How To Succeed In Business…
Without Eating Your Soul For Breakfast
Key Concepts For This Blog
Key Concepts For This Blog
Success isn’t defined solely by the achievement of power, status and wealth.
How you behave in the pursuit of achievement is the true measure of success.
Lisa Lai, 2011
Whether you work for a global corporation, a small business, or an organization somewhere in-between, you’ve likely encountered challenges balancing who you are as an individual with what your employer asks of you. At the crux of the challenge is how you preserve your integrity and individuality at work, without sacrificing your success. Finding the right approach isn’t always easy.
It can prove difficult being true to yourself when you work with, and for, others. Organizations aren’t inherently good or bad. The people within them make all the difference. If your core values don’t align well to the values and behaviors of others you work with routinely, you begin to feel pressure.
When you lack alignment in the workplace, it’s like eating your soul for breakfast every morning.
Your ideals are challenged, your integrity is stretched to its limits, and you feel pressure to conform to norms that aren’t your own. Relationships become particularly challenging. Your satisfaction starts to wane and your ability to be successful comes into question. You can choose to resign your position, but you’ll find similar challenges in any workplace. The fact is, challenging people and circumstances exist in every environment. Learning to navigate these situations and manage the associated conflict will serve you well in business and in life.
So, how do you maintain your individuality in the workplace while being a productive member of a larger organization? How do you manage conflict and subversive behavior? How do you cultivate relationships in a way that’s genuine, authentic and rewarding, all the while demonstrating strength and competency in a competitive environment? How do you manage ethical, cultural, political and personal dilemmas with integrity? How do you achieve success while staying true to who you are?
The best approach is to first understand the dynamics you’re likely to encounter. With that knowledge, you can then leverage proven strategies to achieve success on your own terms. Over a twenty-five year career, the author has learned several techniques that help address the complexities of alignment in the workplace, as well as a number of techniques that are ineffective and should be avoided. The insights shared in this book are designed to help you determine for yourself: how to succeed in business… without eating your soul for breakfast.
Individuality and Alignment
1- Culture and Norms
Every organization develops a deeply engrained culture over time, either by design or by default. The culture is what drives the experience employees have each and every day. How do you evaluate a company’s culture - before you join - to be sure it will be positive for you in your career? How do you navigate a culture once you’re hired if it isn’t a natural fit with your sensibility?
2- Politics In The Workplace
Politics are a reality of life in business. In some organizations, politics are encouraged; in others, politics are tolerated. Either way, politics in the workplace can serve you well or destroy you. How do you know when to play… and when to pass?
3- Success Beyond Measures
We’re told early in our careers that success lives or dies based on tangible, measureable results. It simply isn’t true. Factors such as your core competencies, your persona, and how you manage your relationships all impact your success. These intangibles are sometimes even valued above tangible metrics. How do you balance achievement in all areas to maximize your value to an organization? What are the implications if you don’t?
4- Integrity in Action
Leaders within organizations make decisions, both good and bad, every minute of the day. How do you execute on a decision that you fundamentally disagree with and maintain your personal sense of integrity? How do you distinguish between ethical issues for the business and matters of personal morality or preference? How do you behave in response?
5- People You Dislike
Organizations are created and sustained by the people who choose to work there. Unfortunately, you don’t get to choose your co-workers. In any organization, you’ll have to work closely with people you genuinely dislike. You’ll also have to work with people who dislike you. How do you achieve results with, or despite, these people?
6- Ignorance Up, Down and Around
You will on more than one occasion be faced with ignorance in the workplace, from your co-workers, or worse yet, your boss. How do you handle ignorance in others, and pick the right battles, so you can achieve your intended outcomes? How do you ensure the perception of ignorance from those around you doesn’t tarnish your reputation?
7- Cultivating Relationships
Cultivating relationships with colleagues is essential to your success in business. Surveys show that relationships also impact job satisfaction. How do you develop effective professional relationships with your colleagues? How do you manage friendships that develop from professional relationships? Where do you draw the line to keep your relationships from becoming a detriment to you as you advance in an organization?
8- Productive Conflict
Organizations are fraught with conflict over vision, strategies, people, process, technologies, finances and any number of other topics. Knowing how to navigate conflict is a pivotal strength that can propel your career forward at any level of an organization. When do you engage and when do you sit back? How do you ensure any conflict you’re involved with remains productive and healthy, with positive outcomes?
In organizations made up of diverse populations, it’s easy to become intimidated by a co-worker or boss. There will always be people who are smarter, more attractive, better communicators, or more seasoned than you are. How do you build your own sense of confidence over time – and more importantly, how do you fake it until you make it for quick gains early in your career?
10- Surviving Enemies
Nearly everyone will, at some point, encounter a credibility threat in the workplace. These are people who work aggressively to discredit or damage your reputation. Sometimes these efforts are blatant and other times more subtle. What do you do when you’re targeted by someone and avoidance doesn’t solve the problem? How do you remove the threat to your own success without sinking to their level?
Not everyone will have to face discrimination in their career, but many people will. Whether passive or overt, discrimination directed toward you in the workplace can impact your success in an organization. While you can’t control entirely how you are perceived, or stop discrimination overall, you can avoid specific choices that make you a target or alienate others in the workplace. What are key strategies to avoid discrimination?
12- Mistakes and Recovery
There isn’t a successful businessperson alive who hasn’t made a few mistakes. Many have made epic, even highly publicized, mistakes. The key lies in your response and recovery. How do you best recover from a mistake, and regain ground with your team, your peers, and your senior executives? How do you avoid the pitfalls of being expected to fail after a mistake is made?
Some organizations offer opportunities for advancement in a very structured way. More likely, though, you’ll need to chart your own course and demonstrate ambition in areas of interest. How do you work to get ahead without leaving a trail of blood, and important relationships, in your path?
14- Vision and Passion
Some organizations have a clear and socially redeeming mission that employees can rally behind without fail. Example: Healthcare and saving lives. Other businesses may not inspire a sense of passion so obviously. Example: Widget manufacturer. How do you find gratification in your work if you don’t have a strong sense of passion for an organization’s mission? How do you feel connected to the business when you’re distanced from the customer in a corporate or supporting role?
15- Authentic Leadership
Organizations provide many opportunities for you to lead: people, projects, initiatives and business lines. The best leaders are those who have developed an authentic style that balances what is best for the company, its customers and its employees. How do you cultivate your own authentic style of leadership and stay true to it over time, regardless of your role in an organization?
16- Work/Life Boundaries
Organizations will take every ounce of energy you’re willing to give to your job, especially if you’re an overachiever. Your job can consume your life, impacting relationships in and out of the office as a result. How do you establish boundaries to ensure the burden of work doesn’t take over your life, while still demonstrating the commitment your employer wants to see?
At times in your career, you will question whether you’re in the right place, and whether you’re doing the right things, to feed your soul and sense of well-being. How do you know when to stay with your employer and when to go? How do you evaluate what’s right for you in the moment and long-term?
About the Author
Lisa Lai is an accomplished executive, now working as a consultant and coach to leaders in the world of business. She has held executive positions in three Fortune 500 organizations, as well as multiple successful start-up organizations. Her passion is helping others achieve extraordinary things. Lisa lives in Boulder, Colorado with her husband, Patrick, and two very spoiled dogs. To learn more about the author, visit her online at http://www.laiventures.com/ and check back often for blog updates at http://laiventures.blogspot.com/.
Copyright © 2011 by Lisa Lai