Sunday, May 9, 2010

Portion of my Power in Org personal assessment

I have to write a 15-page-max personal assessment for my Power in Organizations class that details a career situation (my internship), my goal for that situation (a full-time job offer), and how I intend to apply the concepts I have learned to achieve that goal.  I have been working on the paper periodically, and fortunately, I am only about one week behind schedule.  I am hoping to wrap up my first draft in a couple of weeks so that I can either review and improve it for a week or else submit it and focus on the other big projects that will be due.  Of course, it has occurred to me that that is probably wishful thinking.

I just wrapped up the third section, which is a historical assessment of my past performance.  I thought it was interesting enough to share, so if you have some time to kill, feel free to take a look.
By far, my most important source of political capital has always been Human Capital.  At IBM, I made it a point to learn as much as possible about my work and the technology I was working on as quickly as possible.  I accomplished this by putting in extra hours, reading everything I could get my hands on, and working closely with my teammates during my internship.  The extra effort paid off, leading to a part-time position while I completed college, and eventually, a full-time offer.  I built up my expertise to be deeper and broader than necessary for my role in order to increase what I could offer my department.
As my expertise grew, I began to gain a reputation within my organization based on my strong technical skills, which were highly valued at IBM.  This reputation allowed me to take on roles that were normally reserved for people that had more experience, such as leading teams, planning projects, and leading a pilot program across departments.  Fortunately, I had no problems collaborating across departments, and this helped me gain a reputation outside of my direct organization.  This was very beneficial because there were periodic leadership meetings in the organization where my name would frequently get dropped as a potential candidate for critical projects.  I continued to nurture my reputation by devoting more time to building my Human Capital in order to become an “expert” in a few areas that were not already covered in the organization.  As long as I avoided any egregious mistakes, the Reputation Capital was self-reinforcing given that I kept getting assigned to high-profile projects.

As I prepared to transition to Kellogg, I realized that I had focused too much on my Human Capital at IBM and not enough on my Social Capital.  The work I was assigned was increasingly time-consuming, making it hard to devote any significant amount of time to networking and “greasing the wheel.”  In addition, I had foolishly convinced myself that I did not need to network to build my career as long as my technical skills were strong.  This problem was compounded by my reluctance to seek out and develop mentoring relationships.  I placed too much confidence in my ability to manage everything alone, when I should have been seeking out feedback and advice from people that were more knowledgeable about the company.  I ignored the many apparent signs that my strategy was wrong.   By the time I started to address this deficiency, I had already finalized my decision to leave the company for grad school

I did a much better job of wielding influence tactics, although I did not know I was doing so at the time.  My style has always relied heavily upon reciprocity, which I leveraged by helping colleagues whenever I had a chance, even if it meant going out of my way to do so.  I never really considered this a political tool, so much as the right thing to do when someone approached me for help, and I would gladly put in the extra hours to do so.  I was advised by my friends at IBM that this was heavily contributing to my long work hours, but it was something that I could never change because it is so ingrained in my character.  I built up a lot of good will by helping others, and that made it much easier to get them to help me out or go the extra mile whenever one of my projects was falling behind. 

I have also been very successful in influencing my colleagues by getting them to Identify with me.  Fortunately, I have a broad range of interests that normally allow me to find some common ground with whomever I meet.  For example, during my interviews for the BCG internship, I learned that I had several shared experiences with both of my interviewers, including a common background in engineering started at the same university and a position in the undergrad rugby team, that I was able to bring up in conversation.   With my professional colleagues, I always limited myself to only asking them for things that I would be willing to do myself.  I found that this willingness to work side-by-side on projects helped a lot in maintaining a close relationship with the teams I managed.

My enthusiasm, work ethic, and technical skills were the keys to my success, but these were accompanied by recurring sources of failure.  The first one was my tendency to get involved in too many activities concurrently.  I viewed every activity as an opportunity to learn something new, and that drove me to take on more than I could handle from time to time.  Fortunately, I initiated a lot of the activities myself, so I never had a problem reducing my workload whenever necessary.  The second source was my waning interest in projects that I was involved in for an extended period of time.  Once I felt that a project was no longer challenging, I lost interest in it, and that prompted me to search for other opportunities.  This was the reason that I would occasionally abandon my own initiatives, such as creating new automation tools, even if I knew they were viable.  The last source was my complete ignorance of the rules of the game.  This hindered my ability to acquire resources, led me to focus on the wrong individuals when I needed something that was out of my immediate control, and made it much harder to enact the change initiatives that I thought would help either the customer or my team

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