Updated: Apr 18, 2021
Fredericka had paid a lifetime of close attention to the counsel of her parents and grandparents. She had been a good student. She had stood out from her classmates by being an exemplary performer, becoming the valedictorian and delivering an outstanding commencement speech that received a standing ovation.
Fredericka moved on to college where she repeated her performance and graduated summa cum laude. She was recruited aggressively by several of the most highly admired companies on Wall Street and was able to both choose her employer of choice and obtain a most enviable offer.
As you might imagine, her career was on track, and fast. Family, friends and her fans from school and college were excited and fully involved in celebrating her accomplishments and the bright future that was imminent.
And then, there was Joe. He would forever change the trajectory of her life. Because Joe had been going to school at night and had had his sights set on advancing quickly within the organization. He had been encouraged and mentored by the divisional vice-president, Mike, who had been there for years and was himself a key leader. Fredericka's presence as a credentialed, sought-after management trainee was an immediate threat to Joe's ambitions.
Joe had grown up in a blue collar family in Bayonne, New Jersey and was the first member of his family to attend college. He too was on a good path to succeeding and making his family and friends proud of his accomplishments. And he wasn't going to let the opportunity slip through his hands. At least, not without a fight.
And fight he did. One of his first actions was to suggest to Mike that Fredericka had some difficulty understanding the securities accounting concepts that he was explaining to her. She countered by sharing that the terms debits and credits were being used in ways that diverged from the classic accounting conventions she had been trained in at college. Nevertheless, she reassured Mike that she understood their methodology and it was not an issue that would interfere with her effectiveness.
Joe's next step was to complain that Fredericka was too often in other departments speaking with associates, and away from her workspace more than was appropriate. To this charge, Fredericka explained that not only was it necessary for her to interact with the other related departments but it was such collaboration that had been the reason that she was able to successfully solve accounting discrepancies and recover millions of dollars of securities that had been unaccounted for for several years.
Joe's attacks continued even as Fredericka demonstrated her skill and abilities to solve problems in the department that had existed for extended periods of time. Within months her successes spread quickly within the organization and she found herself being invited to consider transfers to other departments. Again, she chose to accept an attractive offer that elevated her in stature and compensation. It also placed her on a path that allowed for reflection, discovery and deployment of principles that would serve her well as she advanced and maneuvered through tunnels of challenge to executive success in the years that followed.
Principle 1: Focus on Excellence
Fredericka had decided from early in her academic career that she would focus on bringing her best effort to learning. Inspired and encouraged by family members, teachers and role models, met and unmet, she had mustered the desire, self-discipline and resiliency to attend classes, read books, research and learn as much as she could of whatever was relevant to meeting and surpassing the expectations of teachers and advisors. That focus continued uninterrupted when she entered the workforce. There, her singular focus was learning from every source, researching to find answers to unanswered questions, and applying her discoveries to solve problems and surpass the expectations of her managers.
Principle 2: Measure Your Impact
She did not simply talk about what she had accomplished at school or learned along the way. Instead, Fredericka applied the principles that had helped her succeed in school to the new vocation of work. Here, she accepted the direction and goals that were set for her, set goals for herself, and engaged her skills to foster healthy partnerships that could help her be most productive. And, as a result, she was able to produce measurable improvements to the number of outstanding discrepancies and the financial impact on her employer.
Principle 3: Communicate Your Value
While the processes within her organization allowed for the status of positional discrepancies and financial shortfalls to be noted, knowing who was responsible for resolving them was not readily apparent. Recognizing that she could not trust that Joe, her immediate manager, would acknowledge her contributions, Fredericka took the initiative to create her own dashboard for tracking, measuring and reporting her workflow and her effectiveness. The value she contributed to the organization in terms of process improvement and recovery of financial assets was unmistakable.
Principle 4: Trek Through Tunnels
It's often said that few people ever want to embark on steep climbs. But those that do grow in stamina, strength and self-awareness. And are rewarded with spectacular views during the ascent. And certainly, at the summit. Fredericka undertook steep climbs and encountered dark tunnels throughout her academic and career journeys. She encountered struggles, challenges and setbacks but persevered. When she could see clearly, lights were dimmed and even turned off. When she cleared the path, boulders were thrown to impede here progress and cause her to abandon her dream. She didn't complain or quit. Instead, she affirmed her belief and capabilities, visualized her goals, and relied on her mentors and support resources to get through the tunnels of challenge.
Principle 5: Protect Your Positivity
Hold on to your faith and nurture positivity in yourself and others. Life and people are unpredictable and often seem to conspire against your most desired cravings. Sometimes, even with your most disciplined preparation people, events, and circumstances will derail your plans and timelines for the attainment of your most cherished dreams. Don't despair. Prepare your mind, create routines, and feed your spirit so that you might be quickly of ideas and influences that will restore you to the possession of a positive attitude and mindset.
In the midst of darkness there can be light. In a sea of doubt there will be hope. In a tunnel of barriers there is a clear path. Whenever you feel as if you have given your all, prepared and performed to the best of your ability, and yet, the lights to your path seem to be turned off or barriers appear, these five principles will help you maneuver through your tunnel of challenge. You will get through.
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