If a rising tide raises all ships, does a receding tide do the same in reverse? More than at any time in recent memory the economic engine which powers the generation of upward career momentum has sputtered or died in many industry sectors. The resulting lack of upward lift has been felt by countless individuals through extended unemployment, under employment, or at the very least career stagnation and a significant slowdown in income growth. We are seeing a veritable sea change in the shift from a reliance on economic growth and professional connections for powering career advancement, to an apparent absence of external forces that can be relied upon to drive upward mobility.
Before proceeding, however, we should establish some parameters to better understand the subject at hand. It’s been so long since economic growth ran rampant in the streets you may have forgotten what your career even looks like when under its power. What exactly IS career velocity? Why is it important? How do you know if you have it? How do you create it if you don’t?
In physics, velocity is the measurement of the rate and direction of change in position of an object. Translated, that equates to how fast something is going in a specific direction. In career terms, velocity is akin to focused momentum. In this case we are talking about positive velocity – up and to the right, ideally. The opposite of velocity is at best, stagnation, and at worst, spiraling decline.
One of two things must exist for you to advance professionally, increase your income, and achieve your full potential in career terms. The first one is what has been missing in recent years: economic momentum. The second is what you must take responsibility for creating in the absence of the first: career velocity.
Why is career velocity important? Without palpable career velocity you are relying primarily on a rising tide to raise all ships. Now, if everyone else were to rely on that rising tide your unique work ethic and intelligence would put you in a position of advantage over the rank and file, which wouldn’t be so bad. Unfortunately, your competition for opportunity got the memo regarding creating their own career velocity, and they have been working hard to improve theirs, while you have been watching the news hoping for an improvement in leading economic indicators.
How do you know if you do or do not have career velocity? Simply put, career velocity equates to choices. An abundance of choices. Good choices. Lucrative choices. Satisfying choices. Choices regarding opportunities for growth at your current company. Standing offers of employment from your employer’s top competitors. A successful side business you could switch to full time without missing a beat. Lucrative consulting opportunities you could use as a stepping stone to whatever is next. The more ways you have to select from for doing well, the more likely it is you will do well AND be satisfied with what and how you achieve your success.
Today, most of us do not have as much positive career velocity as we would like. And almost everyone could certainly benefit from having more. To be successful in generating your own velocity you need a system that does not depend on that ‘rising tide’ phenomenon we spoke of earlier. True DIY (‘do it yourself’) velocity must be possible to manufacture when it is needed, in the quantity needed, to provide you with a kind of professional ‘lift’ which will set off a virtuous cycle of upward professional mobility. Which brings us to the most important question: How DO you create career velocity on demand?
As a starting point I’d like to tell you how I came to develop the system I have assembled. As an executive recruiter who has specialized in working with entrepreneurs, growth companies, and the managers and executives who run them, I have had the opportunity to conduct a study of the ingredients which clearly differentiated the people, careers, and companies that got talked about, and those which couldn’t find anyone to talk TO.
The most outstanding individuals had an almost palpable success momentum, in the form of ideas, capital, partners, and/or supporters, and the promise of assembling those things they didn’t already have, with high confidence. They virtually vibrated with intensity of thought, action, and apparent endorsement by association, and seemingly were able to attract needed ingredients for success through a kind of success magnetism. I came to call this ‘palpable momentum’ velocity.
Although the concept of success momentum was not new to me – motivational books had been saying for years ‘Nothing Succeeds like success!’ – it struck me how powerful a force velocity was in differentiating those who were ‘running down the hall with their hair on fire’ from everyone else. I set out to dedicate myself to understanding what the underlying components were which added up to giving something velocity, and how they could be created, accelerated, and maintained to increase the speed of success.
As I developed an understanding of what the combined factors were , I determined that even more than the components themselves, it was the synergy or interplay among them which created true power and acceleration. The accumulated effect of all of these success factors is what I have come to call Velocity Factor™. Velocity Factor™ is a kind of reverse wind chill in professional terms – a success boiling point of sorts that results from multiple positive forces coming together, creating a positive synergy or virtuous cycle, which you ride upward. By breaking down the components which create Velocity Factor™, accelerating them individually, and then putting them together into a comprehensive plan or system, you will have the ability to ‘create your own weather’, powering your own velocity personally and on demand.
Here, then, is an overview of the system that I have developed which attempts to dissect the ingredients which come together to drive the success velocity of an idea, a project, an individual, or a company. It will provide the reader with the ability to manipulate these factors in their own environments in order to accelerate the speed of their own success. My goal is to provide you with a set of levers and pedals and an instrument panel you can use to strategize and manipulate these individual factors to control and direct the velocity and direction of your career.
A system for creating Velocity Factor™
As an overview, the system outlined below identifies eight key ingredients which I have determined through extensive observation and analysis are the factors which drive success velocity. Their interplay and the virtuous cycle they create determine the achievement of Velocity Factor™.
The first four are strategic, and form the underlying foundation upon which you will build a process for generating acceleration. The second four are tactical and will serve as tools to generate that forward momentum. In an ideal situation, the foundation is perfect and fully formed. In reality, there is an ebb and flow of the relative perfection and strength in each of the factors, and the more power you have in one or several, the more there is an offset of weakness or underdevelopment elsewhere. The objective is to always be honing, perfecting, and developing each factor independently to achieve the greatest possible synergy and interplay among them over time.
Perspective, the first factor, is defined as ‘the relationship of aspects of a subject to each other and to a whole’.
To create velocity you must know or be able to do something. To know something, you must have perspective. Select a specific subject, business issue, or functional area of expertise in relation to which you have or will develop more perspective than anyone else. Something about which you can eventually be THE expert.
The key to developing this element is to increase the breadth and depth of one’s exposure to education, the experience and wisdom of other people, an understanding of the human condition, trends, and in countless other ways to experience people, thinking, and situations which add something new to your understanding of the world in relation to the specific area you are focused on.
The more you know about a broad range of things and how they relate to one another, the more you can determine with greater accuracy the way ALL things relate to one another. The broader your exposure, the better your judgment from the standpoint of being a basis for decision making. Your perspective flows from the sum total of your experiences, and all of the aspects of who you are, driven by the way you analyze, relate, think, create, and extrapolate the sum of all of that into assumptions and beliefs about the future. The deeper and broader your experience and knowledge, the better your perspective.
Again, to develop velocity you must know or be able to do something. To know something, you must have perspective.
The second element in creating velocity is your premise. Think of the premise as an idea – THE idea – translated into something tangible, and actionable.
Your premise is the concept, vision of yourself, mission statement or value proposition you will use as the expression of knowledge and perspective you have developed, to position yourself properly to be able to build velocity. This can be anything from a description of your targeted position in a professional or regional marketplace, to a stated commitment to win a Gold Medal at the Olympics, your unifying theory in particle physics, or a very humble statement of your focus.
It has often been said that those who fail to plan are planning to fail. Beyond just having a plan, what we are talking about here starts with an objective or set of objectives, flows info a vision of a path toward those objectives made up of incremental, tangible and measurable steps, and defines your strategy for achieving those steps and objectives.
Your plan then becomes more than a roadmap, it becomes a programming language which will clarify your mental focus, provide a level of control over results which drives achievement, and allow you to make course corrections along the way as needed.
One of the most important ingredients of your success will stem from who you are. This is likely to be one of the things you are already most confident about. You likely have a great deal of strength of belief in yourself, your intelligence, capabilities, and skills, such that you feel that if people really understood fundamentally who you are you would instantly have the upper hand in whatever realm you might be competing.
The reality today is that rarely will anyone take the time to truly get to know who you are. Well before your customer, boss, potential employer, or social center of influence gets to know who you are they will already have made a judgement about whether they will hire you, promote you, buy from you or recommend you. These decisions are based on a set of factors, but one of the primary ones is their perception of you. And their perception of you will in large part be driven by your persona.
Persona is an Italian word derived from Latin and refers to a kind of mask. In this context I am referring to an overall constructed impression you create utilizing your appearance, dress, confidence, energy level, sense of style, physical carriage, eye contact, sense of humor, and way of interacting, which in turn communicates your values, character, seriousness, personal brand, commitment to excellence, work ethic and much more.
More than anything else, your professional persona generates a level of confidence in you and your ability on the part of the observer.
The fifth factor is the platform, and is the first of the ‘tactical’ set. You might think of the platform as a kind of podium you stand on made up of the substance of all you are engaged in doing, creating, and achieving. It’s the sum total of your ‘story’. The more substance you create to stand on, the higher the podium, the more commanding the impression you make, and the more powerful the substance of any presentation. It is tactical particularly in the sense that you are always adding to it and strengthening it in a multitude of ways to build it’s power.
This starts with your family history, your upbringing, and your educational credentials, and extends to your business sector, employment and/or entrepreneurial history, customers and partners, socially conscious activities and accomplishments, impressive personal activities or milestones, track record, and reputation. This is the tangible ‘who you are’ which would underlie the perceptual persona described above which conveys the sense of the platform of accomplishment and credentials that in effect justify the essence of the persona.
Each of the factors identified creates a layer that enables and empowers the next. Presentation is yet more tactical than the prior factor. It encompasses everything from the communication tools you use to convey the substance of each of the prior factors – resume, brochure, web site, business card, social media, physical office – to your communications ability, delivery of a pitch, stand up presentation skills, and so on. This combines both the art and science of communication and persuasion.
Through the development and use of the presentation factor you can start to harness the power of everything that came before it, combining actual tools with your own ability to communicate, convey empathy and passion, and engender confidence in your abilities with your persona to truly accelerate the impact of every aspect of every other factor.
Perhaps more than any other factor on the list this one is THE most powerful. At least at a perceptual level, you and your credibility will be judged more based on who your partners are than by anything else.
In this case partners are defined as any entity or person which would be seen as endorsing you. This includes the company employing you first and foremost or your investors if you have your own company, the individual you work for, your customers, co-workers and professional peers, advisors, friends, and any and all entities with which or with whom you have a professional or significant personal association with.
To enhance your velocity in ANY endeavor, if you only work hard on only one factor, make it this one. Partners are THE power factor which can accelerate the velocity of your success more than any other.
And last but certainly not least, we have the factor that many individuals would rate as THE most important in driving the velocity of success – performance. Results. The proof is in the pudding as they say. Or is it?
A cynic would say that it’s not what you know it’s who you know. The truth is that performance does matter. A great deal. But it’s one factor among eight I have identified that I believe combined come together to determine the velocity of your success.
The key thing to understand is that we all want to get where we are going faster than ever before. Velocity is the speed component in the success equation. Work to develop each of the eight factors identified and you will see them play off of each other, helping you to attain the power and lift that comes from the synergy among them that you will find delivers the ultimate acceleration to your career and the achievement of your professional goals: the Velocity Factor™.
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