Fast-trackers: Are they Climbing With Their Mirrors & Open Minds?

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The most challenging (and for me, REWARDING) aspect of leadership is the intersection of people & results.

Grow People, Grow Business.  PERIOD.  And the reverse is also true.

But like most things.  This says easy, does hard.  I can rattle off a few reasons….

  1. Not everyone views their job as something other than a 4 letter word.  They just want to do their job, check in, check out, collect their well earned compensation.
  2. Some cultures are simply suffocating, toxic, political, or just generally not conducive to the individual that wants to grow.
  3. Top leaders can be too consumed with pressures of the business vs. the need to develop individuals.  In other words, “I’ll get to that after I deal with…..”
  4. The individuals have simply not dealt with their big life barriers (real or perceived).  In particular, they ignore the must humbling and powerful tool in business (and life):  THE MIRROR

Let’s focus on #4, for one simple reason, it’s controllable.  And painfully hard to get people to understand.  But the mirror is a bigger symbol for some vs others.

Leaders deal with all kinds of people, but generally they can be categorized into groups, just like market segments.

  • Climbers– Driven individuals that seek more pay, title, responsibilities, some with realistic expectations and some have wildly crazy expectations.  Some put great points on the board, some just want to climb regardless of the scoreboard.  Tend to have better than average talent/raw ability.  They also tend to know it, sometimes remind you of this fact, and generally have high ego strengths.  Performance can be highly volatile, sometimes off the charts, sometimes toxic.
  • Plodders – “OK” performers.  Good soldiers.  Some occasional issues.  But most organizations are able to keep the lights on with a great core of plodders.  Maybe not thrive, but certainly survive.
  • Complainers/Debbie Downers (DD) – DD’s never met a situation that couldn’t spark gloom and doom.  Performance is all over the board, some are strong, some aren’t.  Classic glass half empty people, always finding the darkness vs the light.  I’ve rarely met a DD in life that is generally happy, fulfilled, satisfied with where they are in life, career, etc.
  • Grinders – They just get the job done.  All work, no drama, sometimes hard to read, sometimes introverted.  Performance tends to be a solid “B.”  Grinders do more than keep the lights on, they allow top management to sleep well at night.  These are the in-sung heroes in business.

A great friend and mentor of mine has a brutal expression:

“If I could buy you for what you’re worth, and sell you for what you THINK you’re worth, I’d be a rich man.”

OUCH.  Brutal (especially if the expression is directed at you!).

Nothing like a pithy quote with biting humor to bring a point home, damage the ego and level someone up!  Especially in the world of compensation that is often fraught with emotion, grey area, mis-leading market data, etc.

Compensation is not an easy topic to confront, especially with climbers.  Ignoring the climbers needs and motivations however is probably not in either parties best interest.

Rational Check List

  • Is the Climber a cultural fit?  Do they feel like the company’s core values, or are they a bit “off-center?”
  • Do they ADD to the talent around them and make other’s better, or are they an individual climber?  If your business values the team concept, it’s important to distinguish where the climber fits.
  • What’s the “market value” of the climber?  Same company size, same industry.
    • Plenty of sites can lend data, but few level up same industry, size and scope of job equally for a realistic comparison.  Anything else starts to get into massive grey area.  What good does it do comparing a service industry “director” where capital requirements are low, margins are high vs. a capital intensive, low margin manufacturing business where the lion’s share of employee base may earn less than $30k?
  • What’s the cost to replace the climber?
  • Should the climber even be engaged, or should you be looking at your grinders?

Maybe most important when understanding the climber?  How strongly do they believe in the mirror test?  How thick is their skin to absorb critical feedback?  

Many people want to make more money.  But are they willing to listen to critical feedback, absorb it, and make the changes that may be needed to make take their performance to a new level?  If YES, hang onto the climber.

If not?  That’s a much harder situation, and all too common.

Last, another brutal little expression:

“An asset is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.”  A house.  A Stock.  A person. 

A market starts with one human, not the average of a bunch data points slammed together.  In other words, the market is usually sitting directly in front of the climber.  

For climbers, and LEADERS, this is one thing I know to be true.  The stronger the mirror test on all sides, the quicker Leaders and Climbers move together, in the same direction, with high energy and lots of fun.

Climbing without a strong mirror, and receptive ears along the journey is a ticket to stress.  It’s the leaders job accompany the climbers on their journey, but only for those that carry both.  

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