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The Crisis and Your Career: An Opportunity or a Threat? Final installment in the series

By Pepper de Callier - Part 4 of a 4 part series

NOTE TO THE READER: The name and titles of the people interviewed for this series reflects the positions held at the time of original publication in 2010.  The information, insights, and relevance are as fresh today as they were then. PdeC

Last time I promised to give you a powerful formula.  Here it is: M = [i] x [v].  I’ll explain what it means and how it ties everything together later, but first let’s get some final thoughts from our panel of leaders about ways in which you can differentiate yourself in this and all the other recessions that will follow this one, for the rest of your career.

Let’s begin with this one from Magdalena Soucek, “How is the profile of a valued employee changing today?  People must take responsibility for their personal development.  For example, because of the fast-paced technology-driven environment of today, someone who figures out how to not only stay current but ahead of the curve is a valuable long-term contributor.  These are the people who become valued resources on a number of levels.”

“Do a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis on yourself,” stresses Tomas Sabatka, “Face the truth and react on that recognition.  It takes courage and energy to identify and solve high priority problems, whether they are problems in your career, your company, or your life.  But the sustainable rewards in life go to those who do this on a continuing basis.”

It sounds counter-intuitive at first, but not when Mike Short explains it, “Be ready to rock the boat.  Don’t get caught up in your day-to-day activities.  When you understand the interconnected activities of your business and how the pieces fit together, you’re ready to step back, see the bigger picture, and offer innovative suggestions.  This is how people leave their mark on their position, on their brand, and on the company.  These are the people who are sought out no matter what cycle the economy happens to be in.”

Jane Hannah: “In a word—mindset.  That’s what it’s all about.  A person with the right mindset will always find a way to contribute, to step out of their comfort zone to gain valuable experience and knowledge. Someone’s mindset sends powerful signals in all directions of an organizational chart.  It can make someone highly desirable as a team member, or it can have quite the opposite effect, and in tough times, someone’s mindset can be the determining factor as to whether they remain on the team or not.”

As you may have noticed, there is a lot of similarity in what you need to do and what your boss needs to do in this crisis.  He or she is guiding the company through this crisis and into the future and you are doing the very same thing with your career and, by extension, your family. Our leaders have been unanimous in their comments about being proactive, whether you’re running a company or you’re the “CEO” of your career the message is clear—act or be acted upon, or in the words of Tomas Sabatka, “Don’t be held hostage by circumstances—do your own personal turnaround.”  What are some of the things we’ve learned in this series?  We’ve learned that the short-term demands of the crisis must be balanced with the long-term impact of decisions taken because of the impact on brands—company as well as career brands. We’ve learned that tough decisions may need to be made that may cause temporary inconvenience.  We’ve also learned that no matter how volatile outside forces may be, good leaders don’t let them change their internal forces—character and integrity. And, since we now know that leadership qualities can be displayed at all levels of an organization, this applies to all of us.

The essence is this: Yes, these are tough times and you can be sure that more tough times will follow—economic cycles are very predictable: nothing ever stays the same.  The wise people, however, are those who not only plan for the counter cycle they are in, but they act on that plan.  They act with intelligence, discipline, integrity, character and caring.  And in doing so, no matter at what level they are in an organization, they inspire trust, confidence, and cooperation in others, all of which lead to a truly cohesive team that is capable of overcoming formidable obstacles and achieving impressive, sustainable results.  There is an interesting paradox here: these elements we have been discussing in this series are not only requirements of competent leadership, they are also the requirements of competent followership.  Think about that for a second.  We want to follow competent leaders because they will lead us in the right direction.  So, isn’t only natural that competent leaders want to work with competent followers because then they can be assured that their plans will be executed properly?  There is a reciprocal responsibility.          

Now, how does M = [i] x [v] tie this all together?  This is what makes the difference between an average person and a hero, between an average contributor and someone who is indispensable, and between a good employee and a great leader.  M, or motivation, is equal to the level of your interest [i], times the value [v] you place on whatever you are contemplating doing.  A high level of interest in accomplishing something that one places a great deal of value in creates a powerful and virtually unstoppable force—motivation. This simple formula is what drives amazing accomplishments, from leading the Velvet Revolution, to leading yourself through this crisis whether you are an individual contributor or a leader of thousands.  Now, let me ask you a question. The answer to this question is what determines whether I will coach someone or not and I always ask it.  “Do you have a high level of interest in doing this and do you place a high value on its accomplishment?”  If you can answer in the affirmative about whatever it is you’re doing now, or are about to do, I predict a rewarding and fulfilling future for you no matter what crises lie in front of you or external obstacles you may encounter.  

(With additional thanks to my younger son, Rhys, for introducing me to The Formula many years ago.)

About the Author: Pepper de Callier is one of the most respected senior executive coaches and authorities on leadership in Europe. Learn more about him at     

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