Luis’ career had been a series of triumphs. After completing a five-year engineering program in four years, he experienced immediate success in his new company. Technically strong, innovative, and action-oriented, he was promoted several times, Robert E. Quinn writes in his terrific book, The Deep Change Field Guide.
But now as a supervisor, for the first time, he was receiving negative feedback from his leaders. His hard-edged strategies and technical models were not working. His ideas and proposals were regularly rejected and he was passed over for the next promotion.
Several times, Luis’ manager shared how impressed he was with another member of the team because no matter how early the boss arrived for work, the colleague’s car was always in the parking lot.
Luis asked his colleague about his early arrival time. The man explained, “I have four teenagers who wake at dawn. The mornings in my house are chaotic, so I come in early. I read the paper, have some coffee, and then start work at eight.”
At first, Luis was angry. His colleague was being praised for behaviors that had nothing to do with his commitment to the company.
Then, he began to laugh. Later, reflecting, Luis said: “From that point forward, everything started to change.”
“He came to appreciate that perception, or what he called political reality, is as important – and real – as technical reality,” Robert writes. At that moment, his assumptions were transformed and his thinking processes became more complex.”
“The frustration and pain turned out to be positive things because they forced me to consider alternative perspectives,” Luis remarked. “At higher levels, what matters is how people see the world, and everyone sees it a little differently. Things change more rapidly. You are no longer buffered from the outside world. Challenges are more complex, and it takes longer to get people on board. I decided I had to be a lot more receptive and a lot more patient. It was an enormous adjustment, but finally things started to change. I think I became a much better manager.”
Robert and Gretchen Spreitzer, his colleagues at the University of Michigan, have analyzed the assumptions professionals make about their personal and professional success. Their findings suggest that people tend to hold one of four different “success scripts,” a set of assumptions about what types of behaviors make someone successful. Robert writes: “It may be that these scripts follow a developmental pattern.”
Responsive Service (8% of people in the study): “I am at my best when given an assignment that allows me to serve others. I love work that matches my ideals. When the task is completed, I am satisfied because my work has made the world a better place. I then move on, looking for a new opportunity to serve.
Independent Task Pursuit (28%): “I am at my best when I am given an assignment that is specific. I organize in a careful, analytical way. I define clear objectives and make detailed timetables. I work alone… I feel fulfilled when I receive approval after the task is complete.”
Intense Achievement (46%): “I am at my best when I am challenged to demonstrate my ability and have the opportunity to obtain appropriate rewards. I take charge of groups to provide vision and direction. I am intensely action-focused, overcoming barriers and emphasizing goal achievement. I feel fulfilled when I reach my goals and others recognize my accomplishments… These people are leaders who love to be challenged, rewarded, and recognized. They are ready to take charge and get results.
Collective Fulfillment (18%): “I am at my best when I can do something that fits my values. I am not motivated by rewards; I am purpose-driven. I serve others. I bring together a collective and help them develop and embrace a unique vision. I nurture commitment and cohesion by expanding participation and building trust. I stay open to feedback and new alternatives.”
Luis’ transformation illustrates how he transcended the mindset of independent task pursuit and the mindset of a technician. He did not lose his technical chops, but rather became a more effective version of his former self.
Robert writes: “He changed how he viewed himself and his world. It was a deep change – not unlike a religious conversion.”
Reflection: Which success script do I most often run?
Action: Have a dialog with someone who appears to be operating at a higher level.