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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

Do You Really Need A Mentor?

Do You Need A Mentor?

It’s common to hear that you need a mentor for career success.  Is that still true?  Yes. You need a mentor.  You need several.  Over the course of your career you need people who help you along the way.

  • Mentors are experienced and trusted advisers.
  • Mentors can explain things in a short conversation that would take weeks, months, or even years for you to figure out on your own.
  • Mentors can tell you things about yourself in a way that you can actually hear it.
  • Mentors can easily open doors that you might otherwise stand on the outside looking in–forever.
  • Mentors can teach you skills that you never knew you could develop.
  • Mentors can help you see the world from another (or lots of other) perspective.
  • Mentors can help raise your performance bar.
  • Mentors can help you come up with new solutions to problems that have you stuck.
  • Mentors can speed up your progress and development by sharing their experience (and saving you from having to go through the same experiences–especially the bad ones).
  • Mentors can help build your network.
  • Mentors can help you understand the unwritten rules of an organization.

YES.  You Need a Mentor.

So, yes, you need a mentor.  You need different mentors for different times in your career. You need mentors to help you with different developmental issues.  For example, when you are graduating from college, you need someone to guide you from the college experience to the work experience.  What should you expect?  How should you act?  What is important?  Of course lots of people make this transition without a mentor (although parents frequently fill this role), but people who have mentors who specifically focus on this conversation avoid common pitfalls.

When you start to get serious about having a career instead of a job, a mentor can help you begin to navigate organizational politics and understand what organizations look for in “high potentials.”  Young people who are a part of Executive Leadership Programs get a lot of this kind of mentoring and it makes a difference!  Which job should you go after next?  What should you focus on in the interview?  What should you highlight in your performance assessment?  What should you add to your resume draft?

When you decide to change organizations, which ones should you target?  Who does your mentor know in the new organization?  Which organization is likely to be the best path to your career goal?

When you’re trying to solve a difficult organizational problem–supply chain streamlining, new branding, cost reductions, new market target–a mentor with specific knowledge of that problem is a short cut to understanding the boundaries of the problem and where to find the kind of expertise that you need.

Just Do It.  Ask.

Mentors can perform many roles in your career success.  The key is to step out there and get one (and then another and another).  Mentoring is about relationships.  Ask someone.  Who do you ask?  Ask someone who knows what you need to know.  Ask someone who can introduce you to people or experiences that take you to a new level.  Chances are that anyone you ask would be flattered to be asked to be a mentor.  S/he may or may not be able to say yes, but it is likely that they would enjoy being asked.  If they say yes, know what it is that you’d like to get from them.  Tell them.  It’s ok.  That is what mentoring is about.  Straight talk.  Being clear.

If s/he says s/he can’t do it, then tell them why you thought they would be a good mentor and ask if they can suggest someone else.  Ask if they will provide an introduction or if you can use their name to approach the other person.  You wouldn’t think twice about going to a doctor who specializes in something you need.  Don’t think twice about seeking a mentor in the same way.

Remember, though, mentoring is about relationships.  What can you give back to your mentor?  Mentoring relationships are two-way relationships.  Mentors feel good when their mentees make progress.  They like it when they can introduce their mentee to a new experience, person or organization. There are lots of things that you can teach someone who might be your mentor.  Be sure to do it if it is appropriate.  Be open to the ways you can help/teach/entertain your mentor.

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Filed under Career Development, Career Goals, Executive Development, Hi Po, Mentor, Networking, Unwritten Rules

Who Are You And How Did You Get That Way?

In the mirror

Understand Yourself

One of the most important tasks of becoming a great leader and a successful Executive (and those things are not necessarily the same thing) is to REALLY understand yourself.  You need to understand what makes you tick–what motivates you, what slows you down, what scares you and what gets in your way.  You need to understand how others see you.  You also need to understand that what goes on in your head is absolutely invisible to those around you.  They don’t know why you do what you do and they certainly don’t know what you are thinking.  You need to understand your strengths and your weaknesses, your learning style and your interpersonal style.  And then you need to show enough of your internal workings and motivations to help others understand you.

We all think we know ourselves.  We are mostly wrong.  That is why it is really good to get feedback from others.  I highly recommend getting 360 assessments done–pretty regularly.  These are assessments that get feedback from you, your boss and your subordinates.  When you look at your opinion of yourself against that of your boss and your subordinates, you frequently get a surprise.   If your boss doesn’t agree with your opinion of yourself, then it’s important to note the differences.  If your subordinates don’t agree with you and your boss about your strengths–another important factor.  These instruments just measure behaviors, though–what can actually be seen.  When you get feedback that indicates behaviors that can derail your career, it is important that you CHANGE that behavior.  It is possible for you to change your behavior without understanding how and why you do what you do.  You just change.  Right?  Most of us can’t do that.

The Why of Your Behavior

When I identify that I need to change a behavior–interpersonal interactions, eating, exercising, time management–it really helps me to understand WHY I do (or don’t do) what I do.  For example, I used to get feedback that I was “unreadable.”  As I tried to figure out why people thought that, I also tried to figure out WHY I was unreadable.  What did they mean that I was unreadable?  I started asking people (not the one’s who had given the feedback, but others):  “What does it mean when people say I’m unreadable?  Why do they care? What could I do differently?”  The answers surprised me.  It turns out that I used few happy facial expressions.  I wasn’t aware of this.  Whether I was happy, pissed or someplace in between, I was using the same facial expressions. I had very neutral (or so I thought) facial expressions.   I really wasn’t aware of this.  When I thought long and hard about it,  I realized that some things had happened in my childhood that made me very guarded about my thoughts and feelings.  OK.  That was legitimate.  Then.  Those things no longer existed.  And not only that, it was interfering with my effectiveness as a leader because when left to their own imagination, people frequently assume the worse (that I’m pissed AT THEM).  I was able to (deliberately) change this because I was made aware of it, I asked about it to understand it, and then I could persuade myself that the coping behavior from my childhood was no longer necessary.  I was able to change more easily with this realization.

Some of the things that can impact the way your are and can shape your behaviors as a leader are:

  • Your birth order and your relationships with your siblings
  • Your relationships with your parents
  • Your beliefs about how things work (your mental models)
  • Your beliefs about the “rules” of organizations
  • What you believe about hierarchy and how that fits with your organization, your boss and your subordinates
  • Your beliefs about what makes people tick (Theory X, Theory Y)
  • What you believe about people’s responsibility to the organization and the organization’s responsibility to people

Start With Feedback

It all starts with feedback, though.  You can’t know what behaviors are really working and not working unless people tell you.  They probably won’t tell you unless you ask them.  Once you know the behaviors that you should address, think long and hard about where those behaviors come from.  Then do something about it.

Then Change

Sooner rather than later.

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Filed under Career Development, Career Goals, Derailment, Executive Development, Feedback, Personal Change

Brand Schmand. Defining Who You Are.

Branding

When you think of Coca Cola what comes to mind?  The iconic bottle?  The taste?  What about Apple?  Or Amazon?  Or Chanel?  If products are well-branded then when you think of them, you think of the product, the name, the logo, the product ecosystem–it’s interrelationship with everything in its environment (where it is sold, how it works, what it works with, its price point, its competition), the feelings you have about it and, probably most important, how and what you trust about the product.

Well-Known World Brand Logotypes

Why Should You Care About Your Brand

A brand makes you unique.  It sets you apart.  When people think of you, you want them to think about how you are different, how you are great, what you do well and why they should turn to you for certain things.  You want them to FEEL something and to TRUST you to be reliable in a certain way.  It is my experience that most people at work aren’t really good at this.  Maybe it is because people don’t actually try to brand themselves.  If you have a stand-out personal brand, then people think of you when they want to hire someone, when they want to promote someone, when they want someone for a special assignment.  You have a lot of control of how and what people think about you if you pay attention to developing your brand and therefore you have a lot of control of being the option of choice in a lot of situations.

What Do You Want People to Think of When They Think of  You?

If you could choose what people think of when they think of you, what would it be?

  • What is your image (how do you look?)
  • What strengths would they think of?
  • What abilities would they think of?
  • What personality traits?
  • What is your energy level?
  • What can you be trusted to do?
  • What can you be trusted not to do?

Now, How Does That Compare to How People Perceive You?

This is harder.  How we want to be, and be seen, is easier to identify than to really see how others see you.  Ask people.  Tell your friends and coworkers that you are trying to understand self-branding and ask them to describe your “brand” in 5 words or 10 words.  Compare how that fits with what you want.  What are the differences?  Are there patterns to the hits and misses?  Do they think you have the abilities that you want to be seen as having, but not the personality?  Or vice versa?

Do you look like your brand?  Don’t underestimate the importance of managing your image.  You’ve heard the adage, “look like the level you want to be.”  Take it a step further.  Look like who and what you want to be.

Who do you know who has the kind of “brand” that you want to have?  How did that person develop that brand?  If someone is seen as a highly skilled technical resource who is reliable with intense projects and deadlines, then what is it that has gone into the development of this “brand.”  How many years has this person been working on what kinds of efforts to develop this reputation?  What are his abilities and personality traits?  How has she demonstrated her reliability?  How has s/he been visible?  What FEELINGS are associated with this person?  How did those feelings get developed?

Look at the executives who you admire.  What are their brands?  How did they develop them?  Why are they the ‘go to’ person in their world?  What can you learn from how they have accomplished their brand?  How can you copy some of their actions?

Now Start Building the Brand You Want

Based on what you want your brand to be and how others perceive you, create an action plan that builds your brand.  Be very proactive about it.  Don’t just float through your career taking what you get.  Build your brand.  Pay careful attention to the ecosystem that surrounds your brand.  What kind of environment do you need to showcase your brand? What actions, “buzz,” results, visibility do you need?  How are you different from everyone else?  How are you going to stand out and be noticed?

Some Helpful Books

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Filed under Books, Brand Yourself, Career Development, Communication, Executive Development

Stand Out: Work On Projects

join a project team

Internal People on Projects

When I work as a consultant on big change projects in companies, there are always consultants (outsiders) and business representatives (insiders).  The insiders are usually identified as subject matter experts, business leads, and sponsors.  Despite what the consultants would like to think, they are pretty replaceable.  This is much less true of the business representatives.  Their knowledge of the internal workings of the existing processes and their understanding of how the change will significantly impact the future processes are essential to the success of these projects.  Their ability to navigate the inner workings of the organizational politics and to get answers and cooperation from key people make the difference between delivering as promised or not delivering at all.

When the opportunity to participate on one of these projects arises, most business people don’t jump at the chance to sign up.  They have ‘real’ jobs and not all companies lighten the responsibilities in day-to-day job for project participants.  Besides, the kind of people who are identified as potential business leads and subject matter experts are usually pretty happy in their current gig.  Why give up something they like for the wear and tear of project work?

What Project Participation Gets You

Project work teaches you more, faster, than practically anything else in an organization.  You get to see across the organization in a way that is hard to do below the Executive level.  You get to see how to organize and deliver significant change in an organization–again, excellent training for being an Executive.  You have a different kind of visibility in the organization, especially if you throw yourself into it and stand out as a cooperative expert. You get to work on a team that crosses the organization, growing your internal (and through the consultants–external) network.  You get to watch and learn and practice how to actually make a team work through all the stages of team development.  You get to learn a system (usually) or process up close and personal and become the company’s expert on how that system or process works in your part of the organization.  Other executives outside your organization get to know you and your work and that provides longer term career possibilities.

Over the course of hundreds of projects I’ve seen it happen over and over.  People get assigned to a project, they really take to it and do extremely good work in helping the project get off the ground and succeed.  Company Executives notice and start to seek the project participants out for their expertise. Opportunities open up and the stand out project participants are first in line.

Volunteer, Participate, Learn, Accelerate Your Career

So . . .  stand out by volunteering and participating and learning in projects in your company.  It’s worth the effort in the long term.

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Filed under Brand Yourself, Career Development, Executive Development, Leadership, Networking, Teams

The Specialization Sweet Spot for Career Success

Too Specialized–The Other Kiss of Death

I wrote recently about avoiding the Career Kiss of Death by avoiding becoming a commodity.  Becoming too specialized can also be a kiss of death.  I once worked for an electronic publisher that published legal information.  At the time, there were only two companies that did that.  I was an expert on the legal data published by my company, the sources of that data, the processes used to publish it, and the customers who bought it.  There was only one other company who could use that expertise at that time, and I had a pretty unbreakable non-compete agreement that foreclosed going to work for them.  When I looked around, I couldn’t see any option (I wasn’t as creative then as I am now) for a different job/company than the one I had.  It’s a really good thing that I really liked the job/company at the time.  It’s interesting that now there are lots of companies that could use that expertise.  The job market has expanded through the growth of the industry.  You can’t count on that happening, though.

I decided at the time that I would expand my marketability by learning expertise about other kinds of data besides legal data.  I still had the expertise on how to manage/convert/acquire and sell online information, but I learned how to do all those things with other kinds of data—financial and news.  It still seemed too limited to me, though, so I decided to Genericize Myself by learning expertise that crossed industries.  (The present online information industry that exists now was unimaginable then!)

I became an expert on organizational operations.  I learned how to improve processes, how to re-engineer processes and how to streamline them.  I was successful at improving the processes in my own department, then I began to be sought to help with processes across other departments, and then across organizations owned by my parent company.  I didn’t know it then, but I was learning a very marketable skill that has turned into (part) of my career.  I have expanded this skill and expertise into a consulting business (that includes other things, but organization process enhancement was the beginning core).

Specialize AND Genericize

Jobs, companies, and industries go away.  You need to keep your eye on the horizon of all of these.  At the same time, you need to have deep skills—be the company expert, while you are working on making sure that you have genericized to the point that other jobs, companies and industries can use your skills.  This may seem like contrary advice, but it isn’t.  When you are a deep expert in an area that many companies and industries need, then you are recession-proof.  If one company or industry starts to have problems and starts downsizing, then you can move to another.  You can continue to land on your feet and continue to grow you skills more deeply to expand your marketability.

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Filed under Career Development, Executive Development, Recession Proof