Why Do We Fixate on Failure Instead of Celebrating Career Success?

Why Do We Fixate on Failure Instead of Celebrating Career Success?

Taunee Besson, CMF, CareerCast.com Senior Columnist

Marcus Wellington, guru of the "Strengths Revolution" and author of First Break All the Rules, was a recent speaker at SMU's Tate Lecture Series. Although he is a professor now, he spent a number of years spearheading Gallop's Global Leadership training division.

His presentation on the importance of innate transferable job skills was gratifying, but no revelation to a veteran career planner. However, he quoted a few statistics that surprised me.

Over a period of years, his consulting team asked workers in the US, Canada, UK, China, Japan and France two questions:

  1. "Do you have the opportunity to use skills you do well (enjoy) on a daily basis?
  2. Is it more important to focus on where you excel or what you need to improve?"

In all of these countries, only 15-19% of people said they were able to employ their best skills daily! Assuming this is true, the other 85-90% are slogging along, getting the job done, but leaving the greater part of their talent on the table.

The collective answer for question two was a stunner as well. In the United States, 59% of those queried believe improving poor career skills is more important than capitalizing on ones that come naturally.

The dreaded performance review reflects this mindset. Supervisors zero in on employee deficits instead of focusing on their strengths. As a result, the global workforce is spending most of its time trying to fix what's wrong instead of making the most of what's right.

Yet time and again, Gallop's extensive surveys prove that individuals and teams who are always the most successful are keenly aware of their skills. They instinctively position themselves to take advantage of their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. Many highly regarded studies conclude that, "Concentrating on strengths increases job satisfaction, productivity and profits." Wellington's findings, while provocative, aren't groundbreaking. Yet despite substantial information to the contrary, both management and employees continue their perverse pursuit to eliminate the bad and discount the good.

From another perspective, it's intriguing to contemplate whether the financial services industry has identified the most important skills required to be truly successful (or not) in its arena. For instance, in its sales careers, firms have chosen to reward transactional skills as opposed to relational ones. Fiscal responsibility and customer service no longer seem to be part of the equation. Short-term producers are the "best and brightest," yet their penchant for bottom-line-this-quarter thinking led to disaster for the economy world-wide.

To build companies that are destined for long-term success, corporate cultures and management must determine the skills most critical to enduring achievement and recruit people who possess them. There needs to be a balance among the behaviors that rewards stock holders, management, employees and customers. When organizations decide one or two of these groups is more important than the others, bubbles occur and bad things happen.

What do you look for in employees who will ensure your organization's ongoing success?

Senior Columnist Taunee Besson, CMF, is president of Career
Dimensions, Inc., a consulting firm founded in 1979 that works with
individual and corporate clients in career transition, job search,
executive coaching, talent management and small business issues. She is
an award-winning columnist for CareerJournal.com and a best-selling
author of the Wall Street Journal's books on resumes and
cover letters. Her articles on a variety of career issues have
appeared on numerous career/job websites and trade and business
journals. Ms. Besson has been quoted numerous times in The Wall Street Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Business Week, Time, Smart Money, and a
number of other websites and publications.

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