Being in a leadership role and being part of something bigger than oneself brings great satisfaction-but how do you get there? How do you make your way into the positions that will allow you to lead change, manage a business, head up a project, and get into a position where you can bring your skills and talent to help a company succeed and at the same time bring personal satisfaction to yourself?
In Understanding the Secrets to Career Advancement, author and human resource expert David DiMartile gives young professionals insight into what senior leaders are looking for when considering people for promotional opportunities. Filled with a host of self-help tips, DiMartile shows you how to:
- know the difference between a job and a career and use that to your advantage;
- define success in a career;
- • understand the role of the individual contributor,
- the manager, and the executive and their success competencies;
- be on your best behavior to keep your job and move up the ladder;
- • manage your career.
Providing a how-to guide, Understanding the Secrets to Career Advancement helps you identify your best career path and then manage that career to ensure success.
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Read an Excerpt
Understanding the Secrets to Career AdvancementThrough the Eyes of an HR Director
By David DiMartile
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 David DiMartile
All right reserved.
Chapter OneDo You Have a Job or a Career?
In any successful business, managers and employees share one common trait: they see themselves as having a "career" instead of a "job." What's the difference? In a career, the leaders, managers, and employees all understand what it takes to satisfy their customers. Each individual within the organization knows what his or her particular role is for achieving that goal of customer satisfaction. Employees at all levels understand and accept that employment stability comes from the success of the business, and if the business fails, so do they. People who have a "career" rather than a "job" understand what it takes to meet the goals of the business as a whole.
People who see themselves in a job believe that they have a defined set of tasks or duties, and when their work is done, they can sit back and relax or go home. People with "jobs" believe that when the end of their workday comes, it is time to go home regardless of whether their tasks have been completed for the day or how it affects the customer or the business. People with "jobs" believe it is the manager's role to give them more work if they are idle; they won't seek out opportunities for filling their unused time with activities that will improve the business as a whole. People with "jobs" believe they are entitled to their paycheck and their job simply because they complete their daily tasks or duties, regardless of what happens to the business.
People who see themselves in a career understand that they were hired to bring a skill set to help the success of the business. People in "careers" understand that being effective requires an understanding of the business—its goals and the needs of its customers. People with a "career" need to understand the challenges that the business is facing and what they can do personally to overcome those challenges. People who see themselves as having a career understand and accept that their individual success is directly tied to the success of the business as a whole, and they take personal responsibility for helping the business become as successful as possible. I worked with several individuals who excelled in being role models for what a career stands for. These people were in key roles with responsibility for separate aspects of the business. These individuals knew and demonstrated to their staffs that it was not okay for their part of the business to be successful if it meant that other parts would not be. They understood that the whole organization had to be successful in order for their part of the business to be considered successful. To them this meant that it was important to understand the decisions that were being made in their part of the business, including how those decisions would affect others and, most importantly, how they would affect the total business performance and the customer. It was also important that everyone knew where help was needed and that everyone used his or her resources to assist in those areas. Basically, these leaders taught others to treat the business as if they were owners.
Now, it's important to note that not all business leaders themselves understand the difference between careers and jobs. In order for employees to behave as someone in a "career" as I just described, the business needs to have a certain kind of work environment. The success of this work environment is totally dependent upon the culture of the business. Some business leaders only allow their employees to have "jobs," in which case, that business will have the culture of workers who pack up at the end of their scheduled shift and employees who only do the bare minimum of what is expected of them. The leadership of the business owns the culture, and the leadership gets the culture it deserves.
The "Job" Business Culture
How do you know if you're working in a business culture that is only allowing employees to have " jobs" rather than careers? Here are some typical signs I have observed over my career that demonstrate this style of business culture:
Many business leaders believe that employees are responsible for how they behave, involve themselves, share ideas, and look for opportunities to improve the business, "regardless of the way leadership behaves." In essence, they try to pass on the responsibility for the culture of the organization to the employees. I knew one leader who tried to make employees' attitudes and behaviours a part of their performance review and would not discuss with his employees why they felt and acted the way they did.
Many leaders and managers blame employees for what they see as a negative culture, and they even ask employees what employees can do to improve the culture of the organization (clearly an indication that those leaders don't believe they have any responsibility or impact on the culture). In one area where I worked, it was obvious that employees were frustrated with their leadership, as no one communicated with them, no one shared information with them, and no one asked them for their ideas or input on any part of the business. Employees believed that the leaders were going to make all the decisions, including how work would be performed, and the role of employees was simply to follow the leader. Obviously employees felt disempowered, but what frustrated employees the most was when leaders would blame employees when things didn't go right!
Many leaders are very good at providing employees with negative feedback or calling out mistakes in public, thinking that if they embarrass the employees, then they won't "screw up" the next time. These leaders don't provide positive feedback because they think they don't have to—after all, employees are paid to do a good job, right?
Other leaders simply do not understand the basics of positive reinforcement. They may tell employees that they "did a good job," but they don't elaborate and explain what the employees specifically did that was done well or what behaviours they would like to see again tomorrow. Sometimes leaders give feedback related to the outcome of the assignment rather than what each employee did to achieve the result. Without clarity, the leader risks reinforcing the wrong behaviour. I once witnessed a leader call his group together to provide what he thought was positive reinforcement. The leader called out a number of individuals and began to thank them for their success on a recent project they had completed. What the leader didn't know was that one of the individuals who was called out had actually been opposed to the teams' efforts and had worked behind the scenes to prevent the changes from being implemented. As you can imagine, this had the reverse effect on the other employees because they knew what this individual had done—and here the leader was including him in this recognition event!
Many leaders spend their time managing the technical aspects of their business and assume that the people side will take care of itself. They believe the only important thing is accomplishing the task or building the product, but they fail to understand how an employee's attitude based on the organization's culture can impact how the task gets done. I worked with a leader who was excellent at measuring and monitoring the performance of the business. The leader worked hard to ensure that all the right technical information was collected and reviewed and that technical changes were implemented when they were supported by data. This same leader was convinced that if he managed the technical aspects of the workplace, then performance would take care of itself. In reality, the technical part of the production system was fine, but employees were dissatisfied with how they were treated by their supervision and, accordingly, did the bare minimum they needed to stay out of trouble. In fact, regardless of the technical changes and the additional investments made, leadership was unable to increase the output from this production system. The leader's reaction was that the employees had bad attitudes, because all aspects of the production system were in place and output had not increased; therefore, he felt discipline should be used as the means to change employees' attitudes. When discipline was in fact used, employees rebelled and output from this system went down. Clearly, the culture that existed in that case was not going to be fixed by further changes to the technical systems.
Many leaders have a different expectation for themselves and hold employees to a different standard, believing that, as leaders, they should have more "liberties" because of their role or position. These same leaders often see the resources of the business as theirs to do with as they please.
Some leaders (who are workaholics and get rewarded with bonuses and stock options) have an expectation that their employees (who do not get the same economic treatment) should work the same hours, be available at night and on weekends, forgo vacations, and be responsive and involved in ongoing business during their holidays. They believe that if they have to be available at all times, then they should have access to their employees as well. I worked with a group of leaders who actually bragged about the amount of time they spent working or doing e-mails or conference calls while they were on vacation. When their employees heard what the leaders did, they perceived that what was valued by the leader was working when you were not physically at work. In actuality this had two negative effects: first, employees would start bragging about the work they did when they were off (even if they didn't actually do any work), and second, those individuals who had strong values and tried to maintain an appropriate level of work-family balance either gave up on their careers or began looking at other companies that actually valued work-family balance. As you can probably guess, the individuals with the greatest talent and potential were the ones who were most successful in finding alternate employment when in fact these were the individuals the company could least afford to lose.
Some leaders are poor listeners (a very common trait) and cut off employees in the middle of their delivery or shoot down their ideas or suggestions without hearing all that the employees have to say. These leaders believe that because they are in a leadership position they must be smarter than their employees; after all, if they weren't smarter, would the organization have put them into that position in the first place?
Many managers believe that they only need to share information with employees that is relevant to their job (these people also believe that information is power and it helps them keep employees in line by giving themselves an advantage over their employees).
Some leaders give employees assignments without telling them what the parameters are or what the expected outcome is. When the assignment doesn't meet their expectation, they then blame the employees for their "incompetence," rather than blaming their own lack of specificity. I was coaching a leader several years ago, and we had several discussions on the effect of empowerment on changing the culture of an organization. One day this leader decided that instead of having his leadership team decide how they were going to structure the shift schedule for the production system, they would gather a group of employees and give them the task of deciding. Several individuals were selected from across the organization, and they were told that they should meet to discuss and decide what the shift schedule should be for the production system. Unfortunately, they were not provided any other parameters. The team came back to leadership and told them that they had done a survey and each department had selected the shift hours and arrangements that they wanted to work and that they wanted to implement the new schedules the following Monday. When confronted with the outcome from the assignment, the leader immediately said no because there had to be only one shift schedule for everyone, because the payroll system was not capable of handling several different schedules, and because the decision submitted would have a negative impact on the customer. Obviously the team was shocked by the reaction! Why? Because the leader had not shared the parameters with them in advance and the leader had told them that they were empowered to decide, not to bring back a recommendation. Unfortunately, this situation had a very negative effect on this leader's future ability to empower other teams going forward.
Some leaders believe that employees should have to go through the same work experiences that they went through in order to be effective in their role or to have valid ideas or input. These leaders believe that the knowledge only comes from specific experiences, and they fail to look at other ways employees learn. I worked with a leader who happened to have a limited formal education and was now in charge of a group of people who were responsible for making engineering changes in support of the production system. A new employee was added to this leader's group, and this individual was a recent Harvard grad. Shortly into their work experience together, the leader involved the Harvard grad in an assignment to reengineer a work station that was creating a bottleneck on the assembly line. Without the leader's knowledge, the Harvard grad went out and talked to the employees who worked at this station to get their input regarding what changes could be implemented to best achieve the desired outcome. The changes proposed were simple, inexpensive, and could be implemented almost immediately. When the Harvard grad returned to the offices to report on the status of his project, the leader told him that the idea was ridiculous and that he needed to find a technical solution to the problem. The leader told the Harvard grad that he hadn't been around long enough and didn't have enough experience to know that his simplified solution would not work but that the leader did and, based on his experience, another, more appropriate, solution was needed. (The Harvard grad went back to the group of employees on the work station, and they quickly made the changes they had discussed and demonstrated that the simple solution did in fact work.)
Some leaders believe that employees who do not contribute their ideas or take on more work are simply lazy and will not be effective if promoted. A leader in this category generally does not talk to his employees or try to understand employee perceptions of the work environment and what is within the leader's control. I knew a leader who was very negatively perceived by his employees, and all the data, such as employee surveys and transfer requests, showed that the leader did not value his employees. I learned that this leader did not have any regular communications with his employees, nor did he ever have any casual conversations with them individually about the workplace. Subsequently I was at a Human Resources Management (HRM) Committee meeting (where decisions about employee careers and promotions and such are discussed) and I was surprised to see this same leader become adamant about his perception of a number of his employees. What surprised me the most about this situation was that his perceptions were totally based on his view of how those employees shared their ideas and communicated with him! I knew several of the employees and had received feedback on them when they had worked for other leaders, and clearly his perceptions were different. This leader had created a culture in his part of the business that left employees out and on their own, and now he was using his perceptions to try to influence the careers of those individuals who were impacted by what he created.
Many leaders believe that employees have to excel in every assignment in order for them to be considered as "having potential" for advancement, even though the skill sets for the positions may be different. When I worked at one of our assembly operations, we had implemented a career-development process to help give some developmental experiences to individuals we believed had talent and were promotable. One typical experience we planned was to have engineers spend some time supervising in production. The purpose behind this was to give the engineers some firsthand experience in dealing with how production employees have to live with what engineers design and to give them a new set of insights that they could bring back into their engineering assignments. In this process some leaders developed a mind-set that an engineer who was not successful in managing the production assignment and dealing with production employees should no longer be considered as "having potential" for future promotions. It took a tremendous amount of education to convince these leaders that just because these individuals were not successful in production that did not mean they couldn't be successful in an engineering role, especially if they were a subject-matter expert and were not required to supervise others. (Continues...)
Excerpted from Understanding the Secrets to Career Advancement by David DiMartile Copyright © 2012 by David DiMartile. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Do You Have a Job or a Career?....................3
Defining Success in Your Career....................18
Individual Contributor Role....................37
Sixteen Ways to End Your Career....................89
Being on Your Best Behaviour....................96
Managing Your Career....................112