A guest article by Anne M. Schüller
Increasing self-organization is now on the agenda almost everywhere. If hierarchies are reduced as a result, career alternatives are needed. If this does not exist, then it is only logical that managers block the necessary change. Climbing wall careers offer a way out of this dilemma. They are an urgently needed building block to ensure the future viability of a company.
Anyone who questions leadership per se should not be surprised to encounter headwinds. Rulers do not instigate a palace revolution. To gain their position and the privileges that go with it, incumbent executives have long struggled. No one likes to give up his sinecure voluntarily and saw off the branch on which he is sitting.
Those with a lot to lose cling to the status quo and guard their powers like a precious treasure. Vested interests and self-protection are completely normal. Power wants to live on. Accordingly, one only pretends to want to change something. Verbal open-mindedness with persistent behavioral rigidity is also called this.
If someone also has a high variable salary component and receives bonuses for good results, they avoid the uncertainty of the new like the plague. If you only have a few years left, don’t spoil your balance sheet and bonus entitlements. And what if his company goes down the drain with his eyes wide open? Never mind! He saves himself.
Promotion according to the seniority principle and other oddities
In traditional organizations, there is still a way of thinking that equates career with hierarchical advancement. The path to the top follows a predefined development plan. Viewed through a magnifying glass, there is much paradox here. You serve your way up, it’s your “turn” at some point and you can’t be passed over. Capable or incapable of higher orders? Hardly relevant.
The payment of executives is calculated like this: The more employees and the higher the budget and/or sales responsibility, the higher the salary. So if the only way to make more money is to have a leadership career, then it’s only logical to pursue it, even if you can’t or won’t lead people.
The same is true for people with academic titles. In many companies, they are almost automatically predestined for management tasks, even though you learn next to nothing about this at university. Elsewhere, it’s hard to resist a promotion even if it doesn’t suit you. On the other hand, those who would be gifted leaders but are still young will have to wait on the career ladder.
A career classic is also still that: Good results in technical matters are rewarded with a management position. Unfortunately, however, neither a solid professional nor a loud self-promoter is necessarily also a leader. Above all, leadership needs people expertise. Those who do not have them should have their leadership license strictly revoked
Alternatives to the classic career model are urgently needed
Promotion policy always affects life planning. So when hierarchies are scaled back, alternatives to the classic career model are needed. Climbing wall careers with role flexibility offer a way out of this dilemma. And they prevent miscasting. How does that work? Sometimes someone is the leader of a team, sometimes the head of a project, sometimes the person responsible for a process, sometimes he or she acts in a group of experts without any management tasks at all.
In this respect, climbing wall careers go much further than the dual path already practiced here and there, in which specialist and management careers are placed on an equal footing. But in both cases, if a leadership role is relinquished temporarily or permanently, this is not seen as a step backward but as a sideways movement. Predefined career paths that inevitably end in a management position no longer exist. For the individual, this often brings more freedom and less pressure, especially if you’re not particularly good at leading anyway.
The management career must no longer necessarily be considered the better path. It must be possible to switch to specialist expertise without losing face. This is also highly sensible because top specialists are increasingly urgently needed. Instead of forced advancement up the career ladder, good specialists need new challenges in the breadth of the corporate landscape. This is how good people can get ahead without having to lead others.
Climbing wall careers: an important building block for the new business era
Career ladders stand for dream careers, but also for total crashes. Those who climb high can fall very low. The further up you are, the more you gain, but the more you have to lose. So you become fragile. At the same time, you do everything you can to maintain your position, come what may. But no single company can afford to be a brakeman, blocker or continuity protagonist any longer.
On the climbing wall, on the other hand, it’s easy to take a new route when you reach an insurmountable spot. In addition, those who are skilled on climbing walls are fundamentally more agile, situational, adaptable and flexible. After all, they have to find their own footing and cannot climb along predefined, uniform rungs. After all, you can also quickly get back on solid ground – and then start all over again.
No matter which climb you continue with, everything you learned on the previous climbs can help you pack the next route faster. In times when daily change is becoming the norm and the advance of thinking machines is constantly making new demands, such an iterative approach is by far the better choice. So climbing wall careers train exactly the skills that are needed in the future more than ever before.
Climbing wall careers are highly attractive to talented millennials
The ambitious talents of the younger generation are constantly looking for new challenges. Classic career ladders, on the other hand, are not desirable for them, as many recent studies show. Of course, Millennials also want to have a career, just in a different way. “We want many careers, not one,” says Alex T. Steffen, 28, a management consultant and co-author of the book “Fit for the Next Economy.”
Pay or promotion based purely on length of service or age is difficult for Millennials to understand, Steffen says, adding, “Our generation wants to be measured, compensated, and promoted based on performance. Instead of following a predefined career path, the climbing wall represents a zigzag route with an uncertain outcome. We like to take risks like that because you grow from them.” So the most attractive employer for them is the one that makes such a career path possible.