In This Episode:
- Find out how to advance your career in the long run.
- Tom shares the 10 Signs of a Good Growth Environment to help you figure out if your work place is also a growth place.
- Learn from Tom’s history to avoid the obstacles that he ran into.
- Take a peek behind the scenes of this podcast.
Career planning: My “DVD Exercise” to help you create the plan you want!
“The 10 Signs of a Growth Environment” – A quick, one-page PDF that has what to look for in a workplace to help you grow individually.
Male voice: [00:00:01] Becoming a Geek Leader. Season One, Episode Three.
Sponsored by Geek to Great
Male voice 2: [00:00:04] This episode of Becoming a Geek Leader is sponsored by the Geek to Great 101 course. We all want to grow our skills and improve the work we do. But who has time for that? In this online blended learning program, you and your team will gain practical skills in topics like time management, dealing with difficult people, improving communication, and so much more. Train your whole team for less than 500 dollars. Each lesson is 30 minutes or less, so it fits right into your current team meeting schedule. Find more information and get immediate access to your first free lesson at brighthillgroup.com/helpinggeeks. That’s brighthillgroup.com/helpinggeeks, so that you can get access to the Geek to Great 101 course.
Tom Cooper: [00:01:02] Welcome to the Becoming a Geek Leader podcast. My name is Tom Cooper. As a geek, I’m on a mission to figure out better ways to lead others, at work and at home. Through the Becoming a Geek Leader Podcast, I’m sharing what I’m learning so I can help make you more effective at leading people, too. Ready?
[00:01:24] Hi. Welcome to episode three. I’m excited today to talk about your career. How can you achieve the goals that you have, from a career development perspective? Now, I’m excited about this because I see lots of folks frustrated about this, and there are a couple of areas that I think that people generally get stuck on. I’m going to talk about them today. I’m going to talk not only about the challenges, but also what you can do about it. And my goal today for you is to walk away with an action plan that you can use to help you figure out how to move to the next level.
[00:02:01] One of the things that happens is you do great work, and you get promoted. And then all of a sudden, you find yourself in a situation where you’re no longer doing the hands-on geek work. You’re not responsible for actually pressing the keys, and doing the things that you’ve been doing through the course of your career. And now, all of a sudden, you’ve got to coordinate the efforts of other people. And this is one of the things that I hear a lot from my clients, things like, “Why won’t these people do their jobs?” One of my clients recently asked me, “Aren’t these people grown adults?” I’ll tackle that question in a future episode.
[00:02:38] The other thing that folks find – and this may have happened to you as well – is you might think, “Why did I get passed up for that promotion?” Even worse is you think, “That guy? That guy got promoted? He’s a bozo. How in the world did that guy get promoted? I’m a lot smarter than that guy.” You look and see an open job requisition gets filled. Maybe even you post for the position. Maybe you get an interview, and maybe you don’t. And I know I had both of those problems in my career. On the one hand, I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t moving up. And on the other hand, I got promoted and then all of a sudden, I was the Peter Principle. I got promoted beyond my level of competence, and all of a sudden I was stuck. And so I want to talk about what you can do to address both of these.
[00:03:21] Fundamentally, it comes down to this question: what is your plan for career growth? Understanding what your plan is, then you think, “What skills do I need to get that next job?” and then, “What am I doing to get those skills?” So we’ll talk about all of those things in today’s episode. Let’s get started.
Thought Leader Segment.
Tom Cooper: [00:03:58] In today’s Thought Leader segment, I want to talk about something that I learned from my mentor John Maxwell. John said if I wanted to be somebody who grew in my career, if I wanted to be ready for the next opportunities, I needed to be in a growth environment. But what in the world is a growth environment? What does that even look like? I want to share top 10 signs or indicators of a growth environment, according to John Maxwell.
[00:04:23] So number one, a growth environment is a place where others are ahead of me. If everybody around you is looking up to you, you’re probably not in a good growth environment. Number two, a place where I am continually challenged. Is your work too easy? Number three, a place where the focus is forward, not backward. The focus is on tomorrow, not yesterday. Think about your work. How does it compare with that?
[00:04:50] Number four, a place where the atmosphere is affirming. Are people constantly backstabbing each other in your environment? That might not be a good growth environment for you. Number five, a place where I am outside my comfort zone. Wow. Somebody who’s growing is always going to be stepping outside their comfort zone to do something that’s not comfortable.
[00:05:11] Number six, a place where I wake up excited, because I’m going to be with like-minded people. Number seven, a place where failure is not your enemy. John says, “I fail a lot, because I take risks.” A growth environment is a place where your friends will pick you up when you fall down. Number eight, a place where other people are growing and getting better. Number nine, a place where people desire change. That’s powerful, right? A place where people desire change. And number 10, a place where growth is modeled for me, and expected from me.
[00:05:48] Now, that list of the Top 10 Signs You’re in a Growth Environment is going to be available on the webpage, the same place as the show notes. So if you want to get a copy of that, just start thinking about those ideas, feel free to go to the website and pick that up.
[00:06:02] But what if you’re not in a growth environment? What if you go back over that list and you say, “Wow. That is not my organization, at all.” Do you need to quit? Actually, no. There’s some things that you can do about that. One of the challenges that I hear people say is, “Well, what if my employer is not going to pay for training? My employer just doesn’t value that. They’re not willing to. Times are tight.” Whatever. Well, let me ask you. Whose career is it? Is it their career, or your career? I like the idea, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.”
[00:06:38] And that’s challenging, because all of a sudden we have to figure out, “Wait. What am I doing to help be in a growth environment?” Maybe the growth environment isn’t actually in your office. Maybe the growth environment is a community of people you connect with in a meet-up. Or maybe you create your own mastermind group of like-minded people who can help you grow. I’ve certainly done that. I have a number of mastermind groups that I participate in, that help me be connected with people who are thinking the right thoughts, and encouraging me to step outside my comfort zone.
[00:07:07] But again, let’s go back to this question. What if my employer is not going to pay for me to get the training or growth that I want? What do I do? Well, Darren Hardy asked me this question. He said, “What’s your E to E ratio?” E to E, your education to entertainment ratio. How much do you spend on your personal development, versus how much do you spend on your entertainment? If you’re like me, ouch. It didn’t feel good.
[00:07:38] What if you spent half as much on your personal development as you do on the sum total you spend on movies, eating out, hobbies and cable? Do you even know how much you spend on those things? All right. So maybe you look at that and you go, “Man, I couldn’t spend that much.” And I think actually if you add it up, you’ll be stunned at how much you do spend on just those categories.
[00:08:03] But let me ask you this. What if you invested 10% of your income in yourself? What if you bet on you, just 10% of the income that you make? Just think about this for a second. What conferences would you be able to attend? What courses would you be able to take? What would happen in your career, if you had a coach helping you get to that next level? I want you to think about your E to E ratio. What’s your education to entertainment ratio? Because these thought leaders – whether we’re talking about John Maxwell or Darren Hardy – they’re people who help me start to think differently, and they can help you, too. Don’t forget you can download a copy of John’s Top 10 Signs You’re in a Growth Environment from the website. And that’s today’s Thought Leader Segment.
Tom Cooper: [00:09:10] In today’s Mentoring segment, I want to talk a little bit about my journey. When I got out of school, I thought that being geeky was the way to be successful, and in fact, I found that was true. My first job out of college I learned as much as I possibly could about…man, was that NetWare version 2? That’s scary. I did a ton of installations of NetWare for my employer, and I helped clients begin to share files, and do all kinds of nerdy things along those lines. And I thought that if I got geekier, that that would help me grow in my career. And you know what? That was true. The first couple of years of my career, the more I learned about the technical stuff and how to make stuff work, I got rewarded. I got promoted. I got raises. It was all good.
[00:09:56] And then I went to work for a consulting company, and I was doing travel, and working on technical projects with highly technical experts. And again, I got geekier, but I started to run into a wall. One of the things that I needed to know about was how to write better. And my boss actually pointed it out to me and the other folks on the team, and he said, “You guys are not doing a great job with that, so I’m going to bring in somebody to help you with writing, and how to do a better job with writing.” And that was good. At the same time, there was a big emphasis on technical skills. I got more certifications, and took more certification exams and did training, and it was all around geek skills. And that was really where the investments were being made, from my career perspective.
[00:10:40] And after that, I went to work for Marriott. I was at Marriott for 10 years, and I was in a group of…I think I was a senior technical analyst at that time. Again, very geeky, working on geek skills. And I was excited about my opportunities there, focused on geekiness. What could I do to become more geeky, and to be more effective in my technical work? And I was operating under a false assumption. The assumption that I made was that if I worked hard, that my boss would notice, and if I worked hard and did really good work, that I would automagically get promoted.
[00:11:22] Now, this seems reasonable, based on the feedback that I had gotten from my employers up to this point that the more technical skills that I developed, the more I could get promoted. And I was happy about that, but what happened was geek skills were necessary, but not enough. Necessary, but not sufficient. And I didn’t realize that. And so here I was keeping my head down, working hard, trying to get along with people, trying to solve problems with the technical projects I was working on, and I wasn’t getting promoted.
[00:11:56] And I was frustrated about that. I was really frustrated about it. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. And I went to my boss and I said, “Hey, what’s going on?” and he helped me understand that good work is not enough. It’s not enough. I had to do more. And in fact, if I wanted to get promoted, I needed to have a plan about getting a promotion.
[00:12:16] One of my mentors is Jim Rohn. I’ve learned a ton from studying Jim Rohn’s work, and he has a quote on this. He says, “If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” Yeah. That’s the thing. I was working under the illusion that my plan was I’ll just work hard and people will notice, and I’ll move ahead. And that was wrong. What happened was I worked hard, I delivered good solutions, and my boss said, “Thanks, Tom.” And that was it. That was it. That was the whole deal.
[00:12:56] I wanted to move ahead, and I needed to figure out how to do that. But now all of a sudden, I was in a place where I wanted to grow to that next level, but my employer was very happy because I was delivering what they wanted in the role I was in. Why should they have me change? Why should they make additional investments in me? And I was kind of stuck there in my career for a couple of years, while I wrestled with that idea.
[00:13:26] And then I stumbled into an idea. The idea was that I owned my career, that it was my job to figure out what I was going to do, and how I was going to solve it. And that was a big deal for me. And that was a season when I began to buy some books, and I started reading those books. And then I applied some of the ideas that were in the books about how to be more influential, because I said, “I want to be able to do more, and I see that people who are doing more have some skills that I don’t have that are not geek skills. What do I need to do?”
[00:14:00] After I started doing that, the things that I was doing, I was reading about how to connect with others, how to communicate with others, how to get people to want to help me. And man, did it work. And then I said, “Well, this is working.” So I invested more. I bought tickets to go see speakers that I thought would be helpful speakers. I invested my own money in training programs, where I would take time off of work. I would take vacation days from my employer, so that I could go to the training that I wanted. I even invested in conferences that were out of state, where I would have to get on an airplane and stay in a hotel, on my own dime.
[00:13:49] And why did I do that? Because I was betting on me. I was investing in me. When my employer would not invest, I invested in me. And guess what happened. I moved up. I got better as a team member and then they said, “Hey, we need you to be the team lead.” And I got better as a team lead, and they asked me to be the manager. And then from manager, I went up to director. And by the time I left my last job, I was VP of Products for a software company.
[00:15:06] It worked. The investments I made in me made a difference. And investments you make in you will make a difference, too. But all that growth began when I realized that hard work wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough for me to get promoted. I needed a plan. I needed to take action, and I was going to have to spend some money. So let me ask you, “What is your next step in your plan?”
[00:15:31] Now, maybe you think, “Well, gosh. I haven’t thought about that. I don’t have a specific written down plan.” That’s okay. If you like to have some help with that, I’ve got a video online that I call the DVD exercise, and I will share that link in the show notes with you so that you have a chance to take a look at it. It’s a couple of minutes long. You’ll just spend some time thinking about what you want to do next to help give you some clarity. If you want to grow, you’re going to have to invest in you. You’re going to have to bet on you. And that’s today’s Mentoring segment.
Behind the Scenes Segment.
Tom Cooper: [00:16:18] In today’s Behind the Scenes segment, I thought you might be interested to hear about a problem I had, and what it took for me to solve it. Now, as I record this episode, I’m in the process of preparing for the formal launch of this podcast. I’m getting all the pieces ready. It turns out there’s a whole lot to think about, whether it’s iTunes, or whether it’s show notes and transcripts and MP3 formats, etc. But one of the things that I know is that audio quality matters.
[00:18:47] It matters because you are surrounded by what’s called broadcast quality audio all day long. The broadcast quality audio and video, that’s a standard that you have come to expect. And so if something is produced that’s not up to that standard, it sticks out and it doesn’t work. And frankly, if it’s not good enough from a quality perspective, you’re going to turn it off.
[00:17:13] So going back to the first year of my business, I knew I was going to be doing public speaking and I thought, “I’m going to have to have some high quality audio gear.” So I invested in a professional microphone. And I used it a couple of times, but I’ll have to tell you that – like most of the assumptions I made when I started the business – I was wrong. I didn’t need that to be able to speak from stage. It made me feel better, I guess, but basically the mic sat in a box, and it was only occasionally broken out.
[00:17:42] But when I got ready to start this podcast, I pulled it out and I hooked it up. And guess what I learned? I learned that it’s really hard to get good sounding audio, even if you have professional quality gear. And I couldn’t get it to work. I tried everything I could think of. I looked on YouTube, and I poked around in the options in Garage Band that I’m using to do this production. I fiddled with a bunch of settings, and I played with things that sounded less bad. And then it sounded less bad, but I still could not get it to work. What was happening was my volume level was way too low on the recording, and compared to the other things that I was doing, it was just not good enough. And if I tried to turn it up, it sounded terrible. And I wasn’t going to do that to you guys.
[00:18:32] After I had spent a whole bunch of time trying to get to bottom of that, to figure out what it was going to take to get my recording studio up to speed to make it work properly, I eventually reached out to a couple of audio engineers who were geniuses. One is Rob Lawrence from soundtheory.co.uk and the other is Tim Ripley, both of whom are great at understanding the audio, and helping me figure out what was going on. I sent a bunch of recordings off to them to listen to and play with different settings, and they helped me dial in and actually get it working. And finally we figured out what I was doing wrong. But who knew that in order to launch a podcast, I was going to need to become proficient with things like recording levels and compression and sound leveling and reverb. I had no idea.
[00:19:15] My oldest son has been learning to do some audio editing. In fact, Joel is the reason you’re hearing this episode. Thanks, Joel. One of the things that we’ve learned together is the mantra “Garbage in, garbage out.” It is true. If I’m the talent and I record something that sounds awful, there’s no audio engineer in the world that can fix that. And I want to tell you, recording this podcast has been a blast. And I’m excited to be able to share it with you. And I’m really excited about being able to share some of the ideas that I have been learning with my clients and from my clients, as I go.
[00:19:48] So this Behind the Scenes segment has been about…it turns out that to do things that show up in public, there’s a whole lot of stuff that has to happen that nobody ever sees. And it’s been a lot of fun to learn about that, and I’m excited to be able to continue this journey, and I’m thrilled that we’re this far along in the podcast process. And that’s today’s Behind the Scenes segment.
Tom Cooper: [00:20:34] So today, we talked about creating your career plan. Your career plan. We talked about being in a growth environment, and how to set the stage so you can intentionally grow. For today’s hack, I want you to take a few minutes to think about what’s next. What is it that you want to do in your career? Once you’ve thought about what you want to do, what skills are you going to need to do the next job up the ladder? Step one is thinking about what you want. Once you’ve done that, the next step becomes clearer. So today’s Episode Hack is make a plan. If you don’t have a plan, you’re not going anywhere. What are you going to do next? And that’s today’s Episode Hack.
[00:21:23] Thanks for listening to this episode of Becoming a Geek Leader. You can play a part in helping the podcast to grow. If you enjoyed it, please do me a favor. The way to get the podcast to grow is for you to go to iTunes and give it a rating. If enough of you give me a good rating in iTunes, this podcast will show up in their New and Noteworthy section. Being in New and Noteworthy is a great way to attract more listeners, and having more listeners helps me have the support to get the podcast going. There are three simple steps to giving me a rating. One, go to the iTunes Store in the podcast section. Two, search for Becoming a Geek Leader. And three, give the podcast a great rating. And while you’re there, why not write a quick review, as well? Thanks.
[00:22:08] This is Tom Cooper. Thanks for listening. Be sure to join me next time for another episode of Becoming a Geek Leader. Join me and my mission of discovering better ways to lead others, at work and at home.