Driving Next Level Success

What Got You Here—At this Point Won’t Get You There

Posted on 06/25/2018 in Executive Coaching, Featured Articles by Jack Speer

Are you stuck in your career or do you know someone who is? If being stuck isn’t true of you, it’s likely true of someone you know—a colleague, direct report, a friend. It can be a desperate time in your life.

When a Rising Star is Suddenly Stuck in Their Career—and What to Do?

Suddenly the overachieving rising star becomes like a beached whale, twisting in the sand, unable to move. It’s a sad thing to see a beached whale, even sadder to be one. We are not alone. It happens to CEO’s, executives in the c-suite, and to individual contributors.

All the skills that worked for the rising star in the early years work against them now. Early on the rising star was seen as “hard charger,” but now they’ve hit the brick wall and there doesn’t seem to be any way through it, around it, or over it. Always in the past the rising star has had a reputation for getting stuff done. At one point they seemed indispensable to the organization, but now they feel close to being on the edge—just barely hanging on.

Suddenly the overachieving rising star becomes like a beached whale, twisting in the sand, unable to move. It’s a sad thing to see a beached whale, even sadder to be one. We are not alone. It happens to CEO’s, executives in the c-suite, and to individual contributors.

All the skills that worked for the rising star in the early years work against them now. Early on the rising star was seen as “hard charger,” but now they’ve hit the brick wall and there doesn’t seem to be any way through it, around it, or over it. Always in the past the rising star has had a reputation for getting stuff done. At one point they seemed indispensable to the organization, but now they feel close to being on the edge—just barely hanging on.

Often when we’ve experienced these cases in executive coaching or in 360-degree assessments, these early rising stars got to where they are by following a highly successful formula:

  1. They had a high degree of intelligence—just plain smart.
  2. They focused on practicing their skills and working hard
  3. They were highly competitive—they were determined to win.

So why don’t these same skills work now?

The problem is the early skill of a rising star was to out-compete everyone. Suddenly, seemingly without warning, COMPETITION is OUT as a basic skill, and COLLABORATION is in. Although being smart, working hard, and competing effectively works all over the world, competition alone in a maturing career often leads to getting stuck.

Here’s why.

The team around us may not be as smart as we are, as skilled or as strategic. But we’re at the point that if those people don’t help us achieve our agenda, we’re sure to fail—without gaining their COLLABORATION. They won’t be impressed that I’m a rising star. I will have to convince, motivate, and inspire.

Here are some suggestions that can get you on the road to getting your career moving forward.

1. Begin with a counterintuitive approach—put relationship ahead of your own immediate outcomes. This is very unnatural to rising stars who place everything on immediate results and blowing past everyone else. We have always been taught that the only thing that matters is results, but we can’t get them without the cooperation of the team.

Think of it this way. If you built an amazing sports car that can accelerate to 100 miles an hour in 10 seconds, but couldn’t find gasoline, the potential of this amazing machine makes no difference at all—it won’t run. People are the gasoline, the fuel, for running your sports car. The team around you makes the car run—you depend on them.

2. Get to really know each of team member individually. Developing the skill of asking great questions has been the key to my career. In my early career, I focused on what I could do, and my personal life was just that—personal.

When I found myself isolated and without allies, a mentor taught me that questions are the key. I began to ask about my colleagues early life, accomplishments, family, hobbies and values. It seemed intrusive to me at first, and very unnatural. Today bonding with other people is something I enjoy greatly—and it connects me to people that make things happen.

3. Fit your goals into the goals of each individual team member. My personal goal has always been the next promotion and a bigger raise. I assumed everyone around me had the same goals, but I found to my amazement that this is far from the truth.

My early view of success—getting over or around all others–is so not the agenda of many I have worked with. Some people have a passion for something they do well and are truly not motivated by money or career.

To many it’s family and friends—not their jobs. To others it’s retirement, getting to an income that allows them to quit working. Others draw sharp lines between what they will do and not do, and you won’t change them.

I will always be looking for the next step up the ladder—it’s my nature and pattern. In the case of others who do not share my passion, I must learn to like them, value them, listen to them, and work to help them achieve their goals. When I do find where my goals align with them, we can accomplish a great deal together and move forward, achieving everyone’s goals.

When a person who has been successful is suddenly stuck, every fiber of their being says “keep doing what you’ve always done, but harder and faster.” That unfortunately is a recipe for faster disaster. That is the time to do the opposite: to stand back, take a deep breath and do something profoundly different.

Do you have someone on your team with great potential, but hasn’t been able to move forward? You might benefit from advice from a professional with experience in career challenges. We’ve here for you with a professional situational analysis—at no charge. Email: jspeer@delta-associates.com



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