Your Career Pyramid and Five Tips to Help YOU Stay on Top

A  Sad Tale of Self Sabotage

I was really sadden to read the newspaper article of the fall of a key leader in health care. Let’s call her Suzie May (not her real name).  Suzy May had climbed to the top of a prestigious career as an executive Accountable Officer of a health care organisation. She had come from what the press had called humble beginning, where she climbed the ranks from being student nurse, registering and working as a qualified nurse. She then went into senior management and became one of the few nurse turned executive Accountable Officer. She was at the top of her ‘career pyramid’. Sadly, she received a suspended jail sentence for acts of fraud, and was ordered to carry out 250 hours of unpaid work, facing a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing at a later date.

She was paid over £140,000 as an executive Accountable Officer, and earned just under £30,000 more for a role she led on. She was convicted of financial impropriety with a family member who had undertaken a project for her organisation. Her act was considered to be ‘fraudulent and dishonest’ behaviour.  At the time of writing this, she was currently unemployed, unwell with mental health problems and her expensive home is up for sale facing repossession. “It is her own fault it has all gone up in smoke…..she will never be able to return from this….” said the  reports.. Can you image that echoing into your mind… ‘its my fault…its all my fault’. Some of the commentaries to the articles were unsympathetic and cynical. Shame!

Learning from Others

The purpose of this blog is not to judge anyone or to gloat over anyone’s misfortune whether they brought it upon themselves or not. My purpose here is to reflect and see what can be learnt from this in relation to our own career pyramid. I’m reminded of a series of studies done by Roberts Liardon called God’s Generals where he looked at a  number of powerful and successful men and women of God and began analysing why some succeeded and others did not.

Getting to the top.. and staying there..

The purpose? To learn from their lives and begin to take an honest look at our own and asked ourselves the question ‘what is there about me or within me or my life that could result in my sustained success or my downfall?’ Issues such as overworking, addiction (alcoholism), isolationism, poor people management, self delusion are amongst some of the key lessons as to why some of these men and women did not sustain their position in their height of their careers/ministries.

Lessons from Abby’s Pyramid

I’m an avid watcher of Dance Moms with Abby Lee Miller, their notorious dance teacher. She is known to have a pyramid where the dance students try every week to be at the top of the pyramid. From my many hours of viewing, I have concluded that that coveted place at the top of the pyramid is reserved for those who have performed well at the previous week’s competition, or who have not ‘violated’ her rules, or who have performed well in other areas be it the group dance. Near enough every week Abby will say “Its one thing getting to the top of the pyramid, but its harder staying there!”

Her words were often used to taunt the students, though for others it was used to spur them on to be even better to secure another week at the top off the pyramid. Sadly, Abby sometimes showed no rhyme or reason for who went on top of the pyramid, much to the displeasure of the other dance mums, but there is some reality to that when the goals post are shifted and for no reason clear to yourself your position high up on the pyramid or at the top is threatened.

After some reflection, I have found five keys to help you stay on top of your career pyramid. Some of these are based on established and well accepted principles. Over the next few weeks, we will look a lot closer at some of these keys.

5 Tips to Prevent Self Sabotage:

  1. Self Awareness – its essential to have an awareness of what your weaknesses are be they moral vulnerabilities, or character flaws. There has to be some soul searching as sadly if not identified and dealt with they can potentially lay dormant and rear their ugly head at the peak of your career, where the damage will do most harm..
  2. Being Beyond Reproach – This really should go without saying particularly in a position of leadership, however its vital to have zero tolerance in all areas of your administration. Where you find you are teetering on the verge of compromise, albeit it in what some would consider to be a minor detail e.g. using work phone to book a table for a social event that night, its maintaining a zero tolerance and seeking the support of trusted groups of friends or colleagues where you can share some thoughts/challenges. Those who do not dissuade you from questionable behaviour should have no place in your inner circle of influence and should be cut out asap.
  3. Accountability Groups. These groups are particularly useful for helping you to reflect on your behaviours, your intentions and to receive the perspectives of others. These groups can be useful in helping you to be held to account for taking actions where necessary to correct an area of your life. For instance we at our local church undertook a programme called Soul Talk by Larry Crabb. In these groups we were able to share our hearts and then take responsibility to address key areas with the encouragement and support of others, with a view of inspiring each other to be even better people and leaders. A similar approach of this can be seen in Action Learning Sets which we will cover in another week.
  4. Maintaining Competency – making sure your skills and knowledge are current and well honed for the area in which you have been appointed. This may require a coach to help strengthen your skills
  5. Staying Relevant – recognising what is coming over the horizon and taking steps to be up skilled ahead of that which is needed. In the Hidden Figures film, Dorothy Johnson Vaughan ensured she kept ahead of the IT development and also equipped her team of workers. As a result, they were ahead of the curve for the new computer programme which was being introduced in NASA. In fact, the leader self taught and then was the very person called on to help administer the new programme. She steadily climbed her career pyramid.

Staying Put

I really do agree with Abby Lee-Miller’s statement that getting to the top is one thing, but staying there is harder! By the way, at the time of writing, even Abby Lee Miller had her own career/business challenges.

Sadly, I think nothing is worse than self sabotage and so its vital to find the ‘foxes’ in your character, conduct or values which can spoil the ‘vine’ of your career pyramid, and go for help if necessary. For Suzy May,  media report stated  it was within the area of fraud and dishonesty,  I know of others for whom it has been sexual impropriety or substance abuse. For others it has been a bullish way in treating junior staff. .

Of course there are many factors involved with staying at the top your career pyramid, I’ve only covered some of the ways to avoid self sabotage….we know the other key factors are sabotage by others, but that discussion is for another day……according to Vi…..

 

Vi

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