Working Through Stagnation
Throughout my life, from kindergarten through to high school and then in college, the expectations were clear; study, then graduate. The buildup through the time always had the same crescendo – graduation. The expectation with regards to performance was simply to exceed. As an Indian, exceeding was important, especially since I would be competing with another billion Indians.
That changed once I entered the workforce. I started working in Boeing, and things were different. Set milestones aren’t really what I’m graded on. Excelling didn’t result in clear quantifiable promotions. In the workforce, everything is qualitative and relative to another person. I thought I was doing the right things, and things were going well for a few years, but then I started stagnating. My career was not on the trajectory I expected. I worked incredibly hard, only to get frustrated. My managers and peers kept telling me I was doing all the right things, but to me, my career was stagnating. I was frustrated, miserable and considering quitting my job because I just didn’t feel appreciated. I decided to give it six more months before leaving the company I truly enjoyed.
Then things changed. I decided to do EDI’s Leadership Navigation and the course opened my eyes to the perception my peers and I have of me versus the perception Boeing’s leaders have of me. Fundamentally, my interactions with managers gave them a perception that I wasn’t someone who would do well in advanced opportunities, including management. Hearing that was painful, but seeing it reinforced through 360 survey results was eye-opening. I knew that unless I corrected that perception, I would never have the career projection I wanted.
After multiple coaching sessions with my EDI coach, I had several conversations with key influential individuals in the Boeing Company. I realized by building relationships with these influencers, they would advocate on my behalf. By strengthening the relationships I already had, and by getting several advocates, I changed the perception the leaders had of me. With that change in perception, a leader decided to take a chance on me. Halfway through the EDI program, I received a promotion into management. I’m 100% certain that it wouldn’t have happened unless I had participated in EDI. The conversations I had strengthened my relationship with my managers and leaders and resulted in me not only staying with the company but also earn that much sought after promotion, which wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Now, I take the lessons I learned in EDI and apply them diligently for myself and my team.
EDI helped me understand this key concept – while there is no clear roadmap in the workforce, with deliberate thought and care, one can have their desired outcome. Thank you, EDI!
I graduated from the EDI Leadership Discovery Program (Class of 2015) and recently transitioned into a finance management role at the Boeing Company. My team of Estimating & Pricing Specialist protects the Enterprise and strives for sustained business growth through business case development and financial analysis.
As I reflect back on my journey as an individual contributor into a formal management role – below are 3 takeaways that I have acquired through EDI and other development avenues that I have found valuable in my career thus far:
1) Intentional Branding: Apple, Tesla, and Uber are viewed by the public as innovative and game-changing. Every company and product has a brand and believe it or not, so do YOU. What’s your brand? Every action that you take or don’t take shapes someone’s perception of you. Your actions can determine the difference between being viewed as smart, influential and inspirational vs. deficient, ill-prepared and average. As a leader, don’t leave those perceptions to chance. Be intentional about your Leadership Brand. Below are a few tips on how.
a. Step #1 (Intentional Brand): Gather an intentional collection of characteristics (start with 3) that describes how you would like to be perceived and always ensure that these characteristics align with your core values (ex. Humble).
b. Step #2 (Develop Plan): Be strategic and determine what you need to do each day to demonstrate your intentional brand (Ex. When supporting individual or team projects I will always compliment and recognize team members for their success)
c. Step #3 (Take Action): Take action and provide the public with evidence of your brand each day. Be intentional with every action that you take and your intentional brand will come across.
2) Being Extraordinary: Every moment, we have an opportunity to generate an experience, reputation, and a better relationship. Becoming extraordinary doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and is something that needs to be tackled one day at a time. Below are a few tips on how.
a. Tip #1 (Generate an Experience): Let others experience what it feels like to work with someone that is extraordinary. When you are given a task, do it well but also do one thing that no one expects you to do. For example - If you’re tasked with answering question XYZ, anticipate follow on questions and answer those as well.
b. Tip #2 (Reputation): Figure out if there are negative perceptions of you due to age, gender, ethnicity, experience, etc. Once you figure out the negative perceptions – prove the audience wrong immediately. For example – if you’re perceived as lazy you could 1) volunteer for a project that no one wants 2) ask others if they need help 3) be the first one in the office and last to leave.
c. Tip #3 (Relationships): Invest in relationships and make friends. Compliment someone who doesn’t expect it and make an effort to connect on more than just work-related items because relationships are important. Why? Keeping everything the same (skill set, experience, etc.) who do you think the Board of Directors will elect as the next CEO - someone they have known for the past 15 years and have a great relationship with or someone they barely know?
3) Be Authentic: Never try to be someone that you’re not because we are not very good at being someone else and will come off as fake. Instead be your authentic self because it’s what we do best. At the same time, be mindful of the perceptions that others have of you and take intentional actions if needed to impact those perceptions.
As we start a new year I am renewing my commitment to being an authentic leader and also being intentional each day. I challenge you to do the same. Happy New Year to the EDI Family – Cheers!!