An extraordinary performer will add little to a toxic environment – an environment that puts results above people, that promotes performance at all costs, that prioritizes external over internal input, that assumes lower ranked people are less important than those higher up.
So before you get to hiring (and firing, and hiring again, and firing again), make sure your internal system is working as you intend it to work. Make sure you have rewards that promote the behaviour you wish to promote. Make sure you have rules in place, or even better norms, that will guide people to speak up, to share ideas, to flag issues, and give them the freedom to follow up.
Shaping systems is a long-term effort that requires high levels of awareness, and not many organisations want to committ to that.
Sometimes it is up and to the right. This kind is easy to recognize. It is success that comes from accumulation. More of this, more of that. We just need to be mindful that what we are accumulating is what is best for ourselves, for our dear ones, for our group.
Sometimes it is down and to to the right. This kind is not as intuitive as the first one. It is success that comes from reduction. Less of this, less of that. What makes this particularly challenging is that cutting what is not best (for ourselves, for our dear ones, for our group) gets more difficult over a long period of time.
Sometimes it is right in the middle. Most people feel uncomfortable with this kind. It is success that comes from consistency. One of this today, one of this tomorrow, one of this the day after tomorrow. It turns out, in the long run it is still accumulation (or reduction). Just not as evident, arguably more impactful.
We need to be able to appreciate and celebrate the different shapes of success.
If we don’t, we are stuck in a narrative that is not our own.
We can take on more or less tasks, shift the boundaries of our responsibilities, focus on the tasks that better align with our strengths and values, rethink the way things are done, come up with new processes.
We can alter the relationships with those we work with – in the same department, in the same company, and also in other companies. Establish networks, help others, connect with them outside of work.
We can reframe tasks that are assigned to us in a way that makes us see a bigger picture, a wider purpose, a better future. For us, for the organisation, for the community.
Being stuck is rare, as at any given time the opportunities are many and diverse. Feeling stuck is much more common, and fortunately feelings come and go.