your purpose should be to not only strengthen peer relationships but also to understand the frustrations/challenges that impact their function -- end-to-end cross-functional business opportunities. Since an expert in in all functions is extremely rare, what is needed is someone who can lead a team of cross-functional experts.

The Cross-Functional Business Opportunity Leader - A Fastpass to Succession

Cross-functional or end-to-end business opportunities are often the most neglected. These are the opportunities that can go unrealized and in a sense, fall through the cracks. These are problems that people complain to each other about where nothing changes. Senior leadership that operates in their silos (and don't work well as a team) don't often collaborate to charter these efforts. Examples of these cross-functional opportunities might involve:

• End to end process improvement, quality improvement or cost reductions

• Implementation of new technology impacting various functions

• Growth initiatives involving new products, new markets or new service offerings

• Plant or facility expansion project

I see developing cross-functional leaders as an opportunity and differentiator for my consulting business. This is why I created the Teamwork Sharks® Leadership Challenge. This 6 month leadership program where a client wants to invest in their next generation of leaders and get a payback of 4 to 8 times their investment within a couple of years. Becoming a leader of cross-functional opportunities can build a succession bridge between leading one's own function and senior management. My new book, Breakthrough Time, is a business novel about time travel and how the Teamwork Sharks helped cross-functional leaders in a growing business commercialize a revolutionary technology.

Will and Skill are the ingredients necessary for the organization to look to you to lead a team to tackle a high value cross-functional challenge.

The Will to Lead

A willingness to develop into a cross-functional leader and take on a cross-functional leadership role usually involves a personal motivator. Examples of personal motivators that I have heard are "to make my family proud" or "I am tired of no one doing something about it so I will." These internal motivators are often more powerful than the external motivators of a promotion or bonus. Maybe you can relate to this when you have taken on a tough challenge. So if you want to become a cross-functional leader -- think about what your internal motivator would be.

The Skill to Lead

Great cross-functional leaders have the foundation of leadership competency from leading their own teams/functions. Although important to draw from these leadership skills, the cross functional leader needs to be competent in many of the following:

• Visioning and Goal Setting

• Business Opportunity Mining Aligned with the Market Differentiation Strategy

• Influencing without Authority and Making Compelling Business Cases

• Collaborative Prioritization and Decision Making

• Negotiating, Mediating, Facilitating and Integrating

• Project Management Including Planning, Coordinating and Orchestrating Efforts

• Building Teamwork in a Cross-Functional Team of Members That Don't Report Directly to You

• Change Management

In the Teamwork Sharks Leadership Challenge, individuals have the opportunity to mine for business opportunities, make compelling business cases in a Shark Tank style format, practice team prioritization, build Lego models as a team to simulate planning/execution challenges, etc. We use the TeamScene® model to learn about building teamwork in a cross-functional team. We use the "Iceberg is Melting" model (book authored by Holger Rathgeber) as a model for managing and leading change.

* * *

So don't wait in line for succession. Get to the front of the line by becoming a cross-functional leader. Make a compelling business case for a cross-functional business opportunity. Get a leadership fastpass.

Mike Goodfriend is a Teamwork Engineer and, Leadership Coach. He is also the creator of the Teamwork Sharks and author of "Breakthrough Time" which is now available on Amazon or your favorite online book retailer. He is a Birkman Master Certified Professional (BMCP) and has been Birkman certified for more than 30 years. He was one of the first to be certified in Birkman Perspectives -- a new report that helps leaders better understand their unique approach to being a strategic leader. Mike Goodfriend can be reached at 713-789-6840 or via email at mikeg@goodfriendconsulting.com.

© Goodfriend & Associates, Inc., 2017


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