Unlocking the path to executive success

Oct 15, 2023

The way you handle yourself as an employee directly correlates to the level of success you can reach in your organization.

Most employees cap out at some operational level like project manager or senior project manager – and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that … if that’s what you want. But if you’re a high-achiever, and you want to reach executive, C-suite, or even eventually buy equity in your business, then you have to transform yourself to a different level.

In my experience rising from project manager to vice president by 28-years-old – as well as all my work with high-achievers in the construction industry – there are three transformations that must take place for you to go from “capped” employee to potential executive/CEO/shareholder.

These are battle-tested and don’t take any schooling to learn. In fact, you can go in tomorrow and put them into practice! Let’s jump in so you can get to work ASAP. The three transformations are from:

  • Blame to self-accountability. Owners and executives have literally no time for the “blame game.” Here’s what I see most employees do:
    • They protect themselves from blame.
    • They make excuses.
    • They blame other people for their problems.
  • Usually this ends with them going into a shell and declaring, “It’s not my fault and I shouldn’t have to fix it!” But, if you want to reach insane levels in your organization, you have to prove you are self-accountable first. This means opening yourself up to blame, admitting loudly when you make mistakes, and blaming yourself for problems (sometimes, even when they are not yours).
  • Then, you need to go out and ruthlessly fix those same mistakes and problems. Why? Because if you can’t prove you’re self-accountable when you’re in a low-level position, then your boss will never feel comfortable putting you in an executive role where the mistakes and problems only increase.
  • So transformation No. 1 is to:
    • Stop: Blaming others.
    • Start: Taking self-accountability for problems, mistakes, and results.
  • Selfish to team player. Tell me if this sounds familiar: One of your coworkers always shows up to meetings late. Not only that, but when they do, they are disengaged! This drives you and the rest of your team nuts, but there’s a problem: they are your top salesperson. They bring in so much business, no one sets them straight!
  • Has this, or something like it, ever happened to you? If so, then you see the problem with a selfish employee: they only care about their own results. Never be the selfish employee. In fact, be the exact opposite. Be a team player.
  • In Pat Lencioni’s book, The Ideal Team Player, he describes three traits of the ideal team player:
    • They are smart.
    • They are hungry.
    • They are humble.
  • The three combine to create someone who knows how to read a room, is eager to work hard and get results, and remain gracious and respectful throughout. If you can do these three things, eventually you will rise up in your organization. However, if your organization does not recognize you for being a team player, and rather rewards the selfish players like those described above, then get out of there. It’s not worth it and some other company would love to have you.
  • So transformation No. 2 is to:
    • Stop: Being selfish.
    • Start: Being the ideal team player.
  • Project-focused to business-focused. I knew my career leveled up when people in the industry stopped asking me: “How are your projects?” And started asking me: “How is the business?”
  • Because I thought about revenue. I thought about gross profit. I thought about backlog. I thought about team building. I thought about culture. I thought about the business. And it paid off for me many times over in compensation, respect, and responsibility.
  • I cannot stress transformation No. 3 enough:
    • Stop: Being project-focused.
    • Start: Being business-focused. 

Matt Verderamo, MS is a consultant at Well Built Construction Consulting. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.