Someone’s Talking About You and Me!

Accountability Contribution Organizational leadership


Key Point: Know what people are saying about you! I’ve been through many years of succession or talent planning, a process where responsible leaders actively review who is promotable and ready to rise vertically in the company. The overall objective is to develop a clear understanding and alignment as to where everyone in the organization is relative to matching skills, attributes, and the needs of a changing organization. Some processes are better than others. But excellent leaders embrace their obligation to keep the leadership pipeline rich in talent along with an intentional commitment to developing “human capital” at every level.

Whatever system of talent or performance review is applied, there is a group that emerges in the “outstanding and ready for more” category and there is most often a unanimous view that these are “shooting stars.” If more people understood how few people populated this “upper right corner” and how much control they actually have in populating this category, I believe more of us would aspire to be there. At the same time, my experience is that there are a lot of folks, and maybe even too many, “in the middle.” These folks are important producers, they’re considered “solid,” usually with the capacity for more contribution, although perhaps not vertical position growth. The “middle” includes great team members that drive the daily engine of the company and it is important they continue to grow and develop even if they do not rise to a higher level. Let’s face it… Unless we become the CEO, we all run out of vertical room at some time in the journey.

And then there are the under performers or “blockers” that have slipped into the category, of “needing to grow, improve or leave.” Most of us DO NOT want to be in that group. You want people to have a great conversation about YOU but NOT that one. And if they are, you need to know so you can act on the situation. Once placed in that field or quadrant it’s hard to move forward without a very effective game plan.

It may feel odd or even annoying that people confidentially get in a room to “talk about us,” but they do, even in the most informal, poorly managed organizations. Ideally, this process will continue to become more transparent and each of us will work for leaders who ensure to tell us where we stand, with the respect and dignity we deserve. Hopefully we have enough self-awareness to know. It shouldn’t be a surprise. Ultimately we are the ones that need to consciously drive our own careers.

Character Moves:

  1. Be sure you are constantly improving and adding both skill AND experience, while working on your personal EQ development too. Staying the “same” will guarantee you will eventually slip into the under performer and/or blocker category.
  2. If you want to be considered in the upper right shooting star quadrant, you do not have to be perfect. However, you have to minimally demonstrate four things: A. You constantly achieve measurable results. B. You build relationships and people value your contributions at every level. C. People line up to work with or for you, and D. You always put what’s best for the team and company first. (All of us are expected to be smart, a hard worker, etc., at every level. Don’t expect to be in the upper quadrant on hard work alone). Additionally, these upper quadrant folks have a unique “brand” and “view.” They respectfully speak their minds and take risks. They are not perceived as political “suck ups” to upper levels. Yet, senior executives get to know these people. They are not afraid to “fail” and as a result, win way more often than they lose.
  3. I think I’ve spent most of my career in the upper top right corner, but I’ve also slipped into less desirable categories. It can happen quickly and if you’re a fast riser, the fall can be fast and furious. The career killer is most often an unbridled ego. Applying the Character Triangle values will keep you firmly planted while moving forward. In the end, it’s not about “what box you’re in.” A great career is defined by our personal growth, value we create, what we give of ourselves to others and the meaningful relationships we develop.

Talking about us in The Triangle,


Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

One Millennial View: It’s a good reminder to understand that regardless of what position is emblazoned on your business card, and despite your own perspective of where you stand in the company as a whole, someone is still discussing you and your contribution. Some people might think they fly under the radar. Millennials don’t really need to be told, “if you’re not doing your job, you’re going to lose it.” Most individuals with any wherewithal probably don’t. But if we want to get ahead in an organization we love, it’s easy to forget that hanging out “in the middle” won’t get us there. C’s may have earned some of us degrees in school, but a C effort in the organization isn’t going to score that corner office.

– Garrett Rubis