859. Like Nature, Liz Abhors a Vacuum
“Every six months I was promoted into a new job because I would do the job before I was promoted into it. I, like nature, abhor a vacuum. There were always other things that needed to be done, so I would just start doing whatever wasn’t working right. And then the management would promote me.”
Liz Kislik is a management consultant and executive coach, and a frequent contributor to Harvard Business Review and Forbes. She helps family-run businesses, national nonprofits, and Fortune 500 companies like American Express, Girl Scouts, Staples, Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Highlights for Children solve their thorniest problems while strengthening their top and bottom lines in the process. She has delivered a TEDx on “Why There’s So Much Conflict at Work and What You Can Do to Fix It” and has served as adjunct faculty at New York University and Hofstra University.
The Most Impactful Turning Point?
Right after graduation from college, Liz was hired full time by the telemarketing firm where she had had a college internship. It wasn’t long until every six months she was getting a promotion of some sort. By 29 she was an executive vice president, when the owner of the company died of an illness without a good succession plan in place. She quickly saw that the new ownership and new leadership of the company were not going to uphold the vision of the previous owner, and she felt the company was not going in a good direction. “So I quit. I was pregnant at the time and it seemed like it would be a challenge to find a new job. I didn’t know what kind of new job I wanted because, in fact, I did not want to be a vice president of customer service someplace. But in less than a week’s time, other consultants in the industry and related areas started subcontracting to me because I already had a reputation in the industry. (I was very active in our trade association, etc.) So, I was working within just a few days and I just kept on going from there.”
The Most Powerful Lessons Learned?
- The first thing to think about if you are not happy in your current work is how you can make things better where you are─for yourself and for others. Because if you are curious and look around, you can often find something you can fix or improve. Just doing that, whether it’s for yourself but certainly for others, makes you feel better about being where you are. And that can then help you either stand out, get a promotion, better pay, et cetera. Or the company will see you have more capability than they were taking advantage of, and they may think about a better job position you could go to.
- There are a lot of false expectations done on both sides of the employment equation. Employment, businesses, organizations are only very rarely set up for the people who work there. There are all kinds of processes and procedures and systems that are not set up for the humans who use them. Then on the other side, we have what people bring (from their life outside, good or bad) to the job, and there’s a lot of false expectation in that regard as well.
- Sometimes I could talk to a more senior year manager about what am I supposed to do. But in general, I was not trained at all and really wasn’t helped all that much. We were expected to just figure it out and have the right instincts. That’s one thing that’s still happening to too great an extent today.
Connecting With Liz Kislik
Free field guide and checklist, “How to Resolve Interpersonal Conflicts in the Workplace,” along with a weekly blog
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