September 30, 2014 · 7:03 pm
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:
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?
September 6, 2014 · 4:01 pm
Get Out Your ‘Spidey-Sense’
Remember when you were new in your organization? Remember the things you noticed? Remember the things you thought? You noticed what worked and what didn’t seem to be working. You notice who had the power. You noticed who seemed to be moving up (and you probably had a clue as to why). You noticed who annoyed you and who you liked.
Then you settled in. And you started to forget. You got used to things. You became friends with people. Your own prejudices and stereotypes kicked in and overrode your initial impressions. And you went on autopilot.
So you are missing a lot of what is going on in the organization. You are missing the nuances and the undercurrents that can help prepare you for what is going on. Your “Spidey-sense” needs to be turned on at all times.
Here are some times to make sure you’ve got your NEW EYES open:
- Every time a new executive joins the organization. What ripples are caused when new people join the organization? We tend to assume that they will adjust to the organization (and to an extent they will), but the organization will change around them too. Think of new people as boulders in the white water. The water speed and directions/currents will change when the boulders are moved.
- Every time the organization is impacted in the market. If you’re not watching the “market” that includes your company, you’re driving down the street toward a dam that has opened up across the street. You will be overtaken by circumstances beyond your control. And you won’t be ready.
- Every time a new project starts or stops. People are impacted when projects start or stop. Opportunities open up. Companies downsize. This does not necessarily apply only to the people on the project. Sometimes those people are rewarded for the effort they have put into the success of the project—by being moved into your job or into your boss’ job.
- Every time cost cutting starts. When organizations are cutting costs, they re-look at EVERYTHING. They will at some point look at what value you are adding to the organization. Don’t assume that it is obvious. Use New Eyes to see what they see. In fact, do it before the cost cutting starts. Make sure you’re adding value and that the powers that be know that you are adding value. Don’t assume that it is obvious.
- Every time the organization gets stretched or starts to grow. Opportunities abound during stretch and growth times. Use NEW EYES to see where the opportunity is. Figure out how to be the one who others think of for those opportunities. Don’t just sit in your day job and let the growth happen around you—be ready and be available for it.
- When you get a new boss. This is possibly the most important time to be looking through your NEW EYES. Your boss doesn’t know what has gone before. S/he only knows what exists when s/he gets there. If there are problems in the organization, then it is likely that you are perceived (by someone who has just arrived) as part of that problem. Look for ways that you can help your new boss immediately. Look for what your boss wants to accomplish and figure out how to help him/her do it. QUICKLY.
- When you get new co-workers. Much the same things apply to new colleagues as new bosses. It is a great opportunity to see the organization through new perspectives. What is right and what is wrong about your organization. What can YOU do to help change things that need to be changed? How can you help your new colleagues be successful?
- When someone important gets fired. In fact when anyone gets fired. Firings should be wake-up calls for everyone. Why did s/he get fired? Did s/he run afoul of someone? Did s/he break a rule? An unwritten rule? Fail to get results? Look at yourself. With NEW EYES.
April 30, 2014 · 10:05 pm
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:-)
Filed under Bosses, Career Development, Derailment, Executive Development, Networking, Personal Change, Recession Proof, Reframe
Tagged as Career development, career goals, Derailment, diy executive development, personal change, stand out career development
February 25, 2014 · 11:12 pm
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.”
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.
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.
January 27, 2014 · 9:53 pm
Twenty years ago tomorrow the worst thing that I could ever imagine happened to me. My husband died. Twenty years provides great perspective. When it happened, I couldn’t imagine surviving one year, let alone twenty years. I was in shock for the first few months and focused on just surviving. One foot in front of another. One day after another. One week . . .
Now, though, twenty years later, I can see all the good things that happened because of it. I know that that sounds weird. That is the tough paradox of losing someone. Things can get better. Things can be good. Good things can even happen because of the bad things that went before.
When my husband died–he was quite young–I didn’t know who I was anymore. My identity was being part of a we–a team, both at work and at home. Co-parents and co-workers. We’d been together since high school and had done college and graduate school together. We had ended up working for the same company. I know that the people around me didn’t think of me as “half” of two, but I did. I had to struggle with who I was going to be for the rest of my life. I had family and friends who helped me. I had an incredible therapist who helped me. I had four kids who gave me a reason to go on. Slowly but surely I figured out who I would be. I figured out what it was that I liked to do at work. I figured out what it would take to build a life doing that work.
I now have a life and work that I really love. I can see that it wouldn’t have happened in the same way if I hadn’t gone through what I did. I can testify that you can survive the worst and you can build the life you want. Give yourself time and space to heal, and then decide what you want and figure out how to do it.
As a consultant, I’ve had lots of first days. I start with a company and I have an open mind about what the problems are and about what it will take to solve them. I am excited and ambitious about what a difference I can make. I meet people and don’t make judgments–I don’t know them well enough to make judgments. I listen carefully to what people say and don’t pick which ones I believe. I’m aware that they each have their own perceptions and there is a reason for each. I’m not frustrated on the first day, or behind on my “ToDo’s”, or irritated with my coworkers. I LOVE the first day.
What I’ve learned over time, on days that AREN’T the first, for days when I AM frustrated, or irritated, or overwhelmed by the problems that now seem insurmountable, is to remember what it is like on the first day. If this were the first day, I tell myself, I wouldn’t be irritated by this, I would be interested. I would be patient and would ask questions and would listen. If this were the first day, I would believe that I could figure out a solution and would put my energy into it. If it were the first day, this problem would look solveable and these people would seem helpful. So . . . If I think of this as the first day, and if I act like this is the first day, then it will be the same as the first day and I can start again.
Just sayin’ . . .
October 20, 2013 · 8:57 pm
You’re too expensive
If you’ve been in your job 10 years, you’re too expensive. For the company. I don’t mean that you personally aren’t worth the money you’re making. I mean that you aren’t worth it to the company. Think about it. You were hired with (presumably) enough skills to do the job you’re doing. You’ve gotten regular raises–again, presumably. Your skills might have increased as well. BUT YOU HAD ENOUGH SKILLS TO DO THE JOB WHEN YOU WERE HIRED. So what is the added value for the company? Whether they admit it or not (and it is mostly not), companies lay off employees who have been with the company for a long time in the same job. Then they hire employees at entry level prices. Companies may or may not hire younger people. It really doesn’t matter. They hire cheaper.
They put you out on the street.
And what do you have to sell to your next employer? That’s the key for both of these situations. You need to figure out how to add value to the organization that is at least commensurate with your increased income, and you need to figure out how to add saleable skills to yourself so that when (and I don’t really believe it is ‘if ‘ for most of us) you are put out, you land on your feet in a better situation, and if you’re smart you see it coming and land first.
I’m a major believer in managing your own career and not relying on your company to do that for you. You certainly may have a manager, or a series of managers, who really believe in developing people and creating situations that allow them to succeed in their career. Count your self blessed, but year after year, your chances of keeping this kind of boss are slim. YOU need to manage your career. You need to put yourself into situations where you are continuing to grow and develop and move up the organization, so that when it comes time to put people out on the street it never occurs to anyone to come after you.
Think about it from the company’s perspective–what are you adding over and above what they hired you for that make you worth more to the company?
September 10, 2013 · 8:08 pm
This has been a tough week. A dear friend’s husband had a stroke. A young acquaintance died. A friend lost a job. Another friend had a baby girl. The juxtaposition of all these events has made me think of mortality and therefore, my legacy. What will people remember about me? What difference will I make in the world? Whether today is my last day or I have 50 more years, what impact will I have on my world?
Steven Covey, in his best seller, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, made one of the habits “Begin with the end in mind.” Obviously, it is hard for us to begin with our legacy in mind. As children, we can’t grasp the concept of a legacy. We feel immortal and think in the present. As children we aren’t able to grasp how we can/will have an impact. We live our lives, usually as best we can, and we get smarter. At some point, we suddenly realize that our existence in this world can change the world and that we can influence that. That’s the really cool part. We can influence it.
Have you thought about it? I probably first thought about it when I attended a Leadership Development program in my late twenties. I was about the same age as the young acquaintance who died this week. They had us write an obituary. Begin with the end in mind. When you read obituaries, you get a snapshot of people’s lives–what was important to them–
- their families
- their military record
- their accomplishments
- their publications
- their interests
(For one of the most interesting obituaries, read this one.)
Obituaries take it down to the most important things in your life. So for you, what is that? Are you focused on the things that are most important to you? Is that how you spend your time? Or do you spend your time on what other people think is important?
When you encounter life events like I have this week–a death of a young person, a friend with a stroke, a birth of a baby–it helps to re-focus you on what is important.
The most important things to me are:
- my family
- my work
- my students and clients
What about you? What will people say about you? What are you focused on? What are you ‘wasting’ your time on? Are you proud of what you have accomplished so far? What else do you want to accomplish? What are you going to do about it? You have the ability to influence it. Today. Tomorrow. As many tomorrows as you have.
June 9, 2013 · 8:30 pm
I don’t really believe that fat people aren’t good workers. In fact, I am a fat people (or at least I used to be) and I happen to think that I am a good worker. There are a lot of people who do believe this, though. I believe that this is just fuzzy thinking.
A lecturer at NYU recently tweeted “Dear obese PhD applicants: If you don’t have the willpower to stop eating carbs, you won’t have the willpower to do a dissertation. #truth.” More fuzzy thinking:
What does will power re: food have to do with willpower over anything else? Why don’t people who don’t have willpower re: other things–alcohol, sex, spending, gambling, exercise, hoarding–fall into this guys criticism. This guy is an evolutionary psychologist–a scientist–who should have more discipline in his thinking.
He’s not the only one. Recruiters (I once had a recruiter proudly tell me that he made overweight candidates walk up four flights of steps to interviews and if they couldn’t do it, they didn’t get to the next level. Why? Is walking up stairs a job requirement? If he doesn’t do that for normal weight people, then how does he know that they can (if it is a requirement of getting to the next level?), hiring managers, supervisors, co-workers, sales people, customers all make decisions about people based on their weight. Is it relevant? Sometimes. More often not.
Prejudice against fat people is an acceptable prejudice. It is close to the last acceptable prejudice. If you find yourself being prejudice against overweight people, challenge your thinking. Examine what you believe about fat people, thought by thought by thought. Do they really support one another?
Do you just not like fat people? Do you just think that fat people should do better/be better/act better? Is this a big enough deal that they should not get a job or a promotion? Do you believe that being fat is an indicator of someone’s character? There is a recent study that shows that children as young as four are prejudiced.
OK, So I Think This Discrimination Is Wrong
But it is not illegal. It is hard to prove (and a lot of people think it is justified). So . . . if you are overweight, this is something that you can actually do to affect your employability and promotability. It might have as much of an impact (or more) as getting more education, or more experience, or even more networking.
June 2, 2013 · 8:46 pm
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!