Most of us have had ups and downs in our careers. If you haven’t, then you have been sleeping too long.
What do we do when we realize we are at a high? We enjoy the ride. And when we are at a low? We sulk and find whom to blame! How long can we sulk and blame? It depends on how negative we are or who else is around us.
We pick ourselves up better when we are alone. Ever seen infants trying to crawl or learn to walk. They fall often. But they cry only when someone is looking. If no one is looking they get up and move on.
Why don’t we get up and move on when we grow up? I am no psychologist but can hazard a guess (most psychologists are also guessing anyways). As we grow we learn how to behave in social setups. Our parents, teachers, friends, colleagues, and bosses teach us what they have learnt. The right behavior in every situation. Life is a template. As kids we didn’t have this template but we did know that if someone is around for sympathy, let’s get some of it.
As we grow in our career we sometimes fail. Miserably at times. We start having doubts about our ability. Some around us confirm our doubts with their sympathy for us. It’s a spiral all the way down with no way up. We get worse at what we are doing and can’t pull ourselves out. We even stop doing what is the bare minimum performance for the job we are paid to do. This is usually when we get sacked or sidelined or replaced.
Success Filters are lessons distilled from our past when we were successful.
What do these Success Filters look like? Some examples include:
- Very engaging team management style
- Meticulous program/project reporting
- Ideating in a difficult situation
- Conducting training
- Planning a global program in detail.
You get the point? These are all things we did well to get where we are. I know to get ahead we need to learn new things. But sometimes we are more worried about staying where we are. When the ground is slippery you hold your ground, not run.
Success Filters help you to realize that you were damn good once. It’s not a general motivational boost which only works on the surface. Success Filters give you a specific skill you have. Or had. Knowing you did this to be successful once is much more than a confidence boost. It helps you to repeat. It is like an action replay of your best moments.
Sportsmen use Success Filters all the time. Many who go out of form turn to their coaches from the past to ask how they played in the past. This does not improve their game always. It just resets it to where it was. The same happens in our careers. To avoid slipping further we should go back to what made us successful. Find your ground again and then worry about progress.
A few years back Kannan (name changed) met me as a recent promote. He wanted to go back to his earlier role. He was giving up on the promotion he so dearly wanted and worked for. The new role was stressful and he was not able to repeat the success he had with earlier roles. I worked with Kannan to understand what was different in the two roles and was there anything in his earlier roles which he could lean on and hold his ground in the new one. We scoured his past successes and emerged with program planning and reporting as a major Success Filter. Kannan worked on this strength and held his ground for few weeks. During this time he found confidence and the team responded.
How do you find your Success Filters? It takes time and effort. You have to dig deep and talk to people who were around you when you did well. It of course helps to think about your success when you are in the middle of it. Why are you doing well? I know that’s difficult and not many do it. If you don’t do it in the middle of your good period then you have to do it later by memory. Your choice.
I would suggest you make a long list of what made you click. Use your memory of performance reviews, 360 degrees feedback, and any survey comments you can lay hands on. Be objective. You are not god’s gift to mankind.
Once you know what your Success Filters are, hone them. Invest in them. They are your Ace cards and you can use them when life is unfair to you.
Anshuman Tiwari is a ASQ Fellow with experience in applying process excellence over 20+ years with world class results, a leader with experienced in large GICs, and someone with excellent ratings in managing large OpEx teams across multiple countries.He has hands on and program level experience with kaizen, lean, six sigma, mbnqa, design thinking, innovation and other quality methods. In the last few years he has managed large RPA and Digital initiatives.