Home » Ron Carucci on Rising to Power: The Journey of Exceptional Executives (Transcript)

Ron Carucci on Rising to Power: The Journey of Exceptional Executives (Transcript)

So here’s just some of the things we found that were a little bit shocking to us 69% of the people in our research said, we were not prepared for the roles I’m sure, in your department, that wouldn’t be the case But in other companies, that’s what people told us. 76% said that all of the formal development efforts they had undergone did not prepare them for the challenges they faced. They had great theories and models and read some interesting articles, but what they faced in the challenges was never covered in any of their learning developments. And most of them had no coaching. Most of them had no preparation work before, and none of them– it was in the 80% of what they had afterwards 67% of them struggled to let go.

So they took– as they escalated, they took the work with them. One of the interesting things about the notion of power, we studied, how do people handle the notion of power? And these days, that’s a pretty important conversation 60% of them felt like impostors. They felt like people ascribed more power to them than they actually felt they had themselves. And so they struggled to reconcile feeling like they’re going to, at some point, find me out.

So you can see here, these are not pretty stats, right? This begins to give a picture for why it is that so many promising young professional aspiring leaders are arriving in positions that they’re not ready for. We can do better. We absolutely can do better. So one of the metaphors we use in the early part of the book is this is very much like wing-walking. Long before you were born, people in the early part of the 20th century would actually get up– both for aerial entertainment, but also to learn how to refuel planes– would walk across the wing.

And of course, the rule number one in wing-walking is never let go of the strut you’re holding onto until you have a firm grip on the strut you’re going to, because that doesn’t go well. Well, too many wing-walkers either let go too soon, or they couldn’t let go. They became paralyzed. And they could never cross the wing. But both types of failures happen on the way up.

Leaders get too confident and too cocky, and they just fly up there without taking lessons with them, or they freeze, and they get paralyzed in the terror of a different orientation and a different view of the world. So here are some of the– five of the numbers of things we found on the way up. How many of you have been involved here at Google in interviewing people for other jobs? Now, I know a little something about your selection process. You actually do a decent job of asking people for evidence-based behavioral events of their accomplishments. But many organizations still interview people using what? Their resume.

And what is it they do with the resume? This is the part where you talk. They go through it. Right. And then you hear eerie statements like this. Wow, look at those great apps you built at your company! That’s what we need! Or, my gosh, look at this incredible sophisticated coding and engineering work you’ve done at your company. That’s what we need!

Or, wow, look at these great brands you were part of building. That’s what we need! What’s happening in that statement? You’re setting somebody up to fail, because here’s the message you’re sending. You’re saying to them, you have a formula. You have a recipe for success that we would like you to bring here. How many of you have watched people enter the organization– maybe not here at Google, but maybe other companies– and have it not go well? And what’s the term we use after about six or seven months? They’re not a good fit. Right? Which is code for all kinds of things, usually not the issue of a fit.

It’s a failure of context. Right, this person failed to read the tea leaves. They come in with this mythical mandate to prove themselves. You told me this is what you wanted. Right? So they take the bait, and they come in, whether they’ve risen up and got hired by somebody inside, or came in from the outside, they have a mandate. So they took it seriously.

Well, the mandate is devoid of context, right? I don’t want your success formula slapped on my organization. I’m assuming there is some wisdom you can bring with you from those experiences that you can contextualize here. But if you fail to learn me before you try and change me, that’s not going to go well.

So from the very beginning, many of these leaders with promising talent and otherwise important contributions failed because they had this mandate that they believed they had to follow, that they should have never followed. Well, so let’s play this out.

So what happens when I’m trying to slap on this formula of success you told me you wanted, and it’s not working? What have you seen happen to the person who’s not being able to get traction? What do you see in them? They get frustrated. And why are they frustrated? They’re not making impact. And they were told to make impact.

So my first conclusion about why I’m not making impact is usually not, it must be me. Right? It’s usually you didn’t– I go to the hiring manager. You didn’t tell me it was this bad. Or, you didn’t tell me they were this resistant. And so now my diagnosis of what’s not working becomes an indictment and a judgment of why they can’t get this brilliant thing that I brought. Right?

What happens when those around this person feel indicted by their presence? And usually it sounds like this. Well, at Apple, we– or, well, at Microsoft, what we did was– and what are people saying in the hallway? If I hear one more story about where they came from– right? So now, the minute they start talking, when I was– that’s it. I’ve tuned out. What comes next could be brilliant. It could be an amazing solution to the problem we’re solving. I am not going to hear it, because I don’t give a crap about where you learned it.

And what you’re telling me, whether you mean to or not, is you don’t give a crap about where you’re applying it. Right? So now, this could have all happened in three months, six months, whatever. But look, the death spiral’s already begun. And I have had no impact.

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