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October 2018
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There’s more than one way to succeed in a job

You’ve been gunning for that promotion: working hard, bringing ideas and making yourself visible and valuable to the company. The position you wanted finally opened, and you got the job.

Uh-oh. Now what? The person you’re replacing moved onto another organization. She was effective in the role, well respected and conveyed natural authority. Perhaps you don’t possess as much of that same assertive, no-nonsense quality. You’re more personable and collaborative but maybe lacking in the aggressive nature to push things through and deal with opposition. What if people come to see you as weak? What if the company starts lamenting the loss of your predecessor and regrets promoting you?

The good news is that there’s more than one way to succeed in a given role. The other good news is that companies often have a conception of an ideal performer in a position, but few applicants are ever going to check all the boxes. Just as you have perceived limitations, so did the person who held the role before you. Do you see any perfect employees walking around who never ask questions and do everything flawlessly from the get-go? Of course not.

Play to your strengths

Although emulating successful people is, in a general sense, a good philosophy, you can’t force yourself to be someone you’re not. The pretense eventually crumbles (try coaching someone who hates details to be more detail focused and see how long the new behaviors last.) Everyone has a personal work style, and the key is to make your style work for you.

Depending on who you talk to in the organizational-development field, personal work styles may labelled as facilitator, implementer, delegator, director, expresser, thinker, creator and so on. Imagine you are a facilitator, whereas the person who held the role before you was a director. You might be less comfortable issuing orders and pressing people for results, but, on the other hand, you are probably better at bringing people together, fostering teamwork and identifying hidden skillsets in your employees.

This is not to imply one style is better than the other. The previous manager may have empowered people by saying, “Take ownership of this challenge and deliver a result in two weeks. The methodology is up to you.” You could empower the same employee by saying, “I noticed you are good at [skill]. Let’s work together to develop it so you can take on more interesting and varied responsibilities going forward.”

[But maybe sound less like a fictive quote from a business blog when you say it.]

Awareness breeds understanding

Ideally, you will not only develop an awareness of your style but also the work styles of each team member, your manager and the cross-functional peers with whom you work closely. By understanding each other’s strengths, motivations and limitations (which all derive from our intrinsic personality dynamics), the entire group can become better at communicating and collaborating, and you’ll be able to define the role for yourself instead of trying to measure up to your predecessor’s accomplishments.

The example above only looks at one work-style scenario, and it might not describe your situation. The point is to gain self-awareness so that you know how to leverage your strengths and motivations for success. Then, when you move farther up the ladder in the future, you’ll be able to look back on your experience and belt out, Sinatra style, “I did it my way.”

Now that’s a style.

About Caliper - For nearly half a century, Caliper has been helping companies achieve peak performance by advising them on hiring the right people, managing individuals most effectively and developing productive teams. The accuracy, objectivity and depth of our consulting approach enable us to provide solutions that work for over 25,000 companies. To find out more about how Caliper can help you identify and develop people who can lead your organization to peak performance, please visit us at  or call us at 609-524-1200. Email to contact Caliper.