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Career Ideas: Attitude & Approach

May 9, 2013

Today’s post is courtesy of by Benjamin Sawa, Corporate Development Manager at GEI Consultants, and Treasurer of SMPS Boston. He can be reached at

Note: This is the first in a series of articles focused on becoming successful leaders in the AEC Industry.

Being successful, whether it is in one’s professional or personal life is often layered with assumptions and misconceptions about what it really takes to be a difference maker. Many people think that leaders are born with some type of innate intelligence or keen insight that allows them to perform above the rest. But I will almost guarantee you that if you were to ask any successful person how they got to where they are today – they would say categorically it was accomplished through hard work. Hard work that was defined by their approach to solving problems and even more importantly, how they worked with others.

Seth Godin (Marketer Extraordinaire) published a great article in his blog title “Hierarchy of Success”. I first read it several years ago and continually revisit it when topics such as leadership development or career growth come up in conversation. Seth believes that success is defined by 6 categories or behaviors below.


He goes on to say: “We spend all our time on execution. Use this word instead of that one. This web host. That color. This material or that frequency of mailing.

Big news: No one ever succeeded because of execution tactics learned from a Dummies book.

Tactics tell you what to execute. They’re important, but dwarfed by strategy. Strategy determines which tactics might work.

But what’s the point of a strategy if your goals aren’t clear, or contradict?

Which leads the first two, the two we almost never hear about.

Approach determines how you look at the project (or your career). Do you read a lot of books? Ask a lot of questions? Use science and testing or go with your hunches? Are you imperious? A lifehacker? When was the last time you admitted an error and made a dramatic course correction? Most everyone has a style, and if you pick the wrong one, then all the strategy, tactics and execution in the world won’t work nearly as well.

As far as I’m concerned, the most important of all, the top of the hierarchy is attitude. Why are you doing this at all? What’s your bias in dealing with people and problems?

Some more questions:

  • How do you deal with failure?
  • When will you quit?
  • How do you treat competitors?
  • What personalities are you looking for in the people you hire?
  • What’s it like to work for you? Why? Is that a deliberate choice?
  • What sort of decisions do you make when no one is looking?

Sure, you can start at the bottom by focusing on execution and credentials. Reading a typical blog (or going to a typical school for 16 years), it seems like that’s what you’re supposed to do. What a waste.

Isn’t it odd that these six questions are so important and yet we almost never talk or write about them?

If the top of the hierarchy is messed up, no amount of brilliant tactics or execution is going to help you at all.”

The best thing about this notion of what it takes to be successful is that your attitude and approach can be easily changed by simply viewing yourself from a different perspective. If you find yourself stuck in your organization, think about how you approach your projects, and then think about what it is like to work with you. What would you change?

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 9, 2013 11:58 am

    BEN! Great piece and I couldn’t agree more that attitude is the most important attribute in that pyramid, but what if you turned the pyramid into a funnel and look at it that way? Your attitude to overcome failure/difficulty feed your approach. Your approach will inevitably get you through the remaining attributes. So if you start with the right attitude, your approach, goals, strategy and tactics should fall into place presenting the best decision.

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