Why I left my corporate career…


Antique Compass and Map

Yesterday I was doing a leadership workshop for a client, and someone asked me “How did you make the choice to leave your corporate career to become an entrepreneur?”

I get this question very regularly, so I thought I would finally write about it.

The choice point

I took a little bit of time off after being a CEO and after being the CMO of Siebel.

After a couple of months, I felt myself being drawn back to work. It surprised me frankly, because as a typically exhausted executive, I had thought it would have enjoyed taking a much longer break. What was it that was calling me back?

The key questions

Instead of just jumping back into another big corporate job, I took the time to really think about these 2 key questions:

1. What role do you need work to play in your life?
2. What are your strengths, and where do you get energy?

1. What role do you need work to play in your life?

The answer to this question changes throughout our lives. Early in our careers we need to explore and invest. We need to get traction on something.

Later, most of us as humans have a need to build success at something. What that IS, is different for everyone. The answer for me was in my corporate career.

What we all share at this point is that we are really investing. Investing in our careers and also in our lives and families. We need to earn and save money.

Building anything takes a big investment of time and energy, and most of us muscle through this phase and don’t really question it.

Then later, when we have achieved some of our key goals, the idea of work changes again. Or at least, it should.

I think it’s important every 5 or so years, not to forget to evaluate what role work needs to play in your life now, because it changes.

So if you reach a point where you don’t need to be investing as much if you are not still building, what should you be doing for work?

And more importantly, what should your work be doing for YOU?

Free webinar this month

By the way, there is a free webinar available for download this month called: Thinking Strategically about your Career, that talks more about this dynamic, and offers tools to help you think through your own career situation.

Ordinarily webinar downloads are only free to Members of Azzarello Group, but I thought that since it is near the end of the year, it was a good time to offer this webinar to everyone for awhile.

You can find and download it here on the member page.

What is work for now?

So as I explored this feeling of being drawn back to work,

I realized that at the core of it was that I have a very strong need to spend time with smart, interesting, challenging people to stimulate my own ideas and energy.

Until that point, I had found those people at work.

Once I realized that that was the core, I also realized that there were many other ways to get that, other than to take on another big corporate job.

That lead to the second question.

2. What are your strengths and where do you get the most energy?

I took myself through a process, which I now use with many of my clients who are trying to optimize their own career and life choices.

On a sheet of paper (I still like paper) I made 3 columns.

I thought about all the things that were required to be a technology business leader, and I sorted this list into these three columns. I wanted to get my head around what this job really took and how I truly felt about it.

Column #1
In the first column I wrote down things that I am good at, and also enjoy doing — things that give me energy.

For example, in this first column I wrote things like:

  • Leading people in organizations
  • Building teams that can execute
  • Putting strategy into action
  • Helping people grow as leaders
  • Helping people advance their careers
  • Communicating to varied audiences
  • Public speaking
  • Helping customers improve how they do business
  • Working with people from all over the world

Column#2
In the second column I wrote down the things that I am really good at but don’t like doing.

For example in this second column I wrote things like:

Managing sales execution on a month to month, quarter to quarter basis. I’m actually really good at doing that, but it gives me absolutely no joy.

Also, I have a high competence at effectively running very large organizations, and though I don’t dislike that, it does not bring me great energy personally.

Column #3
In the third column I wrote down the things that I suck at and/or hate doing. For example:

  • Staying tightly tuned into technology evolution and market moves
  • Traveling constantly
  • Operating without enough sleep
  • Working with people I don’t like or trust

When I looked at the whole list, I thought, “Yes, I could do all of this again, the good generally outweighs the bad, and there is a lot in there that I enjoy”.

But then I had an idea.

The experiment

The scientist in my formed an experiment. The experiment was: Can I build a successful business only doing things from the first column?

I decided to give it a try, and if it worked, I’d see if I wanted to keep it going, and if it didn’t work, I’d go back to a corporate role.

Well, I’m celebrating my 10 year Anniversary of Azzarello Group this year!

It worked.

Not only did it work, but because I am spending so much of my energy doing the things that I am naturally good at and give me energy, it feels great.

I get to help organizations execute their strategy and create more value
I get to help leaders become more effective and increase their confidence
I get to help executives advance their careers
I get to do a lot of speaking engagements

And I also get to feel that every week I am helping people and businesses get better at what they do, which results in the lives of those people also improving.

Do I miss corporate?

This is another questions I often get.

Yes, sometimes I miss leading a large organization, because there were many talented people who I interacted with every day, and there were lots of opportunities to make my world bigger by regularly traveling to and learning about other countries and their cultures. And the wins were big wins, because we were starting at a big scale. It was exciting.

But for me, at this point in my life, my work with Azzarello Group, allows me to work most of the time (in that first column) at my best, which feels great.

I definitely get plenty of interaction from smart, interesting, challenging people who stimulate my thinking.

And I still get to travel all over the world (just not every month!) speak to varied audiences, and meet many kind, interesting people for many different cultures. I also get to work with companies in many different industries which is fascinating for me.

The one thing that was a surprise to me is that I never knew during my corporate career is that I was a writer!

Now that I’ve written a blog article almost every week for almost a decade, and two books, writing has become another key area of work for me that I enjoy very much.

I am always saying that successful people figure out what they are really good at, and then find a way to spend most of their time doing that. I decided to take my own medicine! And it works.

What do you think?

Join the conversation about this on my facebook page.

Was this useful?

If you found this article useful, please help me share it with others and encourage them to subscribe to this Blog for free.


About Patty
patty blog image crop

Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on twitter or facebook, or read her book RISE…3 Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, AND Liking Your Life.

Rise_CVR_3D_300

Free eBook Download

The most annoying interview question: What is your greatest weakness?


guard dog

I’ll start out by saying that I hate this question. Everyone hates this question. As various techniques, styles and technologies for hiring come and go out of fashion, this question persists like a cockroach. So I thought I would take the time to document my advice on dealing most effectively with this question.

Why do people ask this question?

Interviewers ask this question for a few different reasons. They:

1. Are actually interested in getting a rounded perspective of the candidate
2. Know it’s a standard interview question so they ask it without any particular purpose or desired outcome – just checking a box
3. They want to try and trip you up by asking you an annoying question that puts you on the defense to see you you’ll react

Preparing your response

In all of these cases, from my experience interviewing personally, as well as when I interviewed other candidates, the best answers take the following form:

1. Don’t let this question throw you or put you on defense. Prepare for it
2. First re-iterate your strengths
3. Then note the areas where you do not have strengths
4. Talk about how you manage the associated risks and shortfalls
5. End on a high note

I think this covers all of the above interviewer goals quite nicely.

“Patty, what is your greatest weakness?”

Here is an example of how I have answered this question:

“So Patty, What is your greatest weakness?”

Step 1. Think: I expected this and I have an answer that I am comfortable with…

Step 2: “Well as we discussed, my strengths are in building teams that can execute, executing strategy, and communicating.

That involves excellent strategic and operational skills, team building, organizational development, as well as strong communication and motivation skills.”

You need to keep this brief enough that it does not seem like an evasion. (Actually it’s important to articulate this brief description of your strengths whether or not you get asked the weakness question.)

Step 3: “The areas where I lack strengths are in being a visionary technologist, and being a deep financial analytical person.”

Step 4: “The way that I over come this, is that when I build a team that can execute, I make sure to always have (or recruit) a strong technology visionary and a strong financial analyst.”

Step 5: “No one person can be good at everything, but a team can. In this manner I make up for my own weaknesses by putting people on my team who are stronger in those areas than I could ever dream of being, and I create an environment where they can truly thrive, because creating a productive work environment IS a strength of mine.”

The benefit of this approach is that you are not evading the answer, you are giving an good answer, and you are also saying something positive and action oriented.

Note to interviewers: Stop asking this question!

If you want to learn something real and interesting about the person in non-ideal situations, don’t simply ask, “What are your weaknesses?”, ask them something more interesting about actual, challenging situations. For example:

1. Tell me about a time where you had to deal with a very difficult or unfair situation, or difficult person
2. Tell me about the most painful surprise in your career and what you learned
3. Tell me about a time when you were wrong. What did you do about it?
4. Tell me about a time when you really struggled with a work situation or project. What happened, what did you do about it?
5. Tell me about a failure in your career and how you handled it?

By the way, weak performers will be scared off by these questions and strong performers will be excited to tell you their stories.

Especially #5…

Strong performers have a mind set that failure is not personally damaging — it’s instead a great opportunity to grow.

High performers will not only NOT-avoid this question, but they’ll jump in with, “Let me tell you about a real disaster!” with a smile on their face.

Strong performers always see failure as a learning opportunity, and they’ll learn something really important that they are more than happy to talk about.

There are plenty of opportunities to make your interview more insightful and useful if you ask more insightful and useful questions than, “What is your greatest weakness?”.

What do you think?

Join the conversation about this on my facebook page.

Was this useful?

If you found this article useful, please help me share it with others and encourage them to subscribe to this Blog for free.


About Patty
patty blog image crop

Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on twitter or facebook, or read her book RISE…3 Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, AND Liking Your Life.

Rise_CVR_3D_300

Free eBook Download

It’s OK if you don’t LOVE your work



like your work

Stop listening to other people

Every time I hear some highly successful person, whether they are business person, movie star, writer, professional athlete, artist or reality TV star say, “You have to love your work”, or “You have to follow your passion”, I get annoyed.

I get annoyed because they are speaking from a position that is available to very few people in the world, and by saying this to everyone generally, they are hurting people. I wrote a blog about this (including some graphs!) a few years back.

Today, in anticipation of my next webinar on Strategically Thinking about Your Career, I wanted to address this one point head on.

If you want to be happy in your work, you need to find work that makes you feel happy much of the time. No work will ever make you feel happy 100% of the time, (that’s why you get paid).

No one else can tell you what should make you happy. You need to figure that out for yourself, and then organize your work in a way that it does not torture you. But you don’t actually need to LOVE your work in order to be happy and succeeding in your life.

Trying to LOVE your work is a bad idea

OK, if you are one of the people who wakes up every morning and says, “I love my work” and you mean it, and you get paid enough money to do what you love — or you don’t need any money, then this blog is not for you. Congratulations. You are one of the very few people for whom this works out. Enjoy it and appreciate it.

I have found that most of these people who end up doing what they love for work usually have had a very clear view of what that would be for their whole life. And they have always had an unusual amount of energy and focus to make it come true. They find their way to their one true calling because there is no other option for them. They can’t NOT do it.

What about the rest of us? What about those of us for whom the path is not so clear? Most people (of any age) I talk to say they are not sure what they want to be when they grow up.

So when one of these luminaries tells everyone, “You must love your work”, it sets most people up to feel like a failure for not doing this.

If you wake up every morning and think, “I don’t love my work”, the big point I want to make is this: YOU ARE NOT FAILING AT ANYTHING.

There are two kinds of failures I see, and both are totally avoidable, once you let go of this notion other people are telling you — that you must love your work.

Failure #1. You ruin a good hobby

I see some people try to take the things they love and do them as a living. It could be art, music, sports, poetry…

The problem happens when they take this advice to heart and think, the only way to be truly successful is to do what I love for a living. So they try. They turn their favorite hobby into their primary job.

Then many fail to make enough money at it — so their life is hard.

And for most people who try this, they also ruin their hobby. Instead of doing it for the pure joy of a hobby, they have turned it into something that they actually don’t love anymore, by compromising on how they do it to please others instead of themselves, and by adding the responsibility of making it pay.

Failure #2. You feel like failure no matter what you do

The second type of failure is the one that I think is most common, and most exacerbated by these “you must love your work” advocates. It happens when people who have a good job, make enough money to take care of their family, enjoy their hobbies, and by every measure are doing great…

But they walk around feeling like a failure, thinking, “I am in the wrong job. I should be doing something that I love, but I don’t know what that is or how to do it. So I am doing something wrong. I’m not even good enough to figure out what I should be doing”.

This breaks my heart. You are doing GREAT.

The important thing in life is to LOVE your family, LOVE your friends, and LOVE your hobbies. Focus on the things that bring you joy. It doesn’t need to be one earth-shattering thing. It can be a variety of things. Make sure you invest time on these things.

And if you make enough money, you eliminate the major stress in life that comes from not having enough money to live on, and you have money to do many things that you love. You also have the flexibility to explore and potentially find even more new things that you love.

LIKE your job

I will say that it also breaks my heart when I see so many people hating their jobs. This was the main reason that I wrote RISE. There is a really huge space between loving your work and hating your work. Find a good spot in there for yourself.

I wanted to show people how you can really LIKE your job, so that you can also really like your life.

It’s miserable to be in a job that is making you miserable.

The secret to liking your job that I talk about in RISE, is finding a way of working that suits your natural strengths and energy. When you are working in a role that places demands on your natural strengths and you are working on things that give you energy, it feels great.

You feel like super-hero when you are doing a great job, it is being recognized, and you are not killing yourself to do it. You end up feeling, “I really like my job”.

“I should really like my job”, is a much better goal than “I need to love my work”.

No one cares about your career as much as you.

No one cares about your happiness as much as you. If you are willing to do thankless, unhappy work that someone needs done, no one will ever ask you to stop. You need to be the one to advance your own career.

When I talk about advancing your own career, I talk about finding the intersection of your natural strengths, the things that give you energy, and what your company values — and then creating a business case so that your company wants you to do that.

That’s the “DO better” part in RISE. Then if you also add building your credibility to “LOOK better”, and building your network of support to “CONNECT better”, you can join the ranks of truly successful people who are succeeding and being recognized in a great job that they really like, which allows them to have a great life that they really like.

If you do all 3 of these things I share in RISE, you will get more of what you want in your work and in your life.

This is an approach that is open to all of us, not just an unusual and lucky few who were clearly drawn to their life’s work all along and have a deep love of doing it.

What do you think?

Join the conversation about this on my facebook page.

Was this useful?

If you found this article useful, please help me share it with others and encourage them to subscribe to this Blog for free.


About Patty
patty blog image crop

Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on twitter or facebook, or read her book RISE…3 Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, AND Liking Your Life.

Rise_CVR_3D_300

Free eBook Download

Stand Out, Get Promoted



This month’s webinar was on the topic of Stand Out, Get Promoted

If you missed it, you can download the recording.

StandOut

Are you getting the recognition and opportunities you deserve?

Both from my own quickly rising career, and from the experience I’ve had hiring many managers and executives, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to study what stands out.

I have also worked with many others who are talented, hard working people who failed to advance.

Do you ever notice that some people just seem to be able to rise somehow, naturally, even despite a young age, and having less experience than others? And do you ever notice that other great people, who work really hard, get stuck?

Practical steps for standing out

I’ve figured out the specific, practical things that make the difference between getting ahead and just working really hard.

I put the whole step by step, guide to improve your career in my book RISE, but I also wanted to do a webinar that summarized some of the key, points for standing out in a brief audio session.

So, this is a very useful webinar to download if you want to:

  • Learn what truly stands out, and will accellerate your career
  • Feel great about the value of your work
  • Get a promotion without being political
  • Take more control of your career, and have more choices

In this webinar: Stand Out, Get Promoted I share the practical formula for advancing your career.

Members of Azzarello group can download this webinar for free.

What the webinar covered:

The difference between Stand-out and Average

In this webinar I talked about how to do the 6 things you need to do to stand out.

Here is what I covered:

DO BETTER
1. Add More Business Value (Increase your team’s ROI)
2. Improve and Change (You, your team, the environment)

LOOK BETTER
3. Be the clear choice (If you want to win, then be the clear winner)
4. Communicate and Share Knowledge (Be the one to make everyone smarter)

CONNECT BETTER
5. Grow Your Network (Build a genuine network of broad support)
6. Mentor Others (You won’t rise if you don’t pull others up with you)

The bottom line

The bottom line is that doing an excellent job at your job description will not make you stand out.

To stand out you need to do more than your job descption. You need to do more than you are asked. And you need to do it without being asked.

Give Yourself a Performance Review

In the webinar I also provided worksheets for giving yourself a realistic performance review in each of these 6 categories. Make sure you understand the difference between “Stand Out” behavior, “Average (and therefore invisible)” behavior, and “Poor performance”.

Make your plan

I also included worksheets to help you plan your “stand out” investments.

I see so many careers get stuck because people do a great job at their job and they wait to be rewarded for that with something bigger and better. It doesn’t work this way.

Doing your job will not qualify you for a bigger job.

If you want a bigger job, you need to do a bigger job, before you get there.

I describe this in my book RISE as “The Experience Paradox”.

The experience Paradox: You can’t get the job without the experience, but you can get the experience without the job.

In this webinar, I give specific examples of things you can do in each of the 6 areas listed above to ensure that your efforts will truly stand out and be recognized.

To learn the specific ideas and techniques, we talked about, and get the worksheets to help you, download the webinar: Stand Out, Get Promoted:

Members: Download the webinar for free.
Non Members: You can purchase this individual webinar or podcast (links below).

Here are some additional, useful webinars related to this topic

Members get these additional webinars for free:

So you might as well join and get them all for free!

Let me be your mentor

Members of Azzarello Group basically get me as their mentor.

Every month you get new insights and tools in the form of these webinars, as well as the chance to call into a monthly members-only coaching hour where you can get direct personal coaching from me.

People tell me that membership gives them a totally new way of thinking about their career, getting promotions, solving difficult problems with bosses, peers, employees, and other annoying people, communicating better, being more influential, becoming a stronger leader, and enjoying their work more. I love to hear this, and I love to help!

If you join now, you’ll not only get this webinar, but all the other webinars in the Member Library.

AND you’ll get the opportunity to participate in monthly Coaching Hour conference calls with me.
Check out what we talk about.

AND as a member you’ll get to download your copy of the Career Year of action Guide (a $30 value) for free.

Membership is a great resource (and a steal at $179 for a whole year) to help you advance your career.

Join Now

Other Options:

Purchase just this webinar ($19.99)
Purchase just this podcast ($9.99)


ABOUT PATTY:

patty blog image
Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor.
She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on twitter or facebook, or read her book RISE…3 Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, AND Liking Your Life.

Rise_CVR_3D_300

Free eBook Download

Managing Your Own Performance



This month’s webinar was on the topic of Managing Your Own Performance

If you missed it, you can download the recording.

Managing Your Own Performance

The webinar:

This is a very useful webinar to download if you want to:

  • Get your career and life goals in focus for next year
  • Manage your own productivity better
  • Get ready for a performance review with your boss
  • Know how to proactively choose the right work to ensure your development
  • Take consistent action on longer term career and business goals

NOVEMBER ONLY: Get $30 off on Membership

This webinar on Managing Your Own Performance is a great tool to help start the year with a strong plan.

Members of Azzarello group can download this webinar for free.

But since this part of the year is such a good time for planning, I want to offer you a chance to get your own membership to Azzarello Group at a discount.

If you join now, in November, you’ll get $30 off. So that’s a whole year of membership for only $149!

Just use code: SAVE30 at checkout.

Join Now

Your Career Development Partner

I offer this membership program to be a virtual career developement partner for you.

Membership helps you to stay focused on your development and to achieve your long term career goals.

It gives you reminders, confidence, focus and support – like a good partner!

So if you join now, you’ll not only get this webinar, but all the other webinars in the Member Library.

AND you’ll get the opportunity to participate in monthly Coaching Hour conference calls with me.
Check out what we talk about.

AND as a member you’ll get to download your copy of the Career Year of action Guide (a $30 value) for free.

The Career Year of Action Guide

Another great resource to help you plan your development and career goals is the Career Year of Action Guide.

This guide stages out the things we discuss in the webinars and gives you tasks and actions you can do each month to ensure you are making progress.

The Career Year of Action Guide is available at the Online Store, and Members can download it for free.

What the webinar on Managing Your Own Performance covered:

No one cares about your career as much as you!
Learn how to consistently set the right bar to achieve your performance goals

We talked about:

  • How to create a lasting development process for yourself
  • The critical checklist you should consult regularly
  • Managing your own productivity
  • Choosing the right work and projects
  • The connections and support you need to meet your goals
  • How to have performance conversations with your boss
  • And more…

Worksheets

The worksheets included in this webinar are:

  • Critical Checklists for your Development
  • DO Better: Checklist
  • LOOK Better: Checklist
  • CONNECT Better: Checklist

Get the webinar now

If you are not a member, you can: purchase this webinar,
or you can become a member and get the webinar for free..

If you are tempted to purchase this webinar, that’s great.

But you might want to consider getting a membership to Azzarello Group — it’s a much better deal.

NOVEMBER SPECIAL: Get $30 off
Use CODE: SAVE30 at checkout

Membership is a great resource (and a steal at $179 for a whole year) to help you advance your career.
And if you join before Dec 1, your membership will only cost $149!

Join Now

As a member, just around this topic of managing your performance and career development, you can also get additional webinars for free on:

So you might as well join and get them all for free!

Additional benefits for members

Take a look through the Member Library and see all the other great webinars and resources you get too.

Plus, as a member, you get live coaching from me in monthly Coaching Hour conference calls where you can ask your own questions.

Other Options:

Purchase just this webinar ($19.99)
Purchase just this podcast ($9.99)


ABOUT PATTY:

patty blog image
Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor.
She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on twitter or facebook, or read her book RISE…3 Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, AND Liking Your Life.

Rise_CVR_3D_300

Free eBook Download