SumTotal Blog

Career Moments to be Thankful For

November 26, 2014



Thankful - 3 fall oak leaves tied in a bowAs our homes fill with the smell of pumpkin pie and we prepare to reflect on what we’re most thankful for, I started to think about the moments throughout my career that I’ve been thankful for — and it’s not simply a highlights reel.  The missteps and cringe-worthy moments are often as transformational as the terrific ones.

I consider myself lucky to have worked for a variety of world-class organizations throughout my career – big and small, global and local. I’ve come to appreciate the necessity of process and rigor, although sometimes tedious to a marketer trying to get a campaign out the door in a time crunch. As I’ve spent time at smaller organizations where a ‘whatever it takes’ approach often rules, I’ve been able to recognize that the once seemingly tedious process brought much-needed consistency, order and repeatability. Having had varied experiences at differently structured organizations is something I’m thankful for, as those experiences have provided me with a well-equipped toolbox to pull from on a daily basis. Before you sign off for the week to fill your plate with turkey and all the trimmings, take a moment to reflect on the career moments you’re most thankful for — here are a few of mine to get you started:

Inspiring Colleagues
In a recent study, peers are the #1 influence, not money, in driving fellow colleagues to go the extra mile. Being surrounded by intelligent and ambitious peers can be absolutely contagious and elevate your work, and sometimes a little friendly competition helps everybody. When I look back on my own past working relationships, it’s the colleagues that questioned me and challenged me that I most value; they may not have been the work friends I grabbed coffee with, but they certainly became the ones I turned to for honest feedback. While being friends with your coworkers isn’t a necessity, it can have a real impact on employee engagement and satisfaction — a Gallup poll shows that close work friendships can boost employee satisfaction by 50%, and those with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to be engaged fully.

Learning Opportunities (including, Leadership Development)
Learning today comes in all shapes and sizes, from formal classroom training to self-guided research to in-the-moment learning opportunities that quickly serve up exactly what you need when you need it. I consider myself fortunate to have had employers that provided me with online training resources in my given field to provide a continuous on-the-job learning experience. I’ve also been given the opportunity to be a part of a formal classroom leadership program with a cross-functional group of peers. Different types of training met distinct needs at different times in my career, and all of these forms of learning have played a role in my development, including leadership. While closing the leadership gap is a critical issue for many organizations, very few organizations are working proactively to develop leaders. In a recent Forbes article, Josh Bersin highlights research showing that only 14% of companies feel their leadership pipeline is ready. In the same study, half of all professionals positioned to move into the C-suite admit they have “little or no access to leadership training”.

Poor Leaders
As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, sometimes the not-so-great moments are just as defining as the terrific. With a lagging leadership pipeline, organizations are often forced to move employees into management roles out of necessity or tenure, leaving these new managers insufficiently prepared to lead and motivate teams — contributing to high failure rates among leaders. Unfortunately, we’ve all been subject to poor leaders, whether it is your direct manager or a cross-functional colleague, it can have a tremendous impact on your productivity and morale.  I’ve found that these experiences have shaped how I aspire to be (or, not be) as a leader.  To turn lemons into lemonade, I stop and think through these questions to keep a negative moment from derailing my own productivity:

  • Envision a colleague or leader you really respect (past or present), how would they have approached the situation?
  • How would you do it differently (and is that approach realistic)?
  • How could the outcome have been different with one of these approaches?

Do any of these thankful moments resonate with you?  I would love to hear from you — tweet the career moments you are most thankful for (and, why) to me at @Talentlearnwork.

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