Susan Strayer, a friend of mine, posed a question on twitter the other day (by the way, come follow me there – it’s a very cool platform): “Can you sum up your expertise in 140 characters or less?” Great question. A few people took her up on the challenge. Me being an overachiever, I did it in three words. Before I dive in, let me set some context.
For some odd reason, headhunters like to talk to me. Maybe it’s because I actually pick up the phone and listen to them. Or maybe because I’ll have them send me a job spec and I’ll forward it along to colleagues who might fit the role (which makes the headhunter’s job infinitely simpler and, incidentally, it gives me first crack at seeing the opportunities before I pass them along). Occasionally though, I’ll talk to them about a role for me. Invariably they ask me to summarize my experience.
That’s the moment where Susan’s “twitter pitch” approach comes in really handy. Mine goes something like this:
“I like roles where I can demonstrate two things: leadership and impact.”
When they ask me to explain and elaborate, I articulate how I view leadership as both people leadership and thought leadership. I can then use that structure to explain roles I’ve been in and how I’ve led in those respective areas. It gives the headhunter an easy framework to understand my experience in that arena.
As I explain leadership in these two domains, I’m sure to give examples like the ones I articulate here on the blog. And no, they’re not always the stories about how things went perfectly. Occasionally I cover moments that were less than stellar but I’m sure to point out what I learned in that particular situation (for more on screwing up, check this out).
Next comes impact. To me, I view impact in a semi-criminal way: I want to have my fingerprints all over the organization by the time I depart. I want to be able to point to ways the business was different after I had been there (and hopefully those are all positive changes). For example, I like telling interviewers about how my team and I made some changes to some models we were responsible for and the impact was an incremental $125MM of net income the following year. Impact. The organization was better off because I had been involved and focused on making changes that built capabilities.
Impact has to be tangible. Your involvement has to be direct and meaningful. Your desire to change the organization has to stem from an internal obligation to drive the business forward (rather than an external motivation driven by the desire for fame and fortune). Having impact for the sake of the organization is a hundred times more attractive than having it for the sake of your bonus.
I encourage you to take a step back and evaluate how you’ve left your fingerprints on the organization. What impact have you had? How will people answer the question of “what did he/she do while they were here?” after you’ve moved on to a new role? Will your fingerprints be nice sharp ones or will they be smudges like the ones left by three-year-olds with a mushy chocolate bar?
If you’re new to your role, have you defined the impact you desire to have? Have you laid out a plan to have that effect? Do you know how you’ll measure and articulate your accomplishments?
I pose these questions not only to help you with job interviews (although having the answers to these will definitely improve your chances of landing that role). I pose them because you don’t want to go to work on autopilot. Have a purpose. Define how you want to change the world around you then go lead your organizations to have that desired impact. Knowing where you want to go is the most critical step in actually getting there. Now sit down and chart that path.
Please share your comments and thoughts (and I encourage you to come follow me on twitter to do so – it forces you to be pithy in 140 characters or less). Additionally, come join our webinar on October 3rd where I’ll cover more about leadership and thought leadership. I hope to see you there.
– Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC