I recently sat down with Lee Wilburn, Regional Director for Casey’s. I have known Lee for five years and am a big fan of his leadership approach. When I first met Lee, he was a District Manager with 16 years of experience with two different retail companies. During our conversation, I asked Lee what he felt allowed him to go from being a District Manager, to Category Manager, to Regional Director in the last 5 years.
5 Tips to Accelerate Career
Find good leaders.
Lee's career took off when he started working with leaders who invested in his potential. They helped him develop new skills, see things from new perspectives, and explore new opportunities. Your growth as a leader will accelerate when you work for individuals that invest in your professional development. This can include the leaders you work for, sponsors, mentors, or coaches who push you to be the best version of yourself.
Be clear in your goals.
Lee set a clear goal for wanting to be a regional manager. He habitually communicated this goal to others and asked them what it would take to get there. Using this guidance, he devised a plan to build the skills and gain the experience he would need to qualify for regional manager positions. To accelerate your career growth, define the type of job that you want, and solicit the help of others in working toward your goal.
Build Emotional Intelligence.
Lee feels that improving his emotional intelligence has helped him to be a better leader. Early in his career, Lee says that he was not as versatile as a leader. His approach worked well with some employees but not all. As he has worked on listening better and being more empathic, he has found that he is able to connect with more employees, meet them where they are, and better inspire them to be the best version of themselves. Higher levels of leadership require you to influence a diverse group of stakeholders. Mastering emotional intelligence will level up your leadership ability allowing you to be effective with a broader range of people.
Take a calculated risk.
Relocating two times in the last 5 years has contributed to Lee’s quick advancement in his career. In hindsight, he thinks he might have been able to progress quicker in his career if he had been more willing to take risks earlier in his career. He did not express regret in his decisions because, as a father, he knows that progressing in his career is not his only goal. He also wants to provide the best environment for his family to thrive and grow. In advancing your career, you must balance new opportunities' rewards with the risk of failure and unintended consequences. Only by weighing the risk and rewards can you confidently take actions that align with your values.
Know when to exit.
Lee has worked for 3 different companies over the last 18 years. He feels he learned important lessons from each company. His final advice to emerging leaders is to follow their gut and seek new opportunities when they feel their learning is slowing down. To be the best version of yourself, you need challenging assignments, so continue to seek out career moves that will allow you to stretch yourself and grow.
Building a successful career requires you to be confident in your abilities, humble enough to learn from others, and open enough to build relationships with people that can make you better. The five tips Lee provided are great suggestions for any leader aspiring to grow their career. By defining career objectives, developing goals, and creating action plans, you can better position yourself to establish the skills, relationships, and experiences you need to achieve your professional goals.
Thank you for reading this blog
Dorian Cunion is an Executive Coach and Business Consultant with Your Path Coaching and Consulting. He is a former retail executive with over 20 years of experience in the retail industry. He is a Co-Active coach who focuses on helping professionals and small business owners overcome insecurities, knowledge gaps, and lack of direction. He does this by assisting clients to tap into their values, recognize their strengths, and develop actionable strategies for growth.
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