I was honored to interview the author of Pipe Dreams: 7 Pipelines of Career Success and below is the conversation…
Q: What was the impetus to writing, Pipe Dreams: 7 Pipelines of Career Success?
One of my greatest satisfactions is helping other people reach their potential. My main motivation for writing the book was to help employees take charge of their careers. My intention was to share what successful people do to actively manage their careers and achieve their dreams and lifestyle that they desire and deserve.
I was on the train to work one day and thinking about clients of mine over the years from different organizations who would come to me feeling frustrated and stuck with their careers. A common pattern I noticed was that employees were often counting on other people (e.g. their boss, peers, or family members) to tell them what they should do. Many of these same individuals mistakenly subscribed to any number of common myths and were held back by limiting beliefs about what achieving career success requires. They lacked clarity around what would lead to greater fulfillment and satisfaction at work (and in life). These clients often blamed others for their misfortunes when things didn’t work out rather than taking the time to understand themselves better, become clear on what they want, and take necessary actions to reach their career goals. The book is meant to help readers understand different factors that play into career satisfaction and success. I wanted to write a book that would provoke their thinking and empower them to take greater control over their careers.
Q: You have worked at Fortune 500 and small nonprofits – what you do you feel are the biggest differences in terms of leadership?
For me personally, I think the level of sophistication and academic background has differs when it comes to leadership. While I have worked with many outstanding nonprofit leaders who are motivated and driven by a passion for the cause, oftentimes they don’t necessarily have formal training in how to run a business operation. There’s resistance among employees in many nonprofit organizations that they are actually businesses and need to be just as mindful about their bottom line as much as the social mission.
Fortunately, I’ve also noticed a significant positive shift in the last 10 years or so. There’s been more nonprofit leaders going back to get business education and degrees. I’ve also noticed a growing interest in hiring more employees with business backgrounds. Third, it’s becoming more common practice for nonprofits to adopt a more entrepreneurial mindset when it comes to carrying out their mission – such as cultivating social enterprises that generate alternative sources of revenue for the organization, which can significantly help nonprofits become more sustainable in the long run.
While there are many Fortune 500 organizations with a strong sense of purpose, I think the passion that nonprofit leaders have for their cause enables them to sustain greater levels of faith, engagement and to experience greater fulfillment overall; particularly during challenging times. This is purely based on my personal experiences — I know there are clearly exceptions to this.
Q: What are some comment threads? Common threads?
People are people. There are effective and ineffective leaders in both types of organizations. In my experience, the qualities that make a great leader transcend the type of organization s/he works for. Inspiring others, treating people with respect, empowering employees to act, demonstrating courage and grit, and extending individual consideration to others are all all elements of a great leader in just about any organization.
Q: Are there any trends you are noticing when it comes to Talent Mgt or developing newer leaders within an organization?
There seems to be greater emphasis on identifying and developing individual employees earlier in their careers with leadership potential. Leadership “agility” is a big buzzword in corporate circles today. Senior leaders are looking for employees who can readily anticipate and adapt to changing business needs. Likewise, they want and need future leaders who possess a broad base of experience and are adept and developing and managing relationships and partnerships among multiple stakeholders.
With a huge wave of baby boomers beginning to retire, there’s more discussion on how to accelerate the development of employees representing the millennial generation to fill the gap in experience that exists in many organizations. Also, the adage of “doing more with less” is still front and center and successful leaders know how to manage scarce resources while leveraging the strengths of employees that are in their organization.
Among colleagues of mine at other corporations, it appears to be greater emphasis on instituting more formal processes for capturing and transferring knowledge from one generation of leaders to the next. With the advent of social media, the new generation of employees has grown up with instant feedback and greater access in connecting with leaders at the highest levels. They crave feedback and personal growth opportunities. Many organizations are shifting emphasis on how they manage employee performance and shifting towards managing performance in a more flexible and empowering way. I’ve also seen a greater recognition and formal efforts to increase mentoring and the business value of coaching as an accelerate the development and readiness of high potentials employees for assuming greater levels of leadership.
Q: What advice would you give someone who feels “stuck” in their current position?
A large part of what I do as a coach is help employees and leaders understand why they are stuck. The more you can understand yourself the easier it will become to get “unstuck.” As such, I recommend that individuals to work on increasing their self-awareness to recognize untapped strengths and blind spots that may be preventing them from moving forward. They should develop clarity around where they want to go, and work on overcoming fears of change and taking risks.
In my Pipe Dreams book, I discuss the 7 Pipelines model which includes preparing for your future success and getting clarity around your passions, purpose, preferences, personality, principles/values, potential, and performance. These dimensions all come together to shape a compelling new direction and clarify next steps to help you get to where you want to go. A key takeaway is to recognize that no one will care more about your own career than you. However, you don’t have to go at it alone — seek out feedback and support from others that you know and trust.
Mike Gellman is an organizational consultant, coach, and speaker with 15+ years experience in Fortune 500 and nonprofit organizations. He is the author of Pipe Dreams: 7 Pipelines of Career Success For more information, go to MikeGellman.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.