Do You Love the Heat?

Accountability Growth mindset Organizational leadership


Key Point: When reflecting on what’s happened in my career, I realize that I’m a “heat seeking junkie.” I just love standing at the edge not really knowing what the heck I’m going to do to achieve some gargantuan objective. When I was a rookie 21-year-old Phys. Ed teacher, I was assigned to coach every boys and girls team, teach English, and even sex-ed if you can believe it. I had no real experience or template. When I became the VP of Sales for a publicly traded technology company, with more than 400 sales people, I had never led a sales organization before. When reporting directly to the chairman of a Fortune 50 company, I was in a role that was responsible for leading the strategic transformation of the organization. Yikes! Ok, you get the drift.

According to 30 years of Center for Creative Leadership (CCL®) research, as noted by Nick Petrie, in the “How-To of Vertical Leadership Development:” “Leaders develop most rapidly when facing what are known as ‘heat experiences.’ You know that you are in a heat experience when confronted with a task or assignment that has the following conditions:

  1. It is a first time experience.
  1. Results matter
  1. There is a chance of success and failure. 
  1. Important people are watching.
  1. It is extremely uncomfortable.

When leaders look back at their careers and describe their time of greatest growth, they invariably tell stories of their most intense “heat experiences.” While most people work hard to avoid the heat, learning-agile people actually seek it, often over three-year cycles:

Year 1:

They take on an assignment in which they are in over their heads. They scramble to work out how to stay afloat.

Year 2:

They start to get the hang of it and performance and results improve.

Year 3:

They experience some mastery. They begin to feel bored and restless. They start looking around for more heat.

In my years doing this work, the greatest developmental advantage I’ve seen is a leader who has learned to love high temperatures. Have the leaders in your organization learned to love the heat? Have you?”

So people tell me based on the data of 360-degree feedback, that I’ve developed myself into a capable executive leader. To the extent that’s true, being a heat seeker has definitely contributed.

Character Moves:

  1. Take the “heat seeking test” as noted above. Have you sought out those opportunities? Often these challenges are not handed too you. You have to search them out and take a risk. The worse good thing that could happen to you is that you will “fail.” I promise you will learn and recover, regardless what stage of life you’re in. 
  2. Look for more heat. What three year heat cycle is in front of you? More of the same? Well, then don’t expect to grow vertically. Repeating the same experience year over year is usually not growing, it’s repeated stagnation.  

Heat in The Triangle,


One Millenial View: I’ve become a big fan of the desert, and an uncomfortably high temperature is something I’ve learned to appreciate. When it comes to the climate of my office, I’ll be first to admit I talk way more about heat seeking than perhaps practicing it, but reminders like this are always a good push towards a new flame. Most importantly, especially as Millennials, we have to remember that no one is going to necessarily start a fire for us and we have to spark up our own gasoline.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis