How Brilliant Careers Are Made and Unmade

career derailers

The Right and Wrong Stuff

Most people don’t realize how easy it is to derail a career or to lose a job. Adding to the problem is that it is possible that your career has stalled without your knowledge, an unexpected plateau because of something you don’t know about. Maybe it’s because you’ve been labeled impulsive or not seen as a team player.

Whatever the reason, it’s important to pause and assess where you are so you can get back on track.

Carter Cast knows this firsthand. In a terrific new book, The Right and Wrong Stuff: How Brilliant Careers Are Made and Unmade, Carter sheds light on what causes careers to derail and others to soar. His advice is practical and actionable. Carter is a professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, a former CEO, and a venture capitalist. I recently asked him to share some of his perspective.

 

Korn Ferry Research: people who overstate their abilities in 360-degree assessments are 6.2 times more likely to derail than those with accurate self-awareness

 

Would you share your own story of career derailment?

Back when Bill Clinton was president and I was a marketing manager within PepsiCo’s Frito Lay division, I found myself sitting in my boss Mike’s office for my annual performance review. I worried as he started the preamble, which was along the lines of, “This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.” Mike didn’t bury the lead for long—soon he came right out and told me that senior management considered me unpromotable, which meant I was no longer on the fast track at Frito-Lay. He laid out a list of my offenses, littering his examples with words like “uncooperative,” “resistant to feedback from authority figures,” and “unmanageable.” He described my behavior in various situations, repeatedly pointing out times I circumnavigated the established processes and procedures and ignored the chain of command for the sake of expediency, or the times I quietly ignored his feedback and chose to do things my own way.

Thirty painful minutes later, as he was wrapping up, when Mike asked if I had anything to say for myself, I simply asked if I was being fired. (It sure felt like it.) He said, “No, but I don’t want you to work in my group any longer. You’ll need to look for another marketing position within the company.”

Eventually I found another boss and team to work with, but it was a humbling experience because as I talked to prospective bosses, I learned that I had a reputation problem. I was considered “difficult to manage.” I realized I lacked the self-awareness needed to change my behavior right away, so I went about doing so. I identified the circumstances that triggered my disruptive behavior (e.g. sitting in ponderous process meetings; being managed tightly by a very “participative” boss; being talked at by a verbose senior manager), and I steadily began to develop practical methods to better self-regulate and curb my tendency toward stupid, unnecessary insubordination. Over time, I was again considered to be a promotable employee, but it took a couple years to climb out of hole I’d dug for myself.

 

Career Fact: half to two-thirds of all managers will be fired, demoted, or plateau at some point.

 

Use Negative Feedback to Propel You Forward

Your story highlights negative feedback, and I was intrigued that you actually called your boss and had him give it to you again! How do you coach individuals to hear negative feedback and use it in the best way possible?

I must be a glutton for punishment. (I was a swimmer, so I’m fairly certain.) Yes, twenty years later, I called my old boss Mike to get some quotes for the book. And he gave them to me. Yikes. Even after all these years, when he spoke to me, about me circa 1995, I felt a wave of queasiness! Thirty-three year old Carter needed some tough love.

The Magic of Personal Development

The Best Advice

One of the best pieces of advice I have ever heard was from Jim Rohn. He said, “Work harder on yourself than you do on your job.”

That struck me as particularly odd at first, but this simple wisdom stuck with me and became a part of my thinking.

 

“Self-development is a higher duty than self-sacrifice.” –Elizabeth Cady Stanton

 

Don’t get me wrong. It’s important to work hard on your job. It will help you stand out, get noticed, and advance your career.

But, if you stop there, you’ll miss out. Working on yourself pays far better than a salary. When you work on your own personal development, you start an almost magical process. Your capabilities expand with each new skill and that sets you up for new opportunities that you likely can’t even imagine.

I recently shared this advice during an interview with the Columbus Dispatch, a news organization in Columbus, Ohio and wanted to share it with you.

Take advantage of the magic of personal development, of working harder on yourself than on your job. You’ll be glad you did.

And, I must also mention that my upcoming book, The Book of Mistakes: 9 Secrets to Creating a Successful Future, will help you on the personal development journey. I share the nine personal development secrets that the most successful leaders employ.

 

Book of Mistakes by Skip Prichard

Order my book today to start your personal development journey.

 

“Work harder on yourself than you do on your job.” -Jim Rohn

 

 

Compete and Keep Your Soul

values based leadership
This is a guest post by Jeff Thompson, MD. Jeff is the author ofLead True: Live Your Values, Build Your People, Inspire Your Community and he is CEO Emeritus and Executive Advisor at Gundersen Health System.

 

Compete and Keep Your Soul

The bookstores have volumes and the media is full of examples of people who believe the way to success is to crush the competition—out-strategizing people and pressing your advantage till they are crushed by the wayside. Young leaders are told to step on faces to get ahead or aim for short term goals of size and profit.

But there is another way. There is a clear path to have stunning success and still be able to sleep at night and be proud to tell your grandchildren how the world is a better place because you were in it.

Values-based, not ego-based, leadership focuses on serving the greater good and accomplishing a higher purpose.  It is not complicated. It is just difficult.

 

“Values-based, not ego-based, leadership focuses on serving the greater good and accomplishing a higher purpose.” -Jeff Thompson

 

Let’s take for example the last broad economic downturn.

How are the priorities in your department or company organized to deal with this problem? Who were the first to be affected? The most vulnerable? The last people who were brought in the organization (your future)? The people with the least power and the least influence? Who took the biggest beating? What won the day? The long-term good of the organization or the short-term financial performance report for the board? Shareholders may clamor for short-term wins, but there is no law that says you have to sacrifice the long-term health of the organization or its people to satisfying this immediate clamor. Decision making guided by values takes courage, discipline and durability.

 

“Decision making guided by values takes courage, discipline and durability.” -Jeff Thompson

Become a Master Coach

Unlock the Talent in Your Team

When I think about a great leader, I inevitably think about someone who is a great coach, understanding my weaknesses, but helping me play to my strengths. From John Wooden to my favorite manager, a coach is someone who unlocks talent.

Gregg Thompson wants to help leaders throughout organizations become great coaches. THE MASTER COACH:  Leading with Character, Building Connections, and Engaging in Extraordinary Conversations is his new book, written to help make coaching the part of your culture. He’s the President of Bluepoint Leadership Development and has coached senior leaders in many Fortune 100 companies. I recently talked with Gregg about becoming a master coach.

 

Share with us the Gregg Thompson definition of a master coach.

A Master Coach is someone who, through their conversations, helps others accelerate their learning and increase their performance. The Master Coach is not an advisor but, rather, a catalyst for sustained personal change in individuals. The Master Coach is a positive and creative force that challenges the person being coached to move from intention to action and holds the person accountable to do that. The Master Coach has highly-tuned interpersonal skills but is much more recognizable by who they are rather than what they do. They are men and women of exceptional integrity, sincere humility, noble intention, and a high degree of emotional intelligence. They take people into uncharted territories, challenge them to consider new perspectives, and help them plot significantly more fruitful paths forward.

 

“The Master Coach is a catalyst for sustained personal change in individuals.” -Gregg Thompson

 

Become a Great Coach

What do people get wrong when they think of a great coach?

People often think of the great coach as someone with the expertise and experience to provide great advice and sage wisdom. While occasionally coaches will have valuable perspectives and insights to share with those they coach, this is not their prime role. Their prime role is to help others find their best answers, solutions, and action plans. Some people also make the assumption that a coach is a counselor. Coaching and counseling, both powerful processes that can help to improve lives, are deeply different. Coaching is dedicating time and attention to help the person being coached to be the best version of themselves going forward while counseling usually involves resolving past difficulties and issues.

 

“The primary role of a coach is to help others find their best answers, solutions, and action plans.” -Gregg Thompson

 

What’s the difference between a coach and a mentor? 

A mentor can function in a coach-like manner, but their role is more of a career advisor than a coach. The mentor is usually someone with deep knowledge and expertise in a particular field and uses this to help more junior individuals accelerate their development and career growth.  Coaching, on the other hand, requires no expertise in the discipline of the person being coached. In short, anyone can coach anyone.

 

“Leadership happens one conversation at a time.” -Gregg Thompson

 

7 Characteristics of a Coaching Culture

Essential Daily Exercises for Becoming More Successful

Become Wealthier, Smarter, and More Successful

 

Do you want to break old habits?

Do you want to manage your time more effectively?

Do you want to motivate your staff and be a more effective leader?

 

Rhett Power is cofounder of the toy company Wild Creations, named one of Inc. Magazine’s fastest-growing companies. He is a speaker and author and has written for numerous publications from Time to the Wall Street Journal. I recently spoke to him about his research on success.

He says that success today isn’t just taking a few steps, but it is available to all if you take action day after day, week after week. Rhett’s new book, The Entrepreneurs Book of Actions: Essential Daily Exercises and Habits for Becoming Wealthier, Smarter, and More Successful, focuses on 53 weeks to accomplish lasting change and success.

 


“Successful people create a supportive network.” -Rhett Power

 

Why Personal Development is Critically Important

As a busy entrepreneur, with multiple conflicting to-do lists, how do you prioritize personal development? Why is this critically important?

In my first business, I learned that if I didn’t take the time for personal development, then my business would suffer. I buried myself into making that first business work. I worked 20 hours a day seven days a week. After two years, I was nearly bankrupt, and I was physically and emotionally wiped out. I wasn’t reading, eating well, exercising, or spending time with family and friends. When I stopped to reevaluate my life and made significant changes, I saw dramatic results.

I started taking more time out of the business. When I was well rested, I made better decisions. When I started exercising, I had more energy and was more productive. When I started to take time for personal and professional growth, meaning spending time reading, researching, and planning, my business took off.

 


“Constant self-improvement is as important as a physical workout.” -Rhett Power

 

Overcome Your Fears

Let’s start with overcoming fears. You faced some seriously challenging days and, in the end, you now say that facing a fear helps you gain strength. What practical tips can you share for someone who feels paralyzed with fear?   

I have always believed I would rather have my fate in my own hands than in someone else’s. That is why I kept going even when times were tough, and I was scared we were going to fail. It’s important to understand that significant fear cannot be overcome overnight. That’s why it’s significant. To effectively deal with this kind of fear, it’s helpful to break down the object of your fear into small, more manageable parts. One of the benefits of breaking down a task that you fear is it can provide you with some insight as to what, specifically, about the task causes you to have fear.

The other thing that always makes me less fearful is preparation. Everyone remembers the feeling of confidence you get from being ready for that school exam. You also know the feeling of not being prepared. I find being over-prepared makes that feeling of fear turn into confidence.

Each time you face a fear, no matter how small, and overcome it, you gain great strength. That strength turns to courage and that courage to confidence in the doing–no matter what “doing” you might be called upon to do.

 

Reward and Recognize Good Work

You share the importance of valuing employees. As an entrepreneur, you also know that resources are often a challenge. What creative ways have you seen to accomplish this goal on a limited budget?

Even on the tightest budget, you should recognize and reward great work. Here are some things I do in my businesses:

  • Ask staff to post recognition notes to each other on a bulletin board. Add testimonies from external customers.
  • Give people time off. Time is the most precious gift, and people will always remember that afternoon or day to do what they love.
  • Send a letter to the employee’s family, telling them why their loved one is so important to the company’s mission.
  • Do one of the employee’s least favorite tasks.
  • Give a coffee or carwash gift card, sports or movie tickets.
  • Allow people to work from home or present them with a “flexible day” certificate.
  • Give departments their own week: Accounting Week, Programmer Week, etc. Recognize the contributions made, take them to lunch, make certificates.
  • Create opportunities: to be a mentor, chair a committee, do research.
  • Celebrate birthdays, babies, weddings, graduations, and any happy time.
  • Establish a “Wall of Fame” for photos and clippings that recognize outstanding achievements. Mention staff in the company newsletter, too.
  • Say, “I’m glad you’re here,” and “Thank you.”
  • Bring people together for cake and socializing or a meal like a potluck lunch.

 

Boost Your Bliss