To what do you attribute your professional success? (check all that apply)
Is This Seat Taken?: It's Never Too Late To Find The Right Seat by Kristin S. Kaufman (Greenleaf, 2015)
What are the big take-aways?
My friend and classmate from Georgetown University’s Leadership Coaching Program, Kristin Kaufman, offers in her second book a collection of fifteen profiles of Americans whose greatest achievements came later in life. They include the painter Grandma Moses, McDonalds Restaurant co-founder Ray Kroc, Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder Bill Wilson, and long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad. The overarching message is “it is never too late” to find your purpose and follow a dream. Most of the men and women, alive and dead, who Kristin profiles in this book made their major “legacy” contributions after age 50, and some in their 70s and 80s.
In a variety of companies and industries, and in a range of roles involving direct reports, I have been responsible for decisions related to training and career pathing, Over the years, I have also learned the value of maintaining focus on my own professional development.
As you may have experienced, there is a palpable feeling of high stakes in many organizations – you work in an increasingly competitive industry, operating globally and therefore 24/7 (at least in terms of accessibility), and technology is rapidly changing the way you conduct business. Consequently, so much is needed to stay relevant, confident, and authentic amidst the stark realities of change management, process improvement and customer satisfaction against which you are measured.
When it comes to leadership, being a high-performer just isn’t good enough anymore. Just because you’re the company’s number one sales rep, doesn’t mean you’re going to be a successful sales manager. Being a brilliant engineer doesn’t equate to being a magnetic CEO. Being the most productive line worker doesn’t automatically make you a great shift leader. Effective leadership is learned. Effective leadership is intentional. Effective leaders build meaningful relationships with their staff - cultivating a culture of resonance. Many “star players” find themselves promoted into management or supervisory roles with little to no leadership development support. Being an effective, skillful leader takes compassion, competence and intentionality - traits we must all learn and develop. As leaders it’s easy to fall into the traps that consume our time, get in the way of our sensibilities and hijack our best intentions.
In a recent training class my organization conducted, one of our exercises was to pair up people from the same department in similar job functions and have each person share a challenging situation they were facing at work. The other person’s role was to listen, ask questions, and offer any additional insight. The participants were “senior” level, having been in this line of work for many years. In addition to coming up with some options and alternatives to their respective challenges (our main objective), many of the participants vocalized how they had gained a greater appreciation for seeking another’s perspective which added value to the problem solving process (our secondary objective).