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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?

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

Think Your Job Is Secure? Think Again. PLEASE.

Recruitment or Employment Issues Chalk Drawing

Think They Can’t Do Without You?

There are lots of reasons that we think we are indispensable at work.  We know more than anyone else.  We’ve been there longer.  We have a close interdependent relationship with the boss.  We’re way better than others who have been there forever.  Whatever it is that you think about why you are indispensable, you are wrong.  NO ONE is indispensable, not even you.  Think about it:

  • The boss who thinks you are the best thing since sliced bread could be gone tomorrow.  It is unlikely that the new boss will instantly see your worth and if you were a favorite, it is likely that your peers aren’t feeling all that warm and fuzzy about you.
  • You might have been the best of the best at one time, but does that still apply?
  • How expensive are you?  Are there new people (maybe straight out of school with more developed technical skills?) who are as good or almost as good?
  • Do your peers sing your praises?  Or do they try to scuttle your high horse?
  • Have you consistently over delivered incredible results . . . except for the last 6 months-or even worse-the last year?
  • Is the organization shifting its priorities away from your area of expertise?
  • Do you have a reputation of being negative? Or a diva? Or high maintenance?

They CAN Do Without You!

There are all kinds of reasons that organizations decide to part company with people.  SO MANY of those people are shocked because in their own eyes and mind they were indispensable.  The water closes over you head as you leave with barely a ripple.  People remember you and speak of you occasionally, BUT THEY GO ON WITH THEIR JOB.  They figure out workarounds to close the gap left in your absence.  And those gaps close pretty quickly.

So Why Am I Telling You This?

I’m telling you this so that you will come out of your delusion and will do what it takes to either prevent this situation or be able to deal with it if it happens.  I’m telling you this to get your attention before you find yourself on the outside looking in with total disbelief.

Do you remember what it was like when you started your first job, or your latest new job?  Do you remember how focused you were on understanding everything you needed to know.  Do you remember how careful you were in understanding what your boss wanted and in trying to deliver it?  Do you remember how much you tried to understand the unwritten rules of your organization? If you can re-achieve that heightened level of awareness and attentiveness, then you are much more likely not to take your situation for granted.  You are much more likely to escape being marginalized and finding yourself out the door.

What Should You Do?

Every week (yes, EVERY week):

  • Remind yourself to treat your boss the way you did in your first week in this job
  • Remind yourself that your peers can take you out faster than your boss. How are you helping them?  How do they perceive you?  What can you do to further their agendas?
  • Do something to build your network, both inside and outside the organization.  Who at the top of the organization outside your own management chain knows you?  Who do you know at other organizations that interest you?
  • Keep your skills current.  Get certificates.  Go to school.  Know the latest technology. Stay up to date on what is going on in your industry/field.
  • Ask yourself what you’ve done to add value THIS week.

And maybe then you’ll be indispensable:-)

 

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Filed under Bosses, Career Development, Derailment, Executive Development, Networking, Personal Change, Recession Proof, Reframe

What I Know Now That I Wish I Knew Then

I have a very clever friend, Deb Graham, founder of ACTStrategic.com, who recently wrote a great article.  She asked several women to tell her what they wish they had know at the beginning of their career, and then she synthesized it into an enlightening article.   You can read her finished paper here.

What a great question!

My Answer to “What I Wish I Had Known At the Beginning of My Career.”

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I started my ‘career’ in my late twenties.  Before that I had jobs that in no way could be considered a career.  When I started the job that became my career, I was young, smart and VERY opinionated.  I thought I knew everything.  The most important thing that I learned, and blessedly I learned it quickly, was that I didn’t know everything.  I learned to listen to others and to be open to possibilities.  One of the most important things that taught me that (and I’m ashamed that I had to learn this) was that I was forced to follow the recommendations of people who worked for me.  I couldn’t figure out any way NOT to follow their recommendations, so I took a deep breath and did what they suggested.  It worked.  It WORKED.  It so worked and it was so nothing that I would have ever thought of that it opened my eyes and my methodologies and changed my career and my life.  I cannot overstate this.  If I hadn’t had this accidental experience, I don’t believe that I would have gone on to manage large departments, nor would I have become VP of Organizational Effectiveness of a large company.

So . . . Lesson #1:  Be open to ideas from all levels of the organization and take chances with people and their ideas.

I had another powerful experience that forced me to understand that the way I look at things can be controlled by me.  I can choose to look at any situation from a completely different perspective–that of the person I’m disagreeing with, that of my boss, that of the customer–INSTANTLY.  I can “flip a switch” on my perspective and REFRAME the situation.  When I remember to do it, it always works.  I am able to see a solution that wasn’t obvious to me before, and I almost always am energized to solve the problem instead of being stuck.

So . . . Lesson #2:  Reframe.  Flip the switch to look at it differently.

What makes you happy?

Finally, the most important and the one that took the longest to figure out is to do the work that I love.  I know . . . people say that and it seems obvious, but it is hard to remember.   Figure out what motivates you and surround yourself with things that motivate—this is almost always work that you love, but could be position or money or recognition.  Whatever it is, create your life with motivation and fun and love.  CREATE. YOUR. LIFE.  Don’t waste your life doing stuff that makes you unhappy or demotivates you. Know what you love, what you want to do, what motivates you and create work and life around those things.

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Your ‘Tribes’ Are Important For Your Career Success

What Are Your Tribes?

Broncos, Seahawks.  Democrat, Republican.  Christian, Jew.  We belong to ‘Tribes.’  The correct definition of this is a social group that preceded the “state,” small in size.  The current use of the word is more of an ‘aligned’ group—somewhat informal with common interests and loyalty.  Some of these ‘tribes’ are ok to talk about at work.  Your sports team, unless it is the arch enemy of the prominent group’s team.  Your hobby group, unless it is politically incorrect.  Sometimes your tribe and your company are one—maybe Google is a tribe—but usually your tribes and your company are concentric circles with some overlap.  Sometimes your team/project/department is a tribe within your company.

It is an interesting question why we feel so strongly about the interests of our tribe.  This is probably one of the reasons that we don’t talk about some of this at work very often—religion, politics, gun control, abortion.  If I find out that you are not IN my tribe in one of these areas, it makes it harder for me to work with you.  Why is that?  You are the same person you were before I found out that you have a view that I completely disagree with (outside my tribe).  You are the same person.  If I liked you (or at least was neutral) before, why does knowing that you are in another ‘tribe’ change my opinion so much?

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What Do You Do About It?

One of the most important things to acknowledge is that there are tribes and there are tribes.  Each of us has had the experience of thinking badly—ok, if you can’t admit that—not as highly of a group of people because of something.  We applied stereotypes to them.  And then you became close to a single member of that group.  You made that person an exception.  S/he was different from the rest of the group.  S/he was an exception to all the characteristics you didn’t like/objected to.  And so it was ok to like her.  It was ok to think highly of her—because all that stuff didn’t apply to her.  It’s as if we’re hard wired to think like this.

So, take advantage of the fact that we make exceptions when we get to know someone.  Create more tribes.  Create cross-tribe tribes that are based on something else—fun, work, teams, companies, hobbies, interests.  Get to know people.  Make them exceptions.  Get to know people you admire. I once went out of my way to meet the two women who wrote a book, Success and Betrayal, that changed my life.  Who do you admire?  Who do you want to learn from?  Who do you want to be like?  Inside and outside of work—seek them out.  Make them your tribe.

Eventually, you’ll see that the stereotypes you believe about certain groups are just that—stereotypes—not reality.  People are individuals.  They fall on a continuum.  They are like others in their tribes in some ways and not like them in others.  I’m talking about ALL kinds of tribes:  religious ones, political ones, gang ones, 1% ones, creative, etc.  It is insane to write off a person because they disagree with you on one continuum (or four).  Find something to agree with them on.  Get to know them.

Why?

We’ve moved past our caveman days.  We need to interact with all kinds of people.   If you want to have career success—I mean career SUCCESS then all kinds of people have to want you to succeed.  Success doesn’t just come from the quality of your work.  Sure, you have to have that, too, but someone has to want to move you up the organization.  Someone has to want to buy your product.  People have to help you succeed.  Your tribe.

Some great books about Tribes:

The Dark Side of Tribes

Tribes are the way we interact, but there are some tribes that can get in the way of effectiveness, and therefore get in the way of your career.  Be on the lookout for these.  Sometimes a department is a tribe—a silo—and it is in the way of optimizing the whole organization.  This can bring you down as well if you are too closely aligned with the silo.  You can be too closely aligned with the boss, or with the industry or with actions of a group.  You need to pay as much attention to that as to aligning with better tribes.

Understanding tribes and how you interact with them can give you a new set of tools to improve your career.

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Do You Take Initiative?

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Duh.  I Know To Take The Initiative.

You’ve heard that you should take initiative. Duh. But do you do it? Do you suggest ideas? Do you seek to improve the situation? Do you take action? Do you do it when it isn’t expected? The FREE Dictionary defines “take the initiative” as “to activate oneself to do something even if one has not been asked to do it.” That last part is the important part–even if one hasn’t been asked to do it.  Do you do things without being asked to do them? Do you surprise the people you work with by taking on things and getting them done?  So many of us wait around to be told to do stuff.  Do you see things that need to be done, problems that need to be solved, and do you take them on and get them done?

Taking the initiative can make the difference between getting noticed and not.  It can get you attention from the right people in your organization.  Part of the reason for that is that it is such a surprise when people actually step out of their ‘wait to be told’ role and think for themselves and take action.  You may think I’m crazy.  You may think that people take the initiative all the time.  But think about the last time someone actually surprised you by doing something that needed to get done that wasn’t clearly in his/her responsibility.

People who are good at their job are good at what their job is–not beyond that.  People who take initiative are beyond good at their job.  They are on their way to being good at the next level job and the one beyond that.  They are thinking (and acting) like their boss.  Whoa, you may say.  My boss won’t like that.  I’ll step on his/her toes.  There is a difference between ‘doing’ your boss’ job and taking iniative.  When you take initiative, you help your boss rather than step on his/her toes.  You lift some of the load.  Remember–SURPRISE is the key.

So How Do You Take Initiative?

We are well trained to do what we are told.  We learned it at home.  It was enforced at school.  (I once did a survey of middle school teachers of how they identified students who were leaders.  Many of them said the leaders were the ones who followed directions, were quiet and did what they were told!)  We learned to succeed at our entry level jobs by learning and following the rules quickly and well.  Our bosses expect us to do the things that are in our job.  They don’t expect much else.  And so we learn.  We modulate our brains and actions to fit without our roles.  We wait to be told to act beyond the day to day-ness of our jobs.

The key to taking the initiative is the way you think about it.  Do you see a problem?  Instead of just seeing it and walking by it, think about what could be done about it.  Think about what YOU could do about it.  Then DO it.  It takes some bravery.  It’s like visiting a new city without a map.  Make creating that surprise your goal.

The first time I did it, I did it by accident.  I created a report of my observations about something just because I was  too full of my own opinions to keep quiet about it.  It didn’t occur to me that anything would happen except that someone might read my report.  Then I just couldn’t stop with the opinions and made some suggestions at the end of the report.  I didn’t see it as taking the initiative.  I saw it as finding a way of expressing my opinions and ideas that were trying to push their way out of me.  Apparently this spontaneous creation of opinion and suggestion (on a problem that had been driving people nuts for a while) from someone at my level was completely unexpected.  It got attention.  It got me called into a meeting with people at the top of the organization to be questioned about my ideas.  It got me assigned to the group to implement some of the ideas (that got funded beyond my imagination).  It started my career on its way.  I recently found a copy of the report I wrote so long ago.  It wasn’t particularly well written.  Today I would know how to ‘sell’ the ideas and I would have pre-sold them to people to make the organization more receptive.  My reaction when I found that report, however, was–that is when my career hit a pivot point.  When someone read that report, he was surprised.  Maybe the surprise itself made him pay attention to the content.  I can see now:  I took the initiative.  That accident taught me the benefit of taking the initiative.

So What Do You Do?

  • Proactively look at problems.
  • Think about what it would take to SOLVE them.
  • Think about what you could do to get the ball rolling.
  • DO IT.

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My Boss Is Young Enough To Be My Child!

Mental Model of Boss

Younger Bosses

It happens to all of us–no matter how successful we are–if you stay in the workforce long enough, you’re going to have a boss younger than you.  Why does this matter?  Why do you care?  Yeah, yeah, it shouldn’t, but to most of us it does.  I’ll go back to harping about mental models.  We have a mental model of what a boss is and that we need to look up to a boss and someone who is younger doesn’t deserve that.  So why does our mental model require that our boss be older than us?  Back in the day, when people entered the organization immediately after high school or college and then moved up the organization step by step, the bosses were 55-65 year old men who retired and made room for the next person  (Oh, by the way, back in those same days, women only had some non-boss roles –I very specifically remember when people (both men and women) had the same issues with women bosses–bosses were NOT supposed to be women!!).  I know there are lots of people who don’t remember those days.  Most of the people, though, who are struggling with younger bosses now do remember those days.  In fact they are mostly from those days.  Things are different now.  It’s time to change our mental models.

I certainly had the experience of working for bosses who were older than me who were not as smart, or knowledgeable or skilled at their job as me (I’m sure it was no one who reads this blog, though:-)).  Age didn’t have anything to do with this.  Neither did race or gender or even educational backgrounds.  You aren’t guaranteed good bosses.  Given that, though, good bosses come in all shapes, sizes, ages, genders and educational backgrounds.  There are people who are younger than you who have more knowledge than you about somethings.  There are people who have less education, less experience, or talent who can be good bosses for you.  Good bosses bring what the job and the team need AT THE TIME.  So change your mental model.  Start thinking about what you need in a boss and stop assuming that someone younger than you can’t bring it.  I know twenty-somethings who are better people managers than most of the middle managers that I know.  I know fifty-somethings who can explain technology better than tech professors.  One of the very best Executives I ever knew only had a high school education, but he sure knew how to gather information and make a quick and effective decision.  He had an instinct that I’ve never seen in anyone before or since.  I had a female boss, back in the days when that was rare, who focused so completely on the customer that she changed the culture (and the profits) of the organization.  She did it before it was “THE THING TO DO.”

Mental Model Actual Bosses

My point is that you’ve GOT to stop thinking about bosses as if they should be a certain gender, race, education or age.  Ask yourself what your boss brings to the table.  What does s/he bring that you don’t have?  How and what can you learn from him?  How can you improve the chemistry/relationship with her?  How can you earn his respect?  Unless you are knocking at retirement’s door, this is not the last boss you will have.  Bosses will come in more different versions as our world changes.  Get used to it.  Get good at it.  Especially if you want to be the boss.

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Filed under Bosses, Career Development, Career Goals, Communication, Diversity, Inclusion

Reactions To My Discrimination Post

generations at work

Reactions to Reactions To My Discrimination Post

I had readers respond to my Are They Discriminating Against You?  Probably. blog post in a couple of different ways.  First, one reader challenged me about “accepting” discrimination.  He believed that I should advocate challenging the ‘discriminatory behaviors’ of others through complaining to the powers that be and/or Human Resources within the organization, or through the legal system.  I certainly don’t mean to suggest that those aren’t legitimate avenues.  It depends on your goals, though.  Do you want to help fix discrimination long term?  In your company? For everyone?  Then routing yourself around the problem and going to find some place and someone(s) who can judge you for what you are and what you bring and make decisions based on that (as suggested in my last blog) is NOT the solution.  Challenging the status quo is the right thing to do.  Go for it.  Those of us who wimp out on that will really appreciate you.  And support you.  And do whatever you need us to do.

If you need to get a job this month, then you need to find a place that doesn’t discriminate.  You need to find decision makers who are smarter, have better judgement and who are worthy of you.  Leave the others in the dirt–where they belong.

The other people admitted that they themselves discriminate and were unhappy with doing so.  One person who reacted wrote that she found herself sometimes on the side of being a discriminator.  She finds herself feeling the way about young people that older people used to feel about her.  Yet another person who responded–same issue–being a discriminator–just can’t break her thinking of older people as ‘time to go-ers.’ The good news is that both of these readers don’t think that it is ‘right’ to think the way they do–they just feel justified.

So What Do You Do?

I guess my first advice is to acknowledge that there is a huge “humans are this way” element to this. We think of people who are different from us as, well, different.  Not as good.   And then my second advice is to do what I do–struggle with yourself every day to challenge this thinking.  Instead of seeing the instances when the young or old person, does something completely wrong, look for when they make sense.  Work really hard to see it from their perspective.  What do you know that they don’t know that would change their perspective.  What EXPERIENCE (not advice or ‘telling’) could you help them have that would help shift their thinking.  Don’t give them the experience and then take credit for it.  Give them experience and let it go.  Give them the experience and try to figure out the next one that will lead them to an understanding of your point of view.  Think of it as an experiment.  Keep trying things.  Try with one person.  Try with two people.  Compare.  What worked and why.  What didn’t work and why?

Now experiment  with yourself.  Listen to your language.  Are you “them” and “us” -ing?  Are you plopping damning stereotypes on a whole category of people?  Work to see each as an individual.  Note the ways in which the person is ‘different’ from the stereotype.  Another thing we humans do–we make fairer judgements about others who we see as ‘exceptions’ to the stereotype.  “Well, s/he is DIFFERENT.”  Of course s/he is–we are ALL different.  None of us completely fit the damning stereotype.  The sooner you can stop applying that stereotype, the sooner you can stop discriminating.

Go for it!

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