Catalyst: The blind breathless climb

Ever looked at your career, or that of a talented member of your team, and wondered how you got to where you are? Had that feeling – like the one you get when you drive a well-known route – that you got there on auto-pilot, without really being wholly intentional and awake?

It's a common issue in the businesses we work with:  that their people move up the career-progression ladder, being promoted for their talent and technical skill set, following the career norm, only to 'wobble' on the higher rungs.

Now, we're all about stretch at Hello Potential, and we love supporting clients to meet and beat their moonshot goals. We know at first hand that taking on new challenges and feeling wobbly go hand in hand - and those challenges are vital if you're to feel inspired and satisfied at work. We have tailored support on standby, in fact, for those vital first few challenging months on any new assignment.

Image © McKay Savage

Image © McKay Savage

BUT there’s a big difference between aiming for the moon with a clear goal in sight, and slogging upwards through promotion after promotion without lifting your head to look around you. The difference is 'intention'.

In today’s catalyst, our 'transformer optimiser' consultant, Andrea Senior has pulled a tried-and-trusted book from her shelves, and is challenging you to turn away from career-progression convention.

Dangerous assumptions

In this excerpt from "First Break all the Rules – What the World’s Greatest Managers do Differently” by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, the authors ask us to consider how we've traditionally viewed progression within an organisation, and the danger of assuming that the only successful way out of a role within a company is up. 

Conventional wisdom, they argue, tells employees to keep going upwards on an organisational chart; gaining promotion after promotion: with consequences that can be unintended.

Here’s their vivid depiction of the employee working within this paradigm:

“To earn respect, he knows he must climb. And as he takes each step, he sees that the company is burning the rungs behind him. He cannot retrace his steps, not without being tarred with the failure brush. So he continues his blind, breathless climb to the top, and, sooner or later, he overreaches. Sooner or later, he steps into the wrong role. And there he is trapped. Unwilling to go back, unable to climb up, he clings onto his rung until, finally, the company pushes him off.” – Buckingham & Coffman

You can read the full article here.

Over to you

Andrea has the following questions for you to consider, after reading. (And if you're already familiar with the book, then use these questions to revisit the concept, and think how you might be able to apply it to your own situation in the here and now):

"We need to ensure that people play to their talents. How do we do this in reality? Can and should we find a good fit for all talent?"  – Andrea Senior

Want to play with this concept some more? Come over and ask us your questions on Twitter, and let us know if this has helped you consider career progression in a fresh way.

Are you equipped for your journey?

When you're intentional about the roles you choose, it's more important than ever that you maximise the impact you make in them, right from the start. Our First 100 Days coaching package will pair you up with an experienced coach, to make sure that you set off on the right foot, however daunting the next peak may seem. Click here to find out more.