CareerSherpas: Climbing the Mountain

When you’re on the way, it helps to share the load

Archive for April, 2011

Optimistic Leaders Produce Strongest Results

Monday, April 25th, 2011

I admit it. I do love psychological studies. And while the┬áHarvard Business Review article “Primal Leadership: The Hidden Driver of Great Performance” (subscription required) is getting a little long in the tooth (being originally published in 2001) it’s still a gem.

The whole concept of emotional intelligence and its impact in the workplace is still striking even if we’re all (somewhat) sick of hearing about it. The returns on being genuine, optimistic and empathetic are so well documented that it’s almost an immutable law of nature… but then again it probably was all along. What’s fascinating is the clear tie between the mood of leaders and the success of their groups and how pervasive that mood becomes throughout an organization.

There are a lot of really important points made by the article.

For individuals, your positive approach is infectious. Every time you are able to push the positive side with those around you, your performance and abilities and that of your peers will improve. Creating a virtuous cycle with your peers will breed everyone’s success.

For leaders, if you haven’t already started improving your attitude you’re missing out in all areas from your staff. Your staff can be significantly more engaged, dynamic, creative, innovative and productive just through improving your outlook. Without that kind of performance you are on the firing line and sooner or later it will catch up with you.

The article goes so far as to lay out a path to improving your emotional intelligence and the impact you have on those around you. The five step process is nicely balanced in the brain science and easy to work through thoughtfully.

  • Defining your ideal personal state.
  • Gathering information on what is holding you back and your strengths in dealing with people.
  • Planning your approach and the feedback mechanisms to keep you on track.
  • Experimenting with leadership approaches in a careful and thoughtful way.
  • Getting help in becoming your ideal self through trusted relationships with others.

If you’d like the more in-depth version, try reading the full article or the insightful book by the same authors, “Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence”

Have you considered or worked on any of the improvement ideas suggested? What kind of success (and stumbles) have you had along the way?

Peter Fitzgerald is the founder of and is currently working on his first book, connecting individuals with ideas and opportunities, and attempting to learn the bagpipes.

Will You be Loved, Feared or Hated?

Monday, April 18th, 2011

“Upon this a question arises: whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved?” – Nicollo Machiavelli, The Prince

That Machiavelli guy was onto something right? He must have been, otherwise we wouldn’t still be reading what he wrote hundreds of years later and finding new nuances in his work. From a Machiavellian point of view, fear and love are the important options to be courted while avoiding making people hate you.

A recent article by Joey Strawn called “Everybody Likes You, Too Bad You Still Suck” made me think hard about Machiavelli and offers an interesting counterpoint. In the age of the “Long Tail”, lowered barriers to starting businesses and advancing careers, and the democratization of access to pretty much everything, Strawn argues that being hated by some is actually a sign of success if a larger group love you.

We’re all human and we want to be liked. Realizing that not everybody will like you, it’s still important that those people involved in your success are positive toward you. Ideally you want them to love what you do for them. Strawn’s prescient observation that this will likely make someone hate you for it is an important reality.

There’s some truth to be had in both perspectives, but there’s a strategy decision involved that you have to make for yourself depending on circumstances. Your decision has to take into account what you’re comfortable with (can you stand some people really hating you) and who you’re responsible to (what will your boss support you on).

More and more we’re all looked at to be leaders to succeed. How are you going to lead?

Peter Fitzgerald is the founder of and is currently working on his first book, connecting individuals with ideas and opportunities, and attempting to learn the bagpipes.

Set Out on an Heroic Quest

Monday, April 11th, 2011

The Hero’s Journey is a literary concept that rings true because it parallel’s parts of life’s journey in a simplified and focused way. Originally described by Joseph Campbell more than half a century ago, it’s a plot model that’s been intentionally and unintentionally used throughout the ages of storytelling.

Besides giving rollicking adventure tales, it also gives you the opportunity to consider events from a different perspective. The Hero’s Journey offers a different lens to see life and the trials and tribulations. In addition, there’s the suggestion of the rewards to be earned along the way as well.

There are three main phases to the journey, each deserving of future posts. In summary however they are:

  1. The Departure – Whence our hero (that’s you if you haven’t caught on) is invited to leave the ordinary world and embark on an epic quest! The hero contemplates, possibly rejecting the initial invitation, and ultimately follows the path set before him.
  2. The Separation – The trials and tribulations of the journey itself. After facing perils and obstacles, (both internal and external) the heroine reaches her goal and attains the gift of great value.
  3. The Return – After succeeding in retrieval of the gift, the hero returns (possibly with help) to bestow the blessings of the gift and their new found wisdom on the ordinary world.

Each phase has particular stages within it representing encounters or situations that a character, or person, might see at that point in their journey. While life may not entice you off to a magical quest, you are regularly invited off to an adventure of your own. Sometimes it’s useful to think of an opportunity as an invitation to an adventure. I find it easier to look at the challenges if I can think of the way-points on the journey.

Ultimately, the hero in the stories brings back a reward that benefits not only themselves but also allows them to share the benefits with others. At the very least your experience in everything you attempt allows you to help others avoid the pitfalls and traps while sharing visions of a better future.

What does the Hero’s Journey illustrate for you about yourself?

Peter Fitzgerald is the founder of and is currently working on his first book, connecting individuals with ideas and opportunities, and attempting to learn the bagpipes.

Job Search Support Using Facebook?

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

Still in very early stages, In The Door shows promise as another tool for your social-media job search efforts.

I’ve taken a little time to explore the site and where it works it’s very handy. Taking your Facebook friends, collecting the companies they work for and collating jobs posted by those companies by the location of your friends is a pretty neat concept.

Where it falls down is in the number of people who don’t post their employment information to Facebook. I’m a prime example of someone who doesn’t list that information and it’s a natural extension of the way people use Facebook as opposed to LinkedIn. That kind of information is often deemed sensitive and, in some more draconian company policies, is grounds for disciplinary action. In any case, no Facebook employer listing, no job results.

Still the concept has potential and may yet lead to another string to add to our collective bows.

(Thanks to Mashable for their introduction – and one of my Facebook friends for the article link.)

Peter Fitzgerald is the founder of and is currently working on his first book, connecting individuals with ideas and opportunities, and attempting to learn the bagpipes.

Does this Look Easy?

Monday, April 4th, 2011

Do you make what you do look easy? Have you heard people ask why what you do takes so long? Has anyone put down what you do as something “anyone could do” or that “they could do better”?

This mindset can be really limiting to your career and to introducing new ideas, especially if it’s your boss who has it! Breaking through this mindset raises your credibility, lets you share your experience with a broader audience, and generally makes your life easier.

So where do you start?

Lay out each of the responsibilities you have and the tasks you perform. For each one add information about what it takes to do it, how you learned to do it and how long you’ve been doing it. Take time with laying all the information out for yourself and, if you can, get input from other people performing the same work on what you might have missed. If there are manuals and documented processes, use them to flesh out your list further.

Once you get through, you’ll probably find that the things that make up your job look pretty overwhelming. This is a good thing.

Next, you need to find a way to share this with the people who don’t get what you do. That might sound really difficult, but there are plenty of ways to slip the information into conversation. Some examples are:

  • Give really detailed status reports
  • Describe what you’re going to do next
  • Draw pictures of what you do and what you’re going to do
  • Describe things you’re waiting for
  • Raise up things stopping you from doing your job properly
  • Make suggestions to improve processes

And that’s really all there is to it. It’s not an overnight fix, but you need to be consistent. Changing someone’s understanding of what you do when they have no exposure to it takes time and persistence.

In the end, it will be worth the effort.

Peter Fitzgerald is the founder of and is currently working on his first book, connecting individuals with ideas and opportunities, and attempting to learn the bagpipes.