This is a great article on why taking some time to ascend in your career has benefits.
The article lists many good reasons to take a measured approach to promotions including avoiding burnout and gaining the skills you’ll need to succeed. And my favourite of all:
“Following a “deliberate” path may prevent the problem experienced by any number of hard-charging executives: getting to the top of the career ladder only to realize it’s leaning against the wrong wall.”
Perfectionism is the enemy of transformative leaders. No great leader spends three hours perfecting an email. Perfectionism is absolutely seductive and must be kept at bay.
I have explored perfectionism in earlier posts and got new insight in this lecture today. For every perfectionist who spends time agonizing over work only to see it come back rife with feedback, a difficult feedback loop can ensue. Not: “Well that this the failure of perfectionism” But rather: “I should have worked even harder on that.” What is useful as a reminder is that perfectionism as a mindset is seductive and well viewed as a process addiction. Yet to indulge, you deprive the world of your work.
A piece with a lot of technical language (that I can’t entirely follow), that I think still has merit as it touches on a subject I’d like to see treated in greater depth – how to manage other managers. In this case a specialist has moved up the ranks and is reflecting on when to wade into the fray of her roots as an engineer. I like her prompts to ask herself: “What problems does my team need me to solve right now?”
“If I feel the itch to do engineering manager work, there have got to be good ways to do this that are absolutely not a) going to intrude on someone’s existing work, and b) not eliminating an opportunity for the manager who reports to you to learn.”
The gist of the thinking is that people are givers, matchers or takers. You might be a different sort at work than at home. Work settings can feel harder to navigate because you don’t want to be taken advantage of so you may want to adapt a normally generous style at work to a more matching style.
Givers have the potential to do the best and the worst in work settings. When they do the best, they succeed at understanding their clients to serve them well and reap the benefits. They are generous with their time and with information and they are willing to invest in the development of employees/students etc. to mentor them. This creates a generative cycle. Having built trust though their investments in others, others are willing to be generous to them.
Grant also gives practical suggestions on how to communicate in a way that isn’t aligned with being a “taker” of information. He coins the term “powerless communication” and gives a great example of someone in a difficult negotiation on a job offer in a different city who, instead of presenting a demand list, finally asked for HR’s advice on how to proceed noting the considerations with which they were struggling. They were presented with an ideal solution for their situation.
At worst however, givers can overdo it and burn out. They do this by failing to look after their own needs and those needs may include neglect of work-related goals crucial to success. The book also contains interesting information on volunteering. Apparently 100 hours a year is the ideal for many which is good news for the creative Timeraiser initiative (though the number may decrease for seniors). Also interesting was that that the research shows that you’d generate more benefits from your volunteering if you did it in large chunks of time rather than small bit of time over many days. Something for me to aspire to.
I loved that this book affirmed my own commitment to be generous with my own resources with good reminders of the needs to draw boundaries on the levels of contribution. The book is great at outlining how we must be discerning with our time and it’ll be fine to devote our time to people who will give to others rather than those who are just interested in taking for themselves.
The crux of the advice is that as tempting as it is to vent (belittle, demean) and make yourself feel better in the guise of holding people accountable, it’d be better to focus on how to help the person perform better.
Where Bregman really hits the nail on the head for my money is the remind us that high performing employees already feel your disappointment acutely when you express that something hasn’t hit the mark. You don’t need to spend more time on the disappointment piece but rather on how to build confidence to hit the mark the next time out. This is through building trust that you can get across the finish line. Best piece of simple advice, take four deep breaths before you react in the moment to figure out how to recalibrate to give your employees what they need to get over the next hurdle.
Some good stuff in this article, including, off the top, the reminder that the job hunt can be soul destroying. But, interviewing the overtly discouraged can be a difficult task so to avoid being that sad sack their suggestions:
Remember to accentuate the positive – and try to keep the letdowns in perspective – not getting the job doesn’t mean that you aren’t a good employee or even worse, a good person.
They “pressure-proof” themselves by seeing the job hunt as a process and not an event and don’t overblow mistakes that are beyond your control.
They network until the cows come home.
The aim to convey confidence and not arrogance.
They try to learn the lessons from the letdowns. And I’d add that sometimes there are no lessons from the letdowns. You’ve honestly done everything that you could to prepare for the interview and they already had someone in mind. Or they made a wrong choice. And the best thing to do is to move on to the next interview realizing that it wasn’t mean to be.
This interview is a good summary that will serve as my overdue nod to a book I found on the Globe and Mail list of the top ten business books of the year in 2011. The Progress Principle is the result of the analysis of thousands of work diaries to figure out what makes employees feel empowered at work – it’s making progress on meaningful work. The definition of meaning has to make sense for each person and the amount of progress can be small. Managers can support through finding catalysts (clear goals and resources) and nourishments (respect and emotional support) to progress versus creating inhibitors (micro-managing) and toxins (being disrespectful). What I wish the authors had elaborated on was the difficult rub of a collective making progress on meaningful work with liberal amounts of inhibitors and toxins thrown into the mix. To my mind, the framing of the thesis can miss the mark because the definition of progress can work for some and not for others.
A good article from Forbes on ways to toughen up your mental state.
Some things to avoid:
Wasting energy on things you can’t control (better to concentrate on the things you can control such as your reactions to difficult situations) and dwelling on the past.
“There is strength in acknowledging the past and especially in acknowledging the things learned from past experiences—but a mentally strong person is able to avoid miring their mental energy in past disappointments or in fantasies of the “glory days” gone by. They invest the majority of their energy in creating an optimal present and future.“
Fearing Taking Calculated Risks
“A mentally strong person is willing to take calculated risks. This is a different thing entirely than jumping headlong into foolish risks. But with mental strength, an individual can weigh the risks and benefits thoroughly, and will fully assess the potential downsides and even the worst-case scenarios before they take action.”
Resenting Other People’s Successes.
“It takes strength of character to feel genuine joy and excitement for other people’s success. Mentally strong people have this ability. They don’t become jealous or resentful when others succeed (although they may take close notes on what the individual did well). They are willing to work hard for their own chances at success, without relying on shortcuts.”
Feeling the World Owes Them Anything
“Particularly in the current economy, executives and employees at every level are gaining the realization that the world does not owe them a salary, a benefits package and a comfortable life, regardless of their preparation and schooling. Mentally strong people enter the world prepared to work and succeed on their merits, at every stage of the game.”
This article has good general application to working through situations which aren’t your best fit. It may not be the company itself that is an issue but your particular situation.
In particular, I liked the invitation to a perspective shift borrowed apparently from the Scottish Parliament – “Work as if you live in the early days of a better company.” Also, be tenacious and as needed, moonlight to do the work you want to be doing.