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Maximum Success is a compelling exploration of the behavior patterns that cause people to undermine their careers-as well as specific advice on how to overcome them. Have you ever wondered why some people seem to rise effortlessly to the top, while others are stuck in the same job year after year? Have you ever felt you are falling short of your career potential? Have you wondered if some of the things you do-or don't do-at work might be ...
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Maximum Success is a compelling exploration of the behavior patterns that cause people to undermine their careers-as well as specific advice on how to overcome them. Have you ever wondered why some people seem to rise effortlessly to the top, while others are stuck in the same job year after year? Have you ever felt you are falling short of your career potential? Have you wondered if some of the things you do-or don't do-at work might be hamstringing your ambitions?
In Maximum Success, James Waldroop and Timothy Butler, directors of MBA career development at the Harvard Business School, identify the twelve habits that over and over again-whether you are a retail clerk or a partner in a law firm, whether you work in technology or in a factory-are almost guaranteed to hold you back.
While an examination of the habits of highly effective people has made Stephen Covey's book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People a self-help classic, the fact is that most people learn their greatest lessons not from their successes, but from their mistakes. Maximum Success offers the flip side to Covey's approach, zeroing in on the most common behavior patterns that can impede a career. The authors claim, based on over twenty years of research as business psychologists, that the reasons people fail in their jobs are the same everywhere. Yet, once these detrimental behaviors are identified, the patterns that limit career advancement can be broken.
Using real-life accounts of clients they have worked with at Harvard and as executive coaches at such companies as GTE, Sony, GE, and McKinsey & Co., Waldroop and Butler describe the habits that havederailed even the most successful people. More important, they offer invaluable-and, in some cases, job-saving-advice on how readers can modify their behavior to get back on track.
Among the Career-stoppers that can stymie Maximum Success:
Focusing on the downside of any situation and obsessing over all the things that can go wrong
Cherishing the naïve belief that merit alone is enough and that office politics, networking, and self-promotion don't matter
Feeling that you aren't "good enough" to deserve a promotion-and unconsciously sabotaging yourself once you get it
For anyone seeking to achieve their career ambitions, Maximum Success is a powerful tool for unleashing your true potential.
Never Feeling Good Enough
IN A WORLD OVERPOPULATED WITH OUTSIZE EGOS, PAUL seemed to be an anomaly. He had an ego that was too small for his considerable abilities and his position. A big international bank in New York had hired him away from a smaller bank in Texas for a high-profile job taking charge of a group of loan officers who, after some heady early successes, had involved the bank in several dangerous arrangements in Latin America. When the Mexican peso collapsed, the bank had taken a financial bath, suffering tens of millions of dollars in losses. Paul's assignment was to rein in the lending group, to ensure that the necessary "due diligence" had been done on major loans before any further commitments were made.
Paul, who was in his early forties at the time, clearly had both the intellect and the experience to handle the job. Although he had never been a manager, he had considerable know-how as a banker, and Latin America was his specialty. Moreover, Paul had succeeded at everything he had ever done. He had been a top student in both college and graduate business school, and he was promoted quickly through the bank he joined in Dallas after getting his MBA at the University of Texas.
But in his new position Paul was suddenly a misfit--or so it appeared, and so he felt. He was self-conscious and awkward, unable to speak with authority, and unable to command the respect that he needed to excel. He felt like a little fish tossed into a very big pond, a small-town kid from fly-over country way out of place among East Coast elites. Sure, he had been at the top of his class in school, but in schools without prestigious names. Now he had to take charge ofa herd of headstrong and arrogant deal makers with degrees from Harvard, Columbia, and Wharton.
The coterie of loan officers who had been operating on their own before Paul arrived understandably were not delighted to welcome an outsider charged with keeping them under control. Still, if Paul had presented himself as a confident manager, he might have been able to defuse their resentment quickly enough and establish himself as their skillful leader.
But he never demonstrated that confidence and as a result never took command in the fullest sense. He had a look of intensity and concern that sometimes seemed to approach panic. He worked long hours, much too long--and work that he should have been delegating, he took upon himself. His superior, who had hired him, was afraid that Paul was going to burn out. In the eyes of the lenders Paul supervised, he was respected as a hard worker and a technical specialist, but not really admired and certainly not looked up to as a commander.
Troops want a leader who exudes self-assurance. In a battle at sea, sailors want to look up at the bridge and see "the old man" calmly overseeing the battle--not struggling nervously into his life jacket! But everything about Paul said worry. He had no stature in the lending group; people avoided him.
But at his new job, instead of strolling through offices in comfortable command Paul scurried down the halls with an intense, inner--directed gaze on his face that signaled to everyone that he was in trouble. His body language broadcast concern, discomfort, and isolation. When he stopped to talk to people he was all business, almost curt. There was never any small talk.
Paul was telling people, without knowing or intending to, that he couldn't get away from them fast enough. It was as though if he lingered too long, people would see through him and would recognize that he didn't belong, would know that he was in over his head--and the fact was, he did feel in over his head. Instead of looking upward and contemplating whether he might be CEO someday, or at least head of all of International, he was frightened that he had already risen too high. He wondered whether he didn't really belong a peg or two below where he was.
Those in the department followed his instructions when necessary, but they didn't seek out his advice. Nobody invited him to lunch. Meetings were held without Paul being aware of them. One of his colleagues said of Paul, "He's a hard worker . . . and it shows." Another said, "He's very smart, and everybody respects him--but no one wants to be him." When Paul stepped outside himself and took a close look, he didn't want to be himself, either! That was the point at which he came to us.
PART II: The Psychological Issues Behind the 12 Behavior Patterns
13. Taking Others' Perspectives
14. Coming to Terms with Authority
15. Using Power
16. Looking in the Mirror: Examining Your Self-Image
Epilogue: Taking Care of Your Career
Takeaways: A Checklist for Change
Appendix: Using Jung's Personality Theory to Analyze Working Mode
Posted October 13, 2000
Think of this book as a psychologically-based opposite to Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The authors are both business psychologists, executive coaches for those with career problems, and directors of MBA career development at Harvard Business School. The book is well illustrated with examples of their concepts, drawn from actual cases they have worked on. I suspect you will recognize people you have met, as well as yourself, in these cases. As the authors are well aware, a major flaw can sink someone who is otherwise a top performer. Improving an area where the person is strong will do less good than getting the substandard area up to normal or better. Based on their years of experience they note, 'The ways people fail in their careers, however, are quite limited. People fail in the same ways, for the same reasons, over and over again, from one industry to another, from the lowest level to the highest . . . Moreover . . . many . . . people are amazingly unaware of the patterns of behavior they exhibit that are resulting in failure.' Talk about unconscious incompetence! Part I of the book identifies 12 behaviors that can hold you back. 1. Never Feeling Good Enough (acrophobia or fear of career progress) 2. Seeing the World in Black and White (meritocrat or not seeing the relevance of loyalty, self-interest, or personality) 3. Doing Too Much, Pushing Too Hard (a hero, with an Achilles heel from overdoing it) 4. Avoiding Conflict at Any Cost (peacekeeper, who avoids even healthy conflict such as that required to overcome misconceptions) 5. Running Roughshod over the Opposition (bulldozer, a male role similar to an offensive lineman in football) 6. Rebel Looking for a Cause (rebels, who want attention more than results) 7. Always Swinging for the Fences (a home run style swinger who strikes out most of the time) 8. When Fear Is in the Driver's Seat (a pessimistic worrier, a naysayer out of fear) 9. Emotionally Tone Deaf (Mr. Spock from Star Trek, low emotional intelligence) 10. When No Job Is Good Enough (Coulda-been, who moves on because they feel inadequate, but don't want to face up to that) 11. Lacking a Sense of Boundaries (People who talk out of school) 12. Losing the Path (Alienated people who have lost their career vision of what they want from a career) Each chapter in Part I contains a description of the dynamics of each pattern, how that role plays out in an organization, what the origins of the pattern are, and how to break the pattern. In the last case, the advice is sometimes different if the pattern is your own versus when you are trying to help someone else (such as a subordinate or peer) to do so. These are at least two examples in each section, evenly balanced between women and men. In Part II, the authors look at the four psychological causes of these 12 behavioral problems: 1. Having a negatively-distorted self-image. 2. Not seeing the perspectives of others. 3. Not coming to terms with authority. 4. Not being comfortable with using power. The authors describe in the chapters of Part I which of these base causes are involved with which patterns, and chapter 16 gives you help with examining your self-image. There is also a good section in Takeaways for ways to make the needed changes. The chapters also contain useful material to understand your own perceptual style from a Jungian perspective. I found all of this material clear, and usefully directive. But something more important was missing. I did not feel any strong desire to change, even where I could identify weaknesses. If you are like me, you will need to talk this through with your spouse, a close friend, or a colleague to help create the motivation to change. If you can afford and find an executive coach, that would be a good route also. If you cannot, you will have to rely on self-help. In this regard, you might find it useful to read or reread a bookWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.