Please Help Me Connect with My CEO
Conform! If you don’t fit in you’re a dangerous lose cannon. Fit in before standing out.
Conformity opens the door for your creativity.
John Spence told me he’s seen hotshots arrive on the scene with MBAs from top universities. John said, “That piece of paper doesn’t mean sh**.”
Speaking too soon destroys opportunity.
Unbridled enthusiasm for your talent, education, and ideas is a problem I see all the time.
Humble yourself and engage in projects you feel are “below” you. I never trust new people who don’t appreciate the value of current opportunities. They’ll bail out when they don’t get their way.
Earn your place by fitting in.
Grab an oar:
From a leadership point of view, I won’t commit to you until I believe you’re committed to my organization, period. Prove your commitment by grabbing an oar and rowing in synch.
Have you ever asked a hotshot to do something they felt was below them? Did they seem reluctant because it’s wasn’t a big enough opportunity? Somehow it’s ok for you to do it but it’s below them. How stupid is that?
You can’t earn opportunities by rejecting opportunities.
Perhaps the terms alignment and channeling feel better than conformity to hotshots and firecrackers. Align your talents and channel your creativity. Think of your organization as a river. Don’t divert it; jump in. Increase the established flow.
“What you believe to be important isn’t as important as what the CEO thinks is important.” Mike Myatt
Alignment (conformity) builds opportunity.
Myatt continues, “You don’t want to be perceived as working outside the system, or against the system. Rather you want to use the system to your advantage.”
More tomorrow and thanks to (Listed in order of their interview):
How do you see the tension between fitting in and standing out?
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“Conformity opens the door for your creativity”. I like that.
I have found that the trick is to continue to see the opportunities in the organisation without being overwhelmed by it (most people are)
There are so many ways of expressing your ideas without overtly breaking those unwritten rules.
Thank you for adding your insights.
I hadn’t thought about the idea of being overwhelmed by the organization. Definite food for thought.
My experience of working with senior leaders is to work out what they want and to ensure that they get it (inasmuch as it’s in my power or influence) and to ensure that I both remain invisible and ensure that the leader gets the credit.
Not sure if this kind of comment is helpful.
Better to be invited to the spotlight than trying to grab it.
Your comment is very helpful.
Good morning, Dan –
Such a fine line you describe today. As a professional rule breaker and nonconformist, I am constantly reminded of the need to earn the right to break the rules. In my world, it is about meeting the client where she is first, then showing a different way (or ways).
If you want to change things, you’ve got to do some things that make it less likely that the system will reject you out of hand. This doesn’t mean compromising principles or important values. It does mean being open, curious, and recognizing you don’t know everything.
Thanks for the thought-provoking start to my day.
I love the line, “Earn the right to break the rules.” Beautiful.
A bull in a china shop doesn’t last long.
Another way to think about this is… get on their team before you ask them to get on yours.
Thanks for the good word.
“You can’t earn opportunities by rejecting opportunities.”
First time replying – although a regular reader of your insights. This one line is the best I have heard in a long time! So often, have asked someone to pitch in at a level that was not absolutely at the top level of their ability. And, watching that one response, have gotten amazing insight into the soul of the person.
It is an amazing statement and will be something I chew on more and more today.
Thanks for the thought provoking insights!
You honor us with your first comment. Do come back soon…
Thanks for being a regular reader.
I appreciate and agree on two points. Fit in before stand out and don’t be perceived as working outside the system. It means fit in into the system and perception play crucial role to connect with CEO. Even if you are right and doing committed for the system, people should perceive it right. Opposite is also true. You might be doing against the system, but when people perceive, you will connect with them. I absolutely agree that what you think is not as important as what CEO think. I agree that there is tension between fitting into and standing out. The tension is about compromise. It means when you want to fit in what do you need to compromise. And when you want to stand out, what do you tend to lose. The answer depends upon your capacity, resources and values. But in either case, to stand out comfortably you need to fit in first. What I mean by fit in is to understand the culture, people and dynamics in the organization. This will provide suitable platform to stand out.
Your last line is filled with insight.
How to fit in:
1. Understand the culture
2. Understand the people
3. Understand dynamics in the organisation
Understanding dynamics includes appreciating real power brokers vs. official ones.
Thanks for the affirmations and tips.
Best to you,
I like the comment “you want to use the system to your advantage.” Something I’ve often used to mentor those ‘hotshots.’ i have them do some real soul searching and when they don’t think their getting anything from the system, leave. They’re not doing themself or the organization any good. Few of them leave but rather figure out the system has a lot to offer them in helping them mature.
Your comment made me smile. Sometimes drawing a line in the sand is a wake up call that helps high potentials reach their potential.
It requires a humbleness, a willingness to be open-minded — that a you may not, in fact, have the perfect solution. Give the process a bit of time and gain perspective.
Hard for those of us that are wired with that enthusiasm gene! Thanks for the post, Dan.
How often has enthusiasm caused us problems… 🙂 Some wrongly think that enthusiasm is a cure all… but not so.
When I hear myself going off the “deep end” it’s time for me, as you suggest, to admit I just might have something to learn.
As I was reading this post I had two thoughts. One was back when I was recruiting new graduates for our company. I used to ask them how they measured their success. The most common answer was to say based on their own feelings about their performance. They said it matter the score of the game or the grade of the test as long as they felt good about their performance. I remember thinking that they weren’t going to last long in the business world if they thought their performance was excellent and the boss thought it was subpar. This idea ties nicely to what Mike Myatt said.
The other thought I had, which I believe I have shared here before, is the best piece of advice I was given as a young professional. Make your superiors look good. If you make them look good, they will come to rely on you and will chose to work with you over others. Once that happens you will have the kind of access you want and the opportunity to make suggestions or propose ideas. It is an extremely simple but extremely valuable idea.
Yes, you are right on, Dan: Alignment Builds Opportunity. Acknowledging the authority of others is critical as I write in a post on Leadership Mints. (http://leadershipmints.com. (search for “stacked deck”
Here’s direct link to the post:http://wp.me/p1LagS-LO
Peter Jeff, The Leadership Mints Guy
In 1987, I was a brand-new pastor, just out of seminary. I thought I knew something. Actually, I probably thought I knew it all. Surely, all the exciting and powerful things I had been learning and talking about for three years would fall on grateful and receptive ears. Surely, they would be excited by my brilliant insights.
Um. Not so much.
Somehow, I didn’t get the memo that it would have been good to actually listen to the people who had formed the culture of that church for generations before I got there. Instead, I just forged ahead. And I blew it. Big time. By not doing enough of the groundwork, the visiting, the listening, the encouraging, and all that, I never gained their trust. After two years, we came to one of those mutual-agreement partings – they agreed to ask me to go, and I agreed to leave.
I plunged into leadership before I really knew what it was. I wish I’d had some of this counsel back then. I hope other rookies, no matter what the profession, take heed.
It’s the 1800s and the huge 3 and 5 masted sailing ships rule the seas. There’s a brand new ship and you are a new recruit (hopefully not Shanghaied) standing on the dock.
Are you getting on board and swabbing the deck, putting extra pitch in the gaps, stowing belongings or maybe even getting up the crow’s nest and seeing the bigger picture?
Or…are you eating food in the hold doing little but proud of your full stomach, or holding the lines on the dock, refusing to let go, or worse playing the role of anchor?
Every person on the ship has a role, responsibility and accountability from cook to captain. The more aligned (not necessarily conformed) each person is, the smoother and quicker the ship sails. Otherwise the ship sails poorly and the journey (and its all about the journey) becomes torture with little to show for all the effort. In a storm, you may have to assume new, uncomfortable roles, but that is what you do…to continue the journey and sometimes just survive.
Or if you are a Nascar fan, every person in the pit crew, in the car organization has a role, but there is only one driver. One person not doing his/her job and you lose the race.
Doc wow what a comment. Being a seafaring lover myself this whole comment goes into my “stories” book for future reference. I use stories frequently when addressing values with the staff and physicians. This one is a “winner.” thanks for sharing. No quotes for this one! 🙂
Thanks Al-Dan started it with ‘grab an oar’! (And I thought the Nascar reference would work for you!)
Beyond the romanticized perceptions of the ‘olden days’–(my nearby turf of Portland, OR was the Shanghai supply chain back then), there are just several elements that fit with organizational change and leadership. The ‘yeah butters’ of ‘we always do it this way’ are those people who are essentially trying to be anchors and I can imagine them getting more than a few mouthfuls of water before finally letting go.
I have to object to your equating alignment to conformity, for they are in no way the same thing. One of the definitions of conform is “to be or become similar in form, nature, or character.” A company in which everyone is similar in form, nature or character is doomed to failure because there will be no innovation; no generation of new ideas or products. It would also be an incredibly boring place to work. Alignment, on the other hand, is “a state of agreement or cooperation among persons, groups, nations, etc., with a common cause or viewpoint.” I can work toward a common cause without conforming. In fact, the nature of the best teams, in my opinion, is a group with widely varying forms, natures, and characters that will argue passionately their points of view on how to achieve a cause or goal, but who will, when all is said and done, align themselves to work toward the common goal accepted by the group, whether it agrees with their original viewpoint or not. I also would expect each member of that team to work toward that common goal using the unique talents and abilities each of them inherently possesses, not to conform to a single methodology.
To me, conformity is the death of a person’s individuality, and cripples an originations ability to innovate.
Bring your putter to work take the lead in your organization of re-branding golf as healthy activity to stimulate creative problem solving, internal networking, building relationships, transferring knowledge, overcoming barriers while demonstrating ethical behavior, knowledge and respect for rules, a perfect team building activity while improving physical, mental and spiritual health. You can debunk the concept that golf is only a boondoggling activity for the C-Suit. Demonstrate the positive transformative powers the game has on individuals and organizations. You will connect with many people including the CEO. A great way to amplify your personal brand.
Dan – Great post. It reminds me of a post I wrote, in which I explored how one’s motivations could actually be dangerous, in the wrong context.
When you overlay David McClelland’s three primary motives, or needs, that drive behavior: Affiliation, Achievement, and Power. with the four main transition types (or PATHs) – Place (New job or greater scope), Assignment, Team, and Heading (organization changes strategy or structure, even if one’s role does not change)… “dangerous” combinations of motivation and transition type emerge.
Some great comments. I might add that to stand out with the Grand Pooh-bah of any organization you must first do well within your own corporate sphere of influence. If you lead people then make sure they perform to their maximum; train them, delegate to them, give them the tools to impress you by achieving their goals. This will make you look good because what your team does will have the effect the company needs… be it profitability, customer service, efficiency, or cost containment. Then be your own PR guy… send the progress memos to those who are likely to be affected by your team’s efforts… give your own immediate boss the ammo he needs to shine to his/her boss. It’s been my experience that if you want to be noticed by the CEO then talk in company terms… not departmental. If you are one of ten people at that meeting with the CEO then speak up when it comes to volunteeering for those “extracurricular” research projects that may not have anything to do with your own department responsibilities; openly express your undying support to helping the guy across the table if he gets such a project. These kinds of things may lead to that valuable “side-stepping” the formal chain of command in having to go through your boss, and having more direct contact with the CEO.
It seems to me that the simple fact you are a leader implies that you already standout to some measure. Know your personal strengths and weaknesses and make that present confidence.
By the way… if you do these kinds of things make sure you have a subordinate that can be your right hand. You need a second.. someone who can provide initial thought feedback and maybe assist in your project, in spite of their own regular workload. A confidant like this can truly add to your effectiveness… just remember to recognize this person later in a performance review or some other way.
Dan, as always, good thoughts to provoke thinking. I am by nature a conformist because I want to be liked and loved. Unfortunately, raised in the 60’s I also have some, “give the world a little goosing when you get the chance.” In general, this dynamic tension has helped me see things from a broader viewpoint. Most often, earning the right to break rules, or earning the trust so people will listen to more radical thoughts is excellent advice. You get far more accomplished from inside the circle than from outside.
Love this second post in the series Dan. I have myself been in the position when I thought I could challenge the CEO vision for something better, and have fallen down dramatically as a result. A big learning curve for me. There are two things are must do’s for me as a result of my big lesson.
Firstly, if you are joining an organisation, make sure you know what its about, and how you can contribute. If you can’t be enthusiastic about the CEO and her/his vision then don’t work for them!
Secondly, go the extra mile. I have seen it again and again, and experienced this dynamic myself. If you help others to become successful, and that is your focus, then success automatically comes your way. But don’t do it for that reason, just do it for the love of giving of yourself in a great way.
It took me years to learn that kind of humility. I achieve it maybe 75% of the time, still a way to go. 🙂
Where do you find the wisdom Dan?