Your Next Move: The Leader's Guide to Navigating Major Career Transitions: Book Review; V4 Issue 4

Title: Your Next Move: The Leader's Guide to Navigating Major Career Transitions

Author: Michael D. Watkins

Publication details: Harvard Business School Publishing, United States of America, 2009

Number of pages: 220 pages

How ready are you to make your next move in your career? To make sure you are ready read “Your Next Move”, an excellent guide for leaders navigating career transitions. Its author Michael D. Watkins is a widely recognized authority on the subject of leadership transitions. In his earlier book “The First 90 Days”, a classic of the genre, he identified strategies implemented by all successful newly appointed leaders and the organizations that hire them. In “Your Next Move” he has further developed on that thinking.The book specifically covers eight classic career transitions viz., Promotion, Leading former peers, Corporate Diplomacy ie., having to use direct authority to building alliances and consensus, Joining a new organization, International Move, Having to Turnaround a division in crisis, Realigning a division and Managing a multifaceted Portfolio.

In the introductory chapter Watkins identifies some common elements of successful transitions. According to him the ‘Seven Elements of Successful Transitions’ are organize to learn, establish A–list priorities, define strategic intent, build the leadership team, lay the organizational foundation for success, secure early wins and create supportive alliances. Then he goes on to dedicate one chapter on each of the transitions. With case studies, Watkins illustrates the challenges associated with each type of transition. For example, Watkins says, that in the case of being promoted to lead your former peers, ““you think you know everyone, and everyone thinks they know you. But then those relationships were shaped in part by the roles you previously played. The protocols, perceptions, and interactions must all be different now.” He then provides the insights, strategies, and tools one needs to manage these critical transitions and continue climbing one’s career ladder.

For each of the transitions the book elaborates on the personal and organizational adaptations required for the leader to be effective.. It encourages individual leaders to examine their own skills and development needs and it explores how organizations can help those individuals manage their transitions. For example in the promotion scenario the author suggests that the individual would be required to balance depth and breadth, delegate more deeply, influence differently, communicate more frequently and adjust to greater visibility. To ensure employees are effective when promoted the author recommends that organizations should build and use good competency models and create career development pathways consisting of the right types of experiences like “stepping stones”. “Stepping Stones” refer to a“sequence of assignments each of which represents a significant stretch along one or two of the critical development dimensions but not so much of a stretch that the leader slips and falls.”

Each chapter includes real-world examples to demonstrate the author's practical advice. For instance he writes about the “shadow organization” the informal power structures and cultural idiosyncrasies that exist in every organization and that come into play most strongly during times of personal and organizational change. To work effectively within that shadow organization, he demonstrates how to build one’s own influence network, distinguish between professional relationships and alliances and make changes in leadership style at different levels of an organization.

While the book is focused on the individual development of leaders, it also throws light on the subject of transition from an organizational perspective, thus offering a good checklist for HR managers in charge of career development of employees. And undoubtedly this is a good reference book for anyone who is currently in a career transition, expecting a career transition or simply looking for ideas on how to navigate his or her current position better.