Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Answering “What I Need” is Critical to Career Success

A friend of mine is a brilliant derivatives player. He had a very successful career at a bank where they gave him total freedom to do what he wanted, hire who he wanted, and fully exercise all his ideas and plans. Then, after a change in management, he and his team were out. So he started interviewing with everybody. He was looking for a company that would give him the same freedom that had made him so successful at his previous job. Sure enough, he landed a seven-figure-a-year job. I called him the first day of his new job: “Congratulations, but you’ve made a big mistake. I bet you $1,000 you won’t be there at the end of year one.” He swore and hung up on me. I was sure I had made the right call. I knew the executives, I knew the organization he had just joined, and I knew he would never be given the bandwidth he needed to use all his skills. I knew because I had been in the exact same situation. 

When we met a few months later, he admitted that my comments were prophetic. “I’m trying to make these changes and they’re not letting me,” he said. “When I presented a plan for business growth, I didn’t even get a yes or no; it just went from committee meeting to committee meeting, and eventually just sat there.”

Soon after he arrived, one of the senior guys in the company asked if he had everything he needed. “What I need,” my friend responded, “is six thousand square feet. Let me hire about two hundred people and give me $1 billion in capital. Then leave me alone.” “Very funny,” the senior executive said. “That’s never going to happen.” But that is exactly what was needed for my friend to be able to maximize his skill set. Both parties had made a huge mistake: the company for hiring him and not understanding how to utilize him, and my friend for thinking that they understood what it meant to hire him. It was a wrong fit, and unfortunately, it happens all the time. 

According to a 2016 study from the Hay Group, the world’s top recruitment firm, half of Canadians are unhappy at work because they’re stuck in a wrong fit. Wrong fit is expensive for employers. On average, the cost of termination for any employee in any organization can range from three to five times their annual salary. But the non-monetary cost is even higher, both for employees and employers. Wrong fit sucks the energy out of the company, the employee, and everyone around that employee. Working together becomes a grind because of the constant waste of energy from trying to make something work when there’s no possibility of that happening. Individuals put forth the effort to try to change themselves, but it just doesn’t succeed—and the result is disengagement. 

People show up every day, attend their meetings, prepare their reports, complete their sales calls, but they are simply going through the motions. A recent Gallup study concluded that only 30 percent of North American employees feel engaged or inspired at their jobs and the vast majority of North American workers —70 percent—are not reaching their full potential.

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