Getting IT Together: Disrupt Yourself!

M. Nora Klaver Posted by M. Nora Klaver, Executive Coach, Bouchard Executive Coaching Ltd..

Nora is an accomplished executive coach with 25 years of experience developing corporate leaders. She is the author of Mayday! Asking For Help In Times of Need.

Getting IT Together: Disrupt Yourself!

I’m just finishing up delivering two Stakeholder Reviews (narrative-based 360 reviews) for two of my clients. I’ve learned a great deal about them in the process, and not just from the evaluators. In fact, I learn quite a bit from my clients about what is and who is important to them as we build the interview protocol together. I also discover a great deal about the person once I deliver the feedback based on their reactions and their choices going forward.

I have been delivering 360s in a variety of formats since 1991 when I worked for a global consulting firm. I have noticed a pattern that tends to manifest in every single Stakeholder Review — and that is a reticence to let go of what brought us to success and a hesitation to embrace of what will take us beyond it.

In other words, I see a reluctance to disrupt our own selves.

We talk about disruptors in business a lot these days. “Disruptive innovation” was first described by Harvard’s Clayton Christensen to describe innovations that create new markets. Perfect examples include Uber or Airbnb — both companies that turned their industries upside down. Christensen also wrote about the “innovator’s dilemma” — when a company has to choose between holding onto an existing market or capture a new one through new technologies and business models. These are fascinating and productive concepts that businesses deal with on a macro level. But on a micro level, on the personal level, we don’t tend to think of disrupting how we currently are, or what we currently do.

Instead, we tend to hang onto those strengths, functional skills and capabilities that have served us well over the years. We learn to rely on these aspects of ourselves without knowing it. And why not? Time and again, these capabilities have acted as saviors — keeping our asses out of the fire too many times to mention. But after a while, the things that got you here, won’t get you where you want to go — thanks Marshall Goldsmith. In fact, they even have a tendency to backfire.

Don’t believe me? How about my client Tom (not his name, of course)? Tom has created a reputation of being completely on top of the detail. He loves getting in the weeds, and his supervisor relies heavily on Tom’s ability to do that. However, Tom is blowing his career with his focus on the minutiae. What his organization needs is a thought leader and Tom has dug himself a hole with his reputation for being the “go-to-detail-guy”. Now when senior leadership looks to appoint people to high visibility, cross-functional projects, they don’t think of Tom. He’s not seen as an idea guy. Tom needs to disrupt himself — and fast!

Or how about Mike? Mike loved working with mainframes. You see where this is going, right?

Imagine what we could be and do if we learned to disrupt ourselves? We could become even more valuable and marketable to the workplace — regardless of the industry. Our comfort zones could be as wide as the Mississippi. We could achieve the business flexibility of an Olympic gymnast. And we’d worry less about our future simply by letting go of the past and letting our imaginations run wild.

So how do we do this? How do we disrupt ourselves? Here are a few tips:

1.  Find time – Seriously. It’s there. You have the time. Wait to binge watch House of Cards  or skip drinks with the guys just once. When you do find that seemingly elusive time slot, be protective of it. Stay strong and protect that chunk of time like you would your own HBO GO login.

2.  Figure out what you are good at — There’s a lot of chatter about strengths in the workplace these days. Have you identified your’s yet? Do it. You’ll need 20 minutes of time (see #1 above) to complete my favorite strengths tool, the Realise2 Strengths Profiler. Go for the Expert version. It will set you back less than $50US.

3.  Talk to others about what they need from you  – Once you have an idea what you are good at, find out what your “customers” need from you. Think you don’t have customers? Think again. Your boss is one. So is her boss. So are your peers and your direct reports. Be bold. Talk to people not in your industry. Spend some time (return to step 1 if needed) finding out what they need from you, but maybe aren’t getting. Then ask them to imagine the best people, processes and systems available. What would that look like to them. The point here is to begin to recognize the many unsatisfied needs that are out there.

4.  Get Imaginative — This isn’t so hard. You are already pretty creative, we just need you to tap into that honey jar of sticky ideas. Sit down with a refreshing beverage and look through what you’ve learned: your strengths, the existing needs, and see what comes together. Come up with a few options. Don’t feel you have to dive into just one right away. Allow yourself to play and have fun with what’s possible.

5.  Work with a Coach – Find a coach who is skilled and who will support you during your disruption period. She will be there for you, cheering you on, and challenging you to stay strong. I’m particularly good at that! (

6.  Learn More — Start checking out training programs that can teach you how to market yourself, to influence others, to communicate better at all levels of the organization. Add more arrows to that quiver, more tools to that tool kit. These programs will not make you an expert, but they will give you the basic skills to help you promote yourself to your boss, your peers, your company, or to someone totally new.

7.  Tell People — If you aren’t interested in leaving your company, good for you! So tell the people there what it is you want and what you think is needed. Offer yourself up; be prepared to be rejected and to be accepted!

Disrupting yourself increases your value, enhances your own flexibility, sparks your creativity and energy, and opens up opportunities no one else was looking for!

For the last few months, I’ve been writing about the challenges inherent in being a tech professional or leading technologists. Please check out my most recent blogs to catch up! 2016! The Year of IT!

M. Nora Bouchard, MA is a seasoned and deeply experienced executive coach. Over the last 20 years, Nora has guided CIOs, leaders of IT teams, as well as others who wrangle code, DBAs, data center operators and network administrators. She appreciates the analytical mindset and is profoundly familiar with its light and dark sides. Nora is author of the ground-breaking book, Mayday! Asking for Help in Times of Need. With over 10,000 hours of coaching under her belt, and hundreds of hours facilitating learning events, Nora can help you find the success you crave.

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