What does “good ambition” look like?
How can you distinguish it from things like greed or pushiness?
How can you help identify and encourage appropriate ambition in your staff?
Oftentimes, when we think of ambition, it’s in vague, distant terms. Someone may have “an ambition” to become a CEO or entrepreneur. Or to play for a professional sports team, write a novel, or perform with a well-regarded symphony or ballet company. And when we talk to those who have achieved that ambition, their advice will often reflect specific steps of how they got there.
- Practice every day
- Find a mentor
- Never let setbacks keep you down
- Keep your eyes open for opportunities
There’s nothing wrong with that kind of guidance. But it does tend to favor storytelling over planning. And, as a leader or boss, if you have ambitious staff? Stories are great, but what they need are specific ways to harness that ambition today, as opposed to a far-off goal and generalized advice.
My panel on this episode of “Aim Higher” gets into that exact situation—making sure that you have ways to engage with staff who are appropriately ambitious. There may not be—there rarely is—a spot on the org chart for a direct promotion that perfectly fits their next step. There may not even be a stretch assignment that allows them to grow in a way that will directly help them “move up.” So, what does a good leader or manager do?
Practice Active Listening
First off: listen. Actively. Don’t just accept a general statement from someone on your team that they’re “looking to do more.” Ask them:
- What activities, specifically, at the next level are interesting to you?
- What kinds of responsibilities do you want to grow into?
- Who in our organization do you admire in terms of where you’d like to be?
- What tasks are you doing now that may not fit into your plan?
- Are you ready to put in some more time and effort, even if it’s not a direct promotion?
The point is simply this—ambition can be vague, but your plans to help your staff grow their careers can’t be. Help them see real, concrete next steps that can help them along their path, and they’ll likely strive even harder to find ways to succeed.
I hope you’ll listen in. My guests—as always—have some great advice on this important subject.
Ambition is not just about setting lofty goals; it’s about having the determination, focus, and perseverance to pursue them. Embrace your ambition as a powerful force, but also recognize the importance of channeling it effectively. By harnessing your ambition with purpose and intention, you have the potential to create the extraordinary.
Image Credit: Raquel Raclette