Are You A “Flat-Tire-HIPO?”

damaged flat tire

What Is A Flat-Tire-HIPO?

You know those people, those really, really talented people? Those people who REALLY get things done or those people who can spot the 2 numbers in a 20 page spreadsheet that have issues. Or those who are so incredibly charismatic or entrepreneurial or incredible presenters and can sell anything? Those people who are so special that everyone (even the ones who don’t like them) recognizes that they are HIPOs?   *A ‘HIPO’ is a high potential individual with significant ability and potential to move up the organization.* Well, it has been my experience that the most special, most talented, most capable of these HIPOs are flat tires. They are ‘round’ in all the ways that they are special, but they go ‘kathump’ as they hit that part of them, that non-round, non-perfect part of them that is flat. I know you’ve met these people—the guy who gets results . . . but leaves bodies; the person who is incredibly charismatic and people follow her anywhere . . . who can’t make a decision; the person who is charming and talks a perfect plan . . . who doesn’t actually deliver when promised. These are ‘flat-tire HIPOs.’

That Flat Tire Will Derail You

HIPOs are highly sought and cherished—as long as the organization benefits from the ways in which they are special. As long as their strength outweighs their cost. The higher up HIPOs go, however, the more likely that their deficit will begin to get in the way. The Center for Creative Leadership which does great research on Executive Development, Leadership and success factors for Executives, has identified several “derailers,” behaviors or traits that can ‘derail’ a career:

Failure to Change or Adapt During a Transition. Examples include:

  • Failure to adapt to a new boss
  • Over-dependence on a single skill and/or failure to acquire new skills
  • Inability to adapt to the demands of a new job, a new culture, or changes in the market

Problems with Interpersonal Relationships. Examples include being seen as:

  • Insensitive
  • Manipulative
  • Demanding
  • Authoritarian
  • Self-isolating
  • Aloof
  • Critical

Failure to Build and Lead a Team. Examples include:

  • Failing to staff effectively
  • Can’t manage subordinates
  • Poor leadership skills

Failure to Meet Business Objectives: Examples include:

  • Lack of follow-through
  • Too ambitious
  • Poor performance

None Of Those Apply to You, Right?

Riiiiiiiiight. Almost all of us . . . at least I’ve never met one of us it isn’t true of . . . have one or more of these. Especially HIPOs. People become HIPOs by being really good at stuff. When you’re really good at stuff, then you by definition are more focused on the stuff you’re good at than the stuff you’re not focused on. And you’re not as good, and maybe you’re pretty bad at, the stuff you’re not focused on. If you are a detail person, who really pays attention to the details and on getting things done, then it is highly likely that you’re aren’t as focused on the people side of things. You may be insensitive to those who don’t speak “detail.”

Yeah, I know, not you.

If you focus on getting results, you may be impatient. If you are ambitious, you may be TOO ambitions. There are so many combinations that are possible. And it is hard to see it in yourself. You need to listen to feedback. CLOSELY. It may be between the lines. When you are a HIPO, then the organization will appreciate you for as long as you aren’t hitting the “flat” part. That can be years. Eventually, though, your flat part will hit at the wrong time or with the wrong person and you will be out. UNLESS you start paying attention and learn to inflate those parts.

OK, I’ve take this metaphor far enough. What do you do?

1 Comment

Filed under Career Development, Derailment, Executive Development, Feedback, Hi Po, Learning, Personal Change

One response to “Are You A “Flat-Tire-HIPO?”

  1. Candice

    Jo, I definitely see myself in this post, and I think this is a really common problem among scientists. We are so highly trained in research skills, often to the detriment of the “softer” skills like organization, leadership, and interpersonal relationships. But if you don’t develop those skills, or get yourself in a position in which you can try to hand some of the related tasks off to someone else, it can really hurt you.

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