Great salespeople often make terrible sales managers. Great inventors often fail at the entrepreneurial task of building and establishing companies. Great CFOs sometimes make poor CEOs. Your success in one job does not guarantee your success in another job with a similar title or function. So how do you advance your career without straying into a job that you won’t do well?
The answer sounds simple but rarely is: you need to know what you are really good at. You need an objective, accurate understanding of the situations, responsibilities, demands, and tasks that you excel at. Most people don’t know with any real precision what they do well. Here’s how to start getting a bit more clarity.
Defining What You Do Well
Think about an accomplishment or task or undertaking of yours that went really, really well. Results were beyond expectation. You felt great, or deeply satisfied, or perhaps “in the zone.” Others may have also deemed your work a success, but most notably, you did. Once you have identified and reflected upon such an event, challenge yourself to think of several more like it. Then drill down to the specific factors that contributed to each success.
This fictional example is based on many real world experiences I’ve witnessed. John Bailey, a chief marketing officer at ABC Corporation, feared for his job. He knew he wasn’t helping ABC reach any of its major goals. Turnover on his staff was high—double any other department. After a major marketing campaign that John led, ABC Corporation lost market share. Senior staff meetings frequently ended in blaming marketing for the corporation’s sagging sales and reputation.
But John had come to ABC 18 months earlier with great fanfare. As an independent marketing consultant, John had created and managed one of the most successful product marketing campaigns in the industry’s history. John was brilliantly creative, results-oriented, and tireless in pushing any marketing plan forward. His stellar reputation and work caught the eye of ABC and the corporation lured him into his current position with an offer John never dreamed he’d ever earn.
Why A Super-Success Failed
Why was this super-success now failing? Because he was terrific at hands-on creative work, but his current position had him managing the creative team rather than focusing on his own creative talents. As an independent, John excelled at driving results from his own efforts and a small, close knit team. But at ABC his team was five times bigger and worked out of four offices in three states. John knew how to push a marketing plan forward, but he was clueless about how to leverage the assets of a large corporation to achieve his objectives.
Executives like John Bailey rarely spend time analyzing exactly what they’re good at. Without clarity and specificity about their specific skills and natural talents, the John Baileys of the world can’t easily determine if a job opportunity matches their strengths. Furthermore, it’s hard to focus on honing your strengths when you’re not clear about what they are.
Why We Mismatch Executives And Jobs
We place ourselves or others in jobs that aren’t a good match for a variety of reasons. For one thing, we often make generalizations. Sara whipped the customer service department into shape so we generalize that she could accomplish the same in other departments. Jason is terrific at fixing complex software projects, so we generalize that Jason is the best choice to for CTO. Hector’s team built the new product so we generalize that his team should build another, very different product for a different market.
And if we don’t make the mistake of generalizing, we might make another common error when evaluating executives and key employees: seeing two people as being similar in “type.” Mario and Mike are about the same age; both appear to be natural leaders; rose to the top of the executive training class; display great people skills; and have a similar employment history. But that doesn’t mean they possess similar talents, motivations, specific skills, and other factors. No two executives are alike –which is why treating them like interchangeable parts usually creates more problems than it solves.
How to Avoid These Problems
We can avoid these problems because there’s a proven way to clearly identify an executive’s innate giftedness. It’s a scientific process that cuts through generalizations, distinguishes between executives who may appear to have similar talents and abilities, and reveals to people what their true job performance strengths are.
The System for Identifying Motivated Abilities® (SIMA®) is a objective assessment process that reveals what people do best in specific, qualitative parameters. SIMA identifies key motivated abilities such as learning, investigating, evaluating, conceptualizing, creating, overseeing, influencing, and communicating. SIMA reveals executives’ deepest interests, most profound strengths, ideal contextual circumstances, preferred roles, and core motivations.
Business executives who ultimately succeed do so because they learn to clearly understand and focus on their own particular job strengths. They don’t try to fit a norm, squeeze into an ill-fitting job description or do all things. They continually put themselves in situations where they can spend maximum time and energy on their known strengths.
Bottom line: You can’t do your best until you know what you do best.
SIMA® International is a worldwide group of consultants who use the proprietary assessment technology, SIMA®, to help our clients make the best possible “people decisions.”
If you find this article helpful, please share it with your colleagues.