Every executive had to start somewhere—that first big promotion that bumped them to senior management. The great ones knew what to bring with them to their new position and what to leave behind. This is the premise of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success by Scott Eblin, who describes himself as a "former Fortune 500 HR executive."
The book is divided into three main sections. The Foundations of Personal Presence covers topics such as maintaining confidence, sustaining your energy level and communicating effectively. The Foundations of Team Presence looks at effective delegation and issues of accountability. The Foundations of Organizational Presence offers advice on maintaining the proper perspective and presence within the organization.
All That You Should Leave Behind
Each of the three sections is further broken down into lessons presented according to what you should "pick up" and what you should "let go."
One chapter, for instance, advocates that the reader "pick up looking left and right as you lead" and "let go of looking primarily up and down as you lead." The goal, according to the author, is to create relationships with your peers and avoid what he refers to as "vertical tunnel vision," the tendency to only pay attention to what those above you and below you are doing.
Another chapter recommends that one "pick up defining what to do" and "let go of telling how to do it." This can be a particularly tall order for most managers. After all, promotions are generally given to people who excel at what they do. It can be tempting, therefore, to view your methods as the best and/or only way to accomplish a task. Eblin suggests, however, that the best leaders guide their employees by establishing clear and firm guidelines, then allowing them to do the work their own way.
Each chapter ends with 10 tips for putting Eblin’s advice into play. The tips range from practical observations to sage mantras. "Avoid the unintended consequences that stem from ‘thinking out loud’ in front of subordinates," the author advises at the end of his chapter on taking a "big footprint view" of your role. The chapter on accountability includes the tip, "Learn to derive satisfaction from the fact that the work got done, not that you did it."
The Right Tools for the Right Job
Perhaps the most useful tools, however, are the two appendices included at the end of the book. The first is a guide to creating an Executive Success Plan or "ESP." Eblin recommends the plan be used with the help of an "executive coach," but provides clear instructions for those who want to do it themselves.
He lists the principles discussed in the book and encourages readers to seek input from colleagues about how they fare in each area. Readers are then advised to analyze the results, identify areas for improvement and seek ongoing advice from the "feedback team."
Appendix B is the Situation Solutions Guide. This table contains various dilemmas common among those navigating new positions referenced against the corresponding chapter containing the appropriate advice.
Overall, Eblin’s book provides the advice that no one ever thinks to give you on taking the leap to the next level. And it’s good advice, from experienced executives, that’s useable today.
Why We Like This Book
The Next Level is full of practical advice that is clearly stated. It is designed to be referred to repeatedly, and Eblin’s use of lists and tables helps to ensure that the reader can quickly find the answers they are looking for. This book is excellent for individuals looking to make it to the next level, as well as executive coaches that want to use it as a reference tool with clients. Copyright © 2006 Soundview Executive Book Summaries