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Let’s face it. Right now there are a lot of people (and you may be one of them) worried about their job. Every day you go to work and give your best ideas, muster up the wherewithal to labor over too many tasks and projects that seem to be designed to do nothing but keep you busy and all for what? A chance to get a shot at a good raise or a promotion to a bigger cubicle.
Hey you senior executive don’t turn away now. In my last job I was the Senior Vice President of HR and they stuck me in a cubicle! It was one of the biggest cubes but nevertheless it was a frickin cube! So pay attention.
Most people – about 90% – are destined to fail at having a great career. So why do I say you’re the architect of your own demise?
Here are just 5 reasons why based on my research and working with/talking with thousands of people pretty much just like you and me.
You’re poorly skilled. Most base their career decisions on the wonderful words of wisdom from parents/relatives, teachers, bosses and HR. All of whom are well intentioned but don’t know a thing about 21st century career management. Their sage advice: work hard, be on time and do your best. Where is the evidence that this advice has produced a great career? Today’s management philosophy is to promote, reward and recognize the top 10% and “critical” employees. Keep the roughly 75% who are good employees reasonably happy and the 15% who are slackers – get rid of them.
Death by success. Several years ago Harvard Business Review published an article describing how a history of success can actually blind you to finding the right solutions when you’re failing. As humans we like habits, and the more successful and gratifying the habit the harder it is to change. The problem is the more success you achieve the harder it is to change. Nearly every executive I work with at first is surrounded by people who are just like them and tell them what they want to hear. Not because they want the executive to fail but because most people think – you’ve been successful and you must know what you’re doing or you’re the boss and I’m supposed to follow your lead. Problem is we kill the messenger of bad news so no one wants to be the one to tell you that you’re now failing.
You’re smart. Smart people know what to do and if they don’t, they know how to figure it all out. Others come to smart people to figure it all out. You were hired because you’re smart. So it’s natural to think you can figure it out on your own. The problem is summed up in one saying “You can’t give yourself a good haircut.” Ever try? You may get the bangs right but trust me the back of your head looks like someone took a lawn mower to it. We’re all too polite to tell a smart person like you about the mess you made of your hair.
It’s not really important. Are you even trying to have a great career? If so what are you doing to achieve it? Take out your bank statements and calendar right now and see what how much of your time and money you spent managing your career?
Luck is your strategy. I talk to so many people who really believe that if they work hard and do really good work over time they’ll have a great career. Well let me share a few facts with you and then you decide.
Only 25% of businesses have a systematic way* of developing talent and providing input on your career. Which means neither your boss nor the HR department have a clue about what to tell you about your career, let alone how to help you develop a successful career strategy.
Only 37% of business leaders in low performing companies* even believe a systemic way of developing talent is critical to the business.
These two numbers are even lower if you work in non-profit or a small company.
So what does this mean for you? If you don’t have a strategy in place then you’re betting on luck.
To enjoy a great career you need to have a strategy, some courage and the desire to go after it. I can say from experience that the one with the clearest, most passionate intention wins. Getting knocked down is no reason to quit unless of course you didn’t believe you could succeed in the first place.
So where do these 5 points leave you? If you think you’re getting stabbed in the back around your career then maybe you should check the knife in your back. If the fingerprints on it are your own what are you going to do about it?