Are you the victim of your own success?

By Priscilla Douglas

Are you the victim of your own success? You’ve heard the proverb, “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” You are probably one of the best “hammerers” in your organization, or management wouldn’t have selected you for promotion. But when conditions change, what had been a strength becomes a liability. And because it’s something you value and that has served you well in the past, that’s the last place you’ll look for the source of your trouble. But you are pitching fastballs in the bowling match.

A brilliant engineer, Tom had risen quickly in the organization. His technical acumen and his problem-solving ability were legendary; his name was on dozens of patents. Now he was ready—or thought he was ready—to move from engineering to the corporate side of the business. But he had a big problem: he considered himself the smartest person in every room.

Most of the people I work with now aren’t engineers—in fact, none of them are. So I spend countless hours—I waste my time—explaining why we can’t do things. Why should I listen to them, when I already know what they are going to say?

His manager had a different take:

Sure, he’s the best engineer in the company—maybe in the history of the company—but he won’t go any farther until he learns to listen and work with people.

The very thing that got Tom there—his technical expertise—was impeding his progress because it was interfering with developing the skills that were essential to the next level: listening and collaboration.

Truth be told, Tom was never a good listener, but until now he never had to be! His blind spot wasn’t a problem until he wanted to move into a role where collaborative skills were essential to success. Tom had to “wake up” and recognize that his old habits blocked his success.

Take a look– are you using the same old tools even when they are obsolete?  If yes, time to “up” your tool kit.  

From Chapter 10:  How Do I Lead

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