In my previous article Career Growth Strategy (1), I stated that if you want to move ahead in your career, the first step to take is to “Get comfortable in your own skin by celebrating who you are.” The original four steps I introduced to build a long term career were as follows:
- Get comfortable in your own skin by celebrating who you are.
- Figure out what will get the company ahead.
- Learn to articulate “your” story by highlighting how your differences are a tremendous asset.
- Articulate how your unique talent, viewpoint, and approach would be a significant advancement for the enterprise.
Today, we look at the next step which is a complete 180 degree turn from celebrating the individual. In this article, I will expand on the second step: (2). Figure out what will get the company ahead. In essence, this is really about shifting from celebrating you to celebrating the company—it’s about making the company’s goals your goals. When you can have this kind of attitude, your career will flourish for the long term.
Imagine with me that you are starting a brand new enterprise. You are about to embark on your entrepreneurial dream. In order to start this new exciting venture, you give it “everything you’ve got” to make it happen. You invest your entire life savings, max out credit cards, take out loans from the bank, you scrounge up money from family and friends—you do everything you possibly can to get it all started. You and your loved ones make enormous sacrifices to make it all happen. It’s a big risk. Will it pay off?
Fast forward ten years… Yeah! You are wildly successful. Far more than you could have ever imagined. The enterprise has grown exponentially, to a significant size and scope in terms of revenue and staff. You are so thrilled by how well the company has done. What did it take to get here? What were the defining characteristics of the people who made it all happen? Who did you hire? Who did you fire? Who is still with you today by your side?
If we studied the origins of any successful enterprise, we would find diverse stories about the paths which were taken. We would find that there were people of different temperaments, talents, backgrounds, ideas, and approaches. Success can be found in every industry. The differences are endless. But, underneath it all, the common thread we would find is that all successful enterprises started out with people who made sacrifices—people who put the company ahead of themselves; and people who always tried to figure out how to grow the company rather than their own careers. It takes a lot of unselfishness to grow a company.
Given which of the four temperaments you are, you will have certain, inherently natural talents. The core strength of an Artisan is Tactical Intelligence, for the Guardian it’s Logistical Intelligence, for the Idealist it’s Diplomatic Intelligence, and for the Rational it’s Strategic Intelligence. And if talent were the only relevant issue, then perhaps the company we work for would be a better place. Unfortunately, each of the four temperaments has inherently negative characteristics as well. Irrespective of which of the four temperaments you are, each of us can be selfish, and this can manifest in certain entitlements or expectations we have of the company.
- Artisans seek stimulation, and value freedom, and spontaneity. This can often turn into an expectation for the company to always be an exciting place of adventure—where they are not restricted or hindered by rules and regulations in pursuing their goals.
- Guardians seek stability, and value safety, and predictability, and this can often turn into an expectation for the company to always be a place of refuge—where a job is guaranteed, and time served entitles one to timely promotions and increases in salary.
- Idealists seek personal growth, and value relationships, and authentic expression, and this can often turn into an expectation for the company to always be a place of nurture—where people are valued for who they are rather than what they can do.
- Rationals seek ingenuity, and value competence, and autonomy, and this can often turn into an expectation for the company to always be a place of results—where authority, processes, or standards mean nothing if they don’t lead to strategic outcomes.
The secret to seeing your career grow for the long term is to realize that “It’s not about you!” Instead of focusing on what your expectations are from the company, start with how you can best serve the company. When you make it all about the slice of pie you get to take home, and about your own advancement, you are shooting yourself in the foot. Selfishness only begets selfishness. And in this kind of culture, where everyone is concerned first and foremost about themselves, everyone focuses on the piece they will get rather than on how they can give to make the pie bigger—(or how they can make more pies).
If you can figure out what will get the company ahead, and make the sacrifices to follow through, you will go along for the ride. If you are only trying to figure out what will get you ahead, this kind of attitude gets old very fast, and sooner or later, even the piece of pie you have gets taken away (you get fired!) If you focus on growing the pie, your share of that pie gets larger. If you focus only on your slice, this becomes contagious. Everyone only looks only to their own interests, and the company implodes. No one wins, everyone loses—including you.
To get ahead, figure out how to get the company ahead. At the end of the day, the question you should be asking yourself is, “If I owned a successful company, and I had made all kinds of sacrifices to grow it, would I want to hire/promote someone like me? Or would I want to fire/demote someone like me? Would I delight in someone like me? Or would I loathe someone like me?” Focusing on your own advancement may work—every now and then, but it is a very short term orientation. Think about the bigger picture. Over the long haul, a person who focuses on advancing the company gets celebrated—their efforts pay off in the long run.