Book Review: Your Next Move by Michael D Watkins

27 Apr 2015

Your next Move: The Leaders Guide to Navigating Major Career TransitionsYour next Move: The Leaders Guide to Navigating Major Career Transitions
Author: Michael D. Watkins
Reviewed by Emma Stoner – Guest Contributor
Publisher: Harvard Business Press, 2009
ISBN-13: 978-1422147634, 256 pages

Watkins is one of the most recognised authorities on leadership transitions. Your Next Move expands on his first book, The First 90 Days. The work Watkins did that contributed to his thinking in writing this earlier book also highlighted the little support given to senior executives and emerging leaders making important career decisions.

His research made a case for recognising that many organisations are almost Darwinian in their lack of support, with a “sink or swim” view of people who take on leadership positions. His book offers a practical and fresh perspective on how to better navigate your transition to a new job or a move within your organisation.

In Your Next Move, Watkins explores specific cases that illustrate eight key challenges executives are likely to face in their journey to the top. He describes the adaptions required in each case where the individuals either met or failed to meet these challenges. Whilst not a definitive list of transitional challenges, Watkins says they are key career challenges. Ranging from transitions in role, responsibilities and location, cases illustrate managing former peers, taking on an organisation’s fiscal problems, and creating a sense of urgency within a blissfully complacent company, amongst others.

Watkins offers advice at a personal and an organisational level. He encourages individuals to examine their own skills and development needs and how organisations can support executives manage their transitions.

His strategic support tools have been developed through years of research and collaboration with executives at leading international companies. An integral tool in his approach is the STARS model that charts the risks and opportunities that come with different executive positions, and that are often overlooked, with painful consequences.

Importantly, Watkins writes about the subtle elements of transitions such as the “shadow organisation”, the informal power and cultural elements that exist in every organisation and that come to play at times of personal and organisational change. Here he provides some important insights and advice for emerging leaders transitioning from specialist and functional roles into executive positions.

His advice and support tools are innovative and useful, so before you reach the three-month milestone in your new role, or consider a career transition, pick up Your Next Move – it may well make the difference between sinking or swimming.