Whose Job Are You Working On?

Unless you’ve given up on your career or feel that you have plateaued, the idea of getting promoted remains a driving force behind your day-to-day performance. Conventional wisdom and some empirical data suggest that the first ninety days in a new job are critical in determining if you are going to experience a ‘hard or soft landing’. Other salient factors include whether the promotion is internal or the result of moving to another company/organization.

For example, being internally promoted has its challenges. You are a known commodity in your organization. Still, your colleagues, nonetheless, have formed an opinion on your strengths and weaknesses. Being a member of the tribe, so to speak, is a double-edged sword. Put bluntly, people know you. Your body of work and your management style are public knowledge. On the other hand, if you’ve landed a higher-level job in a new company, you are an unknown commodity–except for the information your new colleagues might have picked up on you via contacts at your former company.

One arrives at a new place without the benefit of what I call ‘relationship equity’.  Relationship equity is the value that comes from knowing and working with others. The problem is that ‘relationship equity’ does not transfer to your next company–you earn it.  Again, per research, you have 90 days to start building this type of equity with your new colleagues.

In addition to building relationship equity, figuring out how to efficiently transition from the old job to the new one is critical. Regardless of whether the promotion is internal or to another company, the crucial question is “Whose job are you working on?” This issue is important because too often promotions are based on how well you did your previous job. In going through my files, I came across a document [ Author Unknown  ]that asked six questions to help determine the answer to “Whose job are you working on?”

The following six questions should be asked and answered by anyone recently promoted:

  1. Are you working on your own (new) job or the jobs of your subordinates?
  2. Are you working on your present job or the jobs you used to have?
  3. Are you preparing yourself for yesterday or tomorrow?
  4. Are you becoming better at your present job or your old job?
  5. Are you concentrating on important matters which make you a high potential leader/manager or on routine matters which lessens your potential?
  6. Have you already been where you’re going?

In summary, the mindset you bring to the new job is essential to improving your probability of success. To keep progressing your career, focus on adding value to the new job and not living off the laurels of your old job. Finally, employ processes like the New Leader Assimilation process developed at Alcoa Aluminum.





Leadership is a very elusive concept. Are leaders born or are they made? Does Leadership always promote good causes and outcomes or does it traffic in the immoral or evil, at times? What caused Hitler, Mussolini, Saddam Hussein and countless others throughout history to use their leadership gifts and abilities towards such evil ends? Deepak Chopra, the renowned author, and lecturer maintains that every leader, regardless of the goodness of the cause they are initially promoting, has a ‘shadow energy’ that portends the dark side of their personalities. According to Chopra, there are seven types of Leaders: Protector, Entrepreneur/Politician, Team Builder, Nurturer, Innovator, Visionary and Saint. Chopra maintains that each of these, including the Saint, has a shadow energy. To illustrate, let us take a look at the shadow energy of the Entrepreneur/Politician type of leader, as described by Chopra.

Chopra states that the Entrepreneur/Politician, for instance, has an insatiable need for achievement, with a leadership response that is driven by ego. Their frame of reference is self-image, and they are object referred. In other words, Chopra submits, their “thinking and behavior are always in anticipation of a response. It is, therefore, fear-based.” He goes on to say that in object referral, “we always feel an intense need to control things. We feel an intense need for eternal power. The need for approval, the need to control things, and the need for external power are needs based on fear.” And, their ‘shadow energy’ is made up of behaviors based on “ruthlessness, perfectionism, intimidation, stubbornness, manipulation, control, selfishness, greed, influence peddling, power mongering, cronyism, and corruption.” This definition does not include all corporate and political leaders. However, the potential for the manifestation of their ‘shadow energy’ is always present–given the right circumstances. Every leader, regardless of the type, should always be vigilant about keeping their ‘shadow energy‘ in check.

One way to keep this ‘shadow energy’ in check is to practice what I am calling Moral Leadership. My definition of Moral Leadership is a sacred covenant between the leader and followers characterized by the leader being ethical, humble, intentional, directional and supportive. Moral leadership, when consciously and consistently practiced, will release the creative energies of the followers. By being ethical on a day to day, minute to minute basis, the moral leader sets the bar high for his/her organization. Regarding humility, a humble leader, first and foremost, listens and does not hog the credit for all the accomplishments of the group. He or she sits down and gives credit to the team when things go well and will stand up to take responsibility when things don’t go so well. Being intentional means explicitly stating why we are doing what we’re doing. As Warren Bennis pointed out, directional leadership requires the leader to “do the right thing” versus the manager’s obligation to “do things right.” How many times have we observed a group being very efficient and effective at doing the WRONG thing? Finally, the enlightened leader is supportive regarding his/her time, coaching, feedback and allocation of resources needed to accomplish the stated goal(s). Remember that a realistic and well-executed goal is always more impactful than the unrealistic, yet, well-written one.

In closing, based on my years of observing leaders, good and bad, I have come up with seven qualities that effective leaders both possess and use.

  • Initiative: readiness and ability in initiating action, enterprise
  • Intuition: a keen and quick insight
  • Insight: penetrating mental vision or discernment
  • Integrity: adherence to moral and ethical principles
  • Intellect: the capacity for thinking and acquiring knowledge
  • Instinct: an innate impulse, inclination towards action
  • Introspection: the act or process of looking into oneself.

Note that each of the qualities starts with the letter “I.” As Michael Jordan once said, “There is no ‘I’ in Team, but there is in WIN!”



The Annual Performance Appraisal

Some very impressive companies have announced that they are moving away from annual performance evaluations of their employees. The rationales given for this radical departure from the past are often based on aspirational statements linked to company values, recruiting and hiring the best and brightest as well as constant feedback from the manager to the employee. In other words, the assumption is that a combination of “real time feedback” and self-motivated employees will thrive in a sort of corporate nirvana. Millennials, we are told, crave and want feedback and mentoring from their managers. Can and would the elimination of the oft-maligned annual performance appraisal deliver on its implied promises?  Admittedly, the old-school practice of annual performance appraisals has some major drawbacks and inherent flaws.

The fundamental problem with the annual performance appraisal lies in the people—not in the process. Of all the energy- sapping organizational complexity that we daily face and grapple with, 80% of it is created by the people. The absence of clearly enunciated performance standards or, put another way, the failure to clearly define “what good looks like” in employee performance is the missing foundational piece. Additionally, there are managers who are incapable, afraid or unwilling to give any feedback until forced by the performance appraisal calendar to rate their direct reports.

Performance that use to be considered unacceptable, run of the mill, second-rate or undistinguished has now nudged its way into the realm of acceptable. This transformation is due to the culture of entitlement that has evolved and engulfed both our society and workplaces Too many employees believe that merely ‘showing up’ merits at least a ‘fully meets’ performance rating. And, too many managers lack the courage of their conviction to stick to this rating. A Fully Meets rating should communicate that the employee did what was expected that he/she was capable of the day they were hired. Consistently going beyond your job description is worthy of an exceeds rating. While ‘showing up’ is one measure used in identifying and measuring performance, it is not the key metric for evaluating performance.

Typically, most organizations use a rating system based on descriptive performance measures like Unsatisfactory, Marginally Meets, Fully Meets, Exceeds and Significantly Exceeds. Because the employee knows that merit pay is tied to performance evaluation, they know that any rating below Exceeds will constrict their annual pay increase. In the mind of many employees, merit pay has become something more akin to an entitled cost of living adjustment (COLA). There is a disconnect between merit or what one objectively earned through performance and the expected annual bump to their base salary. Simply doing away with the Annual Performance Appraisal event does not address the fundamental issue of how to fairly compensate employees for their performance. The challenge is how do we replace the “entitlement culture” with a “performance focused” workplace culture?

Good to great managers of people consistently work together with their direct reports to develop the individual and fairly reward his or her performance. Performance measures must be aligned with organizational goals and work unit objectives. These performance measures must look, primarily, at outputs that drive the enterprise towards reaching or surpassing its annual targets. How is it possible that most employees can be rated exceeds expectations when the enterprise is failing or falling short of organizational objectives? Outputs must be viewed in terms of quantity, quality and timeliness—and most importantly how these outputs move the enterprise forward. Sitting down once a year and giving the employee a surprise rating is both unfair and unprofessional. However, not sitting down formally once a year to give employees feedback and an opportunity to respond is equally unfair. Annual performance appraisal meetings work best when managers frequently dialogue with the employee, periodically check in to see if additional guidance and/or resources are needed and be willing to re-calibrate goals as business situations change or dictate.

In summary, instead of viewing annual Performance Appraisals as a fossil that needs to be put on the growing scrap heap of failed management techniques, organizations should require it be utilized as intended. Eliminating this process and relying on assumptions about a more enlighten workforce is analogous to the old “Emperor is naked” story. Performance appraisals are part of a process—not an event—to ensure that employees are working effectively and efficiently on the right things in the right way to achieve the organization’s business goals.

Managers must be held accountable via upward feedback from employees to the manger’s manager and HR. Data must be collected to ascertain if the manager is giving needed feedback on a consistent basis. No surprises and no confusion is my mantra. Finally, performance appraisals should focus on employee development and contributions–and not be used as a forced distribution device to “rank and yank” employees for budgetary reasons. As the erudite abolitionist, Fredrick Douglass, observed, “you may not get all the pay for, but you will surely pay for all you get.”



Bible Study: Lessons for Leaders


“…And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

1 Corinthians 13

By Kwame S. Salter

The great books of all religions are a record of what constitutes right living for their adherents. I am sure that a close of examination of the Quran or Bible would yield insightful wisdom that is still relevant today. For this discussion, I chose to look into the Bible to find something that might be applicable to working with each other in both a personal and business setting. I decided to reread 1 Corinthians 13 to

1 Corinthians 13 is often read and quoted at weddings and in sermons. Many consider this biblical verse to be sappy and preachy. Yet, upon closer examination it provides a powerful lesson for anyone who seeks to build a strong relationship with a person or group. The verse extols the power of love; ranks love above both faith and hope. Like Tina Turner, in her hit song, hardcore business leaders wonder, “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” What exactly is this thing called love that a business person can get his or her head around? Typically, love is defined as a “deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and solicitude toward a person, such as that arising from kinship, recognition of attractive qualities, or a sense of underlying oneness.” 

Yet, in the white hot heat of business competition, can love really be an effective strategy or tactic? For those of us in leadership positions, the question that still begs an answer is “what’s love got to do with it?” Well, part of the definition speaks to “a sense of underlying oneness.” It is this part of the definition that is operational in the following discussion. Leaders, to be effective, must create a sense of the team acting in concert—with a sense of “underlying oneness.” Therefore, in reading my explication of Corinthians 13, insert the phrase “underlying oneness” every time the word love shows up.

So, let us get on to the explication of this powerful verse section by section:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

Think about the leader who is a smooth, articulate and poised speaker. The words are magic. He/she can explain or justify anything. Walking onstage or at the lectern, their words are mesmerizing, enchanting and, almost, musical. They hit all the right notes, say all the right things, and titillate the senses. For sheer entertainment value they are without peer. Unfortunately, after the sound and fury of their motivational speech dies down, what is left is a sense of emptiness—because their day to day actions are not in line with their pulsating rhetoric. The organization is adrift and leaderless when people need them most. Listening to them is like eating the proverbial Chinese dinner—you are hungry again 30 minutes later. You are hungry for follow through and substantive decision making. You are hungry for a sign or signal that they care about the ‘little people’ who keep the organization going day to day. They are good at building speeches, but not high performance teams.

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

How many times have we been blown away by the super smart leader who is able to explain the complexities we daily grapple with while displaying an unshakable confidence in his/her predictions and strategies? How many times have these geniuses failed because they sought our compliance and not our commitment? Sure, they know what to do, but they failed to realize that how it gets done goes beyond statistical modeling and personal IQ. How it gets done is in the hands of the people who they view as variables in their success equation.

In reality, the people are the constants in their equation. And, if you look down on the people because you consider them intellectually inferior, you will fail. In spite of your high IQ and confidence, you will fail. With apologies to William Arthur Ward who talked about teachers, I would say that: The mediocre leader tells; the good leader explains; the superior leader demonstrates; and, the great leader inspires. Without a committed team, you are nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud…it is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Building high performance teams requires patience, respect for each team member and modesty once the task is successfully achieved. Great leaders are approachable, even keeled and fair. These leaders make sure that there is enough credit to go around. They know when things go well that they should sit down and let the team take the bows. And, on the other hand, when things sputter and go awry, the leader must stand up and take the blame. These enlightened leaders don’t need to ‘hog’ the spotlight. Most importantly, these leaders do not keep an indelible list of everything you did wrong.

Their objective is to “catch you doing something right” and reward you. They can critique your performance without diminishing you as a person. Uncontrollable temper outbursts are not part of their operating style. They want you to be successful because you will make them successful. Their philosophy can be reduced to three words, “Give, Get or Go.” In other words, give something to the collective effort, get something from your mistakes or go—but go with dignity.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth…it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

So much of the complexity that bogs down organizational effectiveness and efficiency is not in our technologies, processes or systems—but rather in us. Too often, the leader sets the wrong tone. Some leaders play individuals against one another, gossip about one employee to another employee or just outright lies about an employee’s competencies or strengths. As such, I would submit that close to 80% of the complexity that slows down a company’s march to meet its strategic objectives, comes from inauthentic relationships between people. We are encouraged to lie about forecasts, deliverables, and key performance indicators to please the bosses.

Our turnaround time is often dependent on who is requesting help. Leaders who are not authentic create inauthentic organizations and counterproductive competition between and among employees. In fact, in many organizations work is defined more by so-called personality conflicts, mind games, political posturing and power plays. Leaders sometimes forget that the definition of work is “activity that leads to a result.” Some of the behavior in today’s organizations mimic the popular and voyeuristic ‘reality shows’ that pockmark today’s television programming.

In summary, if leaders could truly grasp the concepts and teachings in 1 Corinthians 13, the workplace would become more civil and supportive—dare I say, more productive.