Achieving Long-Term Career Success


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I sat at a small table in the hotel’s lobby café with a cup of coffee.  Within a few moments, I was drawn to an employment interview being conducted at the table beside me. Everything about this encounter seemed “off.”

The sales manager was professionally dressed, engaged, leaning into the conversation, explaining the company and the role while asking solid interview questions. The candidate was a seasoned sales representative. He was casually dressed, perhaps even on the sloppy side. He was leaning back, providing a visual that implied he was annoyed to be asked these questions. His answers were condescending in tone and displayed an over-confident demeanor.  His body language spoke that the company would be blessed to have him as an employee.

The greater effort the young manager applied to promote the company and the opportunity, the more pompous the seasoned rep became. I’m not certain if it was a generational issue, but as I watched this process develop, I thought, “would you work for someone less qualified than you?”

Let’s face it, we all want to work for a great boss, someone we can respect and from whom we can learn and grow.  But what happens when you know more, pcheck-your-egoossess greater skills, have more experience or perhaps are even more competent than the person in charge?

The heart of this question revolves around your perspective and attitude. Do you really know more than your boss, or are you only considering the situation from a narrow perspective?  Are you evaluating everything solely from the manager-staff relationship or are you considering your talent and contribution to the whole of the enterprise?  There have definitely been times during my career when I undervalued my direct manager–from which subsequent promotions and experience taught me a greater sense of appreciation.

I rarely encounter an individual from whom I can‘t learn something.  I usually find that if someone knows less than me in one area, they know more than me in another area. To succeed in business, you need competency in your role, but also emotional perspective, social skills, strong relationships and experience.  I was once told by my boss that the reason I was hired into my role was, not because of my technical competency or experience (“other candidates were more qualified,” he said), but because they believed my temperament would allow me to be more effective working with corporate.

A healthy manager–subordinate relationship exists when there is mutual respect and perceived value.  Both participants need to check their egos at the door.  Both should convey respect, learn from each other and combine their skills and strengths to move the company forward.  A portion of my hiring thought process is to uncover individuals who know more than me and can add greater value to the business.  I am aware of my own strengths and weaknesses, so I am looking to round out a team to complement my shortcomings.  I want team players with great attitudes to make us, as a team and as an entity, stronger.  Narrow-minded individuals who only see the world through their personal or departmental perspective are to be avoided.

Sometimes you may be working for an individual less qualified and that is a difficult situation.  Your response and reaction can make all the difference in your long-term career success.

  • First, check your ego and perspective. Seek to uncover qualities in your boss that you can respect.  It is easy to focus on negatives, but seek redeeming qualities from which you can learn and appreciate them.
  • Second, focus on doing a good job. Own the responsibility for completing your position’s accountabilities. Seek opportunities to utilize your strengths and compliment or overcome your manager’s weaknesses.  Uncover where you can help the team out.  Make your boss look good. The discipline of good performance, regardless of your circumstances, will pay dividends throughout your career.
  • Third, own your own learning. If you are not receiving the coaching or mentoring you perceive you need, broaden your network by seeking out others in or outside the organization to keep learning or growing.
  • Finally, avoid the slippery slope of dissatisfaction. Your next opportunity may not come from within your team or division.  Other leaders may be looking at your performance.  Avoid gossip, negativity and resistance to authority.  Create an aura of positivity, can-do attitude and team spirit to be more eye-catching.

A confident sales representative is strength to any organization, but an overbearing, egotistic individual can be toxic.  I am unaware if the seasoned sales rep was offered the position.  Although he may have perhaps been an experienced and qualified candidate, I would not have hired him based on observing his attitude alone.

Twitter: @RScheese

LinkedIn: Ron Scheese

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