Boarding the plane, it was hard not to imagine how exhausted I would be deplaning eight hours later in London. A frequent flyer for work and a gold medallion member on the airline meant I got to board early. Although anxious to get to my destination, I wasn't too thrilled with that perk as the thought of the long overnight trip loomed in my mind. Sometimes on domestic flights one could be bumped up to first class, a big incentive for a constant traveler. Since this was a personal flight to visit my daughter, not a business flight, and it was international, my seat was a regular coach seat. Not a chance of any kind of upgrade.
Upon handing the boarding ticket to the gate agent, he surprised me and said, "Oh I have a new one for you." I looked up at him and smiled unbelievingly as he handed me what seemed as valuable and unexpected as if it were a winning lottery ticket for a million dollars. The new ticket seat number was 6D. I had been bumped to Business Class. All those hours on planes the past year going from city to city for work had paid off. They upgraded me on an international flight. I may be still tired upon arrival in London after this overnight flight, but I would be well taken care of in-flight and as comfortable as one could hope. More rested than if I remained stuck in coach for sure. My attitude about boarding changed swiftly, and my excitement to go returned immediately.
What does this story have to do with the idea of feedback and career development in the workplace? More than one would think.
How many people in their working life put their time in "coach" and wait for their "ticket" to be handed to them? Wait to be bumped up as a result of their perceived hours of work in the way of praise, compensation, or a newly-minted title? Wait to have someone else determine their career path and success?
How effective with regard to authentic career development is this?
Gianpiero Petriglieri, associate professor of Organizational Development at INSEAD, states we must learn to liken our efforts to develop in our careers to the process artists use to create. Artists have four things they work with and do that assist them to create the vision in their mind into a masterpiece. We can borrow these ideas to implement in our work life, to create a career that matches the vision of what we want for ourselves. We don't have to wait for someone to give us a golden ticket.
What are they? Here they are according to Petriglieri:
1. Artists build on a foundation of expertise. They learn what brush to use, what tool works best to get the results they want. They develop their skills. At work, our foundation of expertise is ours to construct. We cannot wait for someone to encourage us to improve our knowledge of our function and be successful. We must seek it out, develop it, communicate it, network, and motivate our team with the ability we have based on the foundation we develop.
2. Artists use skills for a purpose - to make meaning. In business we need to make meaning with regard to our work and development as well. We have to be able to show people why what we are doing matters and is important. We have to prove that to ourselves and others on a daily basis.
3. Artists put themselves "out there." They have courage. They are not afraid to present their ideas. In our work, we are the only ones that can contribute what is ours to give. We must not be reluctant to put our ideas and talents forward. We cannot just wait for someone to ask us or to be sought out. We must initiate the give.
4. Artists congregate to support each other. Soliciting feedback, having work groups to discuss issues are ways we can build a community of support. That will help our development increase exponentially. Waiting for a performance review conversation to receive support isn't effective. We can get feedback continuously. We can crowdsource our efforts to get continual feedback and maximize the results. We can instantly implement based on what we learn about ourselves.
The trip to London went so smoothly. Rested when deplaning and happy to greet my daughter, I was thankful for the chance, the ticket of opportunity that made the trip and my experience so much better. It was unexpected and reflected a lot of time I had put in on airplanes the past year. I truly appreciated it.
Our careers are not the same, however. We cannot assume just putting in our time will raise us up in our abilities and recognition. However, unlike a random upgrade we can control and create conditions that support our growth and development. We don't have to simply wait in "coach" in the hopes someone will give us a "ticket". Like a true artist, our actions can create a career that is a masterpiece and a success.
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