Do you think success is linked to popularity?
To achieve greatness you have to make some people mad and even hate you along the way. Trust me, I know this!
I recognised that a major issue with people I have worked with over the years as clients or colleagues is that they all wanted to be liked by their peers. They seem convinced that they’ll have great careers if only they can develop reputations for getting along.
I was reading an article on CNN Money yesterday and saw the story of Keith Ferrazzi.
Ferrazzi is a very succcessful CEO who is currently running his own consulting business. He earned his MBA at Harvard in 1992 and quickly became a star at Deloitte Consulting. He then became youngest chief marketing officer in the Fortune 500 at age 32. In 2000 he became CEO of YaYa, a marketing and entertainment company, where he more than doubled revenue each year–even during the dotcom implosion. He sold the company to American Vantage in 2003.
Ferrazzi makes no attempt to hide his ambitions, and advises others to be equally forthright. He was invited to speak to a Stanford Business School MBA class, and he audaciously asked that his new book be made required reading. Then, in a talk sprinkled with expletives, he encouraged students to sort the people they knew into A, B, and C lists based on relevance to their career goals–and to spend more time with the A’s.
With regard to their future jobs, Ferrazzi advised them to focus on activities they do well and stop worrying about being so well rounded. This I agree with and advise the executives I mentor to do. Although he had promised to stay for two classes, he left halfway through the second session to have lunch with a client.
The students were a bit put off by his brash behaviour at first, but they eventually saw how an overwhelming drive not to offend can hamper a career. For example when Ferrazzi graduated from Harvard, he got offers from both Deloitte and McKinsey, he accepted the Deloitte job on one condition: that he could dine with the firm’s CEO, Pat Loconto, three times a year. Deloitte agreed, and Loconto became a valuable mentor. Definitely my type of guy…and something I have done in my career.
By the time Ferrazzi left Deloitte, he sat on Deloitte’s executive committee and had been nominated for partner. When asked how he dared to make a request that might threaten peers and shock his future boss, Ferrazzi says, “It gave me visibility and a leg up on my competitors.” With all the talk about teamwork and authenticity, so in vogue in business world, you should use this as a reminder that no matter how nice you are colleagues aren’t always on our side.
The early days in Ferrazzi’s career–before he had the power that comes with fancy titles–illustrate the advantages of being willing to make waves. Though he joined Deloitte as an entry-level consultant, he behaved like a senior partner from the get-go. Rather than spending all his time on detailed analysis–the bane of most junior consultants–he drummed up new business. He founded the Lincoln Award for Business Excellence, making himself president and persuading top Chicago CEOs to serve as judges and board members.
Few people can summon that kind of courage so early in their careers, but actions like those can put you in a position to be appointed partner or as a senior executive. I must hasten to point out however that you will also have to still deliver high performance.
Of course, some people might say that if you anger enough people on the way up, they’ll eventually take you down. Maybe, but it’s also true that people like to associate with winners. When Ferrazzi first joined Deloitte, he would make a big deal at cocktail parties about what he had done and what he wanted to do. He “blew his own trumpet”. Something I speak about in my book Enthusiasm Unchained. Fellow new hires were put off, but most of them eventually came to like him–or at least to understand that it was in their best interests to be on his A-list.
Many of us achieve modest success by being a standout in the crowd; but still remaining one of the crowd. Going beyond that means dealing with the inevitable consequence that some people will dislike you. Perhaps Steve Spurrier, the former Florida American football coach who compiled a 122-27-1 record and won a national championship, puts it best. “If people like you too much, it’s probably because they’re beating you.”
Give it a try. Take the Business Political Savvy TEST below:
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