career growth

Sharpen Your Axe

In the United States, there’s a historical quote attributed to President Abraham Lincoln that says: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” The quote refers to the important role of proper preparation for any endeavor. I was thinking about this quote a few [...]

The Decline of Logic

When I was at McKinsey, fact-based, well-reasoned logic was prized. It didn’t matter if you were in your 15th year at McKinsey or your first 15 days, the person with the logical conclusion ruled the day. I remember being repeatedly told that if I had the logical conclusion demonstrating that the Partner’s thinking was wrong, [...]

The Delta of the Deltas

In mathematics, there’s a concept and symbol known as delta. It is represented by the following greek letter Δ that looks like a triangle. In this context, delta = change. If sales were $100 million last year, and $110 million this year, we would say the delta is $10 million. Management consultants will use the [...]

Responsibility vs. Fault Ratio

Fault = You created a problem due to an error you made. Responsibility = It’s your job to fix the problem. For most individual contributor roles, it is your responsibility to fix any mistakes that were your fault. I call this 1:1 responsibility to fault ratio. You clean up any messes you make. However, as [...]

Rules vs. Rules of Thumb

You can be one of two kinds of employees: 1) A person who can follow rules; 2) A person who can follow rules of thumb. The second type of employee is infinitely more valuable. A rule is a specific set of actions to be taken in a specific set of situations. “If this dial exceeds [...]

T-Shaped Skills

In industry, a person’s skill set can be described using one of two metaphors: the letter “I” and the letter “T.” A person with “I-shaped” skills has very deep skills in a single domain. This vertical line in the letter “I” represents this depth in a single area. In contrast, the person with “T-shaped” skills [...]

Learning from My Mentors

My favorite question to ask my teachers and mentors is “who are your teachers and mentors?” I thought I’d introduce you to one of my teachers. I first met him when he was 24 years old and possessed an incredible amount of knowledge, wisdom, and experience — far surpassing his biological age. He dropped out [...]

How to Impress your Boss’s Boss

The market of a rising star career path involves getting jobs with increasingly greater responsibility in a relatively short period of time. The average professional expects (incorrectly) that if they simply do a good job, that’s the basis for getting promoted. This thinking leads to… S L O W career progress. Here’s why. Employers like [...]

The Fastest Way to a Promotion

The easiest way to get promoted is to do the following: 1) Choose an employer that’s growing and in constant demand for new people. 2) Master your own job. 3) Develop preliminary competence in the job above you. 4) Volunteer to do the least enjoyable parts of the job above you (before you’re promoted). Let me [...]

Leadership vs. Salesmanship

Most of the elite business schools see themselves as training the leaders of tomorrow how to be better leaders. Many business school grads seek out careers in consulting, investment banking, or technology. The goal of the first two career paths is to become a partner or managing director. The goal of the latter is often [...]

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