Making Same Mistakes. Certainly.

Power, Jeffrey Pfeffer

We’re back to work after a wonderful two week siesta with the family.  No travel.  No stress.  Just watching movies, eating and napping sprinkled with a well intentioned but woefully under-executed exercise regimen.  Time to shift gears to work-mode.  A post I came across during my vacation by Eric Barker @ “Barking Up The Wrong Tree” reminded me of an earlier conversation with a bright (very), ivy league educated, younger colleague.  He posed these following questions:

You have achieved modest success in your career, what key learnings can you share?  (Modest?  Do I ooze underachievement?)

I’m sure you have made mistakes along the way?  Would you mind sharing?  (Why not start with the wins?  Is it that obvious that this captain has weathered too many rough seas?)

Have you made repeated mistakes in the same area and why?  (Cringing. How does he know? Do all ex-collegiate hockey players have a reputation of diving into the same scrum and looking for trouble?)

What tips would you share with someone just starting their career?  (In contrast to me, that is, one who is just finishing or finished?)

Eric Barker’s post masterfully summarizes the key messages in a book titled Power by Stanford business school professor Jeffrey Pfeffer.  I’ve read the book* and thought NO, NO, NO, NO.  I found the research findings to be discouraging and against the grain of everything I believed in.  They can’t be right.  Not in the land of the brave.  Not in the land of the free.  Not in the land of meritocracy.  Yet, as C.S. Lewis’ quote has taught me: ““Experience is a brutal teacher, but you learn. My God, do you learn.”  Pfeffer is right.  Yes, he is.  My most important lesson.  Right here.  My area of repeated mistakes.  Right here.

Stop thinking doing a good job is the most important thing

“Hard work isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Performance is only loosely tied to who succeeds: The data shows that performance doesn’t matter that much for what happens to most people in most organizations. That includes the effect of your accomplishments on those ubiquitous performance evaluations and even on your job tenure and promotion prospects. Research shows being liked affects performance reviews more than actual performance: In an experimental study of the performance appraisals people received, those who were able to create a favorable impression received higher ratings than did people who actually performed better but did not do as good a job in managing the impressions they made on others.”

I encourage your to read the rest of Eric Barker’s post at this link.  He shares important messages for all of us.

*You can find my Amazon Book Review of “Power” at this link.  The book was a bit of a grind. Read Barker’s post and you will get the gist of the story.


  1. Which brings me back to the efficacy of leadership training when organizations are not really committed to developing people at all. And those who seek growth and opportunity are impacted by their own place on the likeability scale..This is way too cynical for me to be articulating at this hour. Just had to wipe the oil off my hands and see if I could still put two words together. 😉


    • We are generally aligned on all topics. This one…hmmm. I was with you. Once. You are looking for “training” to turn what is inherently human (protect, defend, surround yourself with allies) into some higher being. It is a worthy goal. But a tall order I’m afraid.


    • 6:45 am and not so inspired but going to try and put together a fairly coherent comment anyway. Some organizations pay lip service to training. They train because someone said they must but are not committed to it. Some individuals work hard, train hard and never get ahead because they aren’t liked. Two true statements but like all statements, not true 100% of the time. I’ve facilitated sessions where the management / executive team is committed to developing people; others not so much. In the end, both organizations benefit, but the first one benefits more quickly. I’ve had bosses in the past who definitely did NOT get to where they were based on their likability and some who made me wonder just how they did get there. Do I believe that being likable is a personal asset that can help someone achieve goals / dreams? Absolutely. My recommendation … work on building likability factor at the same time as building skills, knowledge and experience. And if you work for an organization that pays lip service to development and for whatever reason doesn’t seem to “like” you, then take the training, skills and knowledge that you have and find an organization that loves you! Sorry Dave … this went on a little too long.


      • Laurie, I’m with you. And for purposes of blog posts and sensationalism, I cut it short. It is bigger than being likable. You need to be trustworthy and have integrity. You need to have an acceptable level of competency. You need to develop your network. You need to keep your boss happy (as Eric Barker’s post suggest). That being said, I do think the headline point though – stands. If you believe that performance alone will result in promotions, recognition, rewards, you may find that you come up short.


  2. Dave, You bring up many good points here. Whether we like it or not, this does not surprise me. It reminds me of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. Those that have both likability and productivity are really golden. Another thing you brought up- ‘against the grain of everything I believe in. They can’t be right.’ I could write a whole post on those words. How often we all, myself included, close our minds to looking at things in new ways because it goes against our own paradigm. Many times we won’t even explore another angle because it threatens what we believe to be true. Therefore, we make the some mistakes over and over again. Thanks for your willingness to explore.


  3. Performance and likability need not be viewed as mutually exclusive. An individual of strong and solid character will both do a good job and display likable qualities of kindness, generosity, humility, wisdom, and diligence, just to name a few. This reminds me that character does matter, and that we can’t go wrong in working to develop an admirable one. Thanks!


  4. Wonderful, thought-provoking post with excellent, insightful comments. Thanks for getting us thinking today, David! For the most part, those who are wildly successful have a clear sense of who they are and what they want to create in the world. Their power is personal and their passion is real. When the power and passion are in a place that is open to receiving it – when their is alignment between the person and the leadership or organization, great things happen…the person grows needed skills, the person brings together collaborators, the person find success.


    • Yes, Vicki. If only more of us could have our passion, our position, our power in alignment, what a calling it would be. I’ve been blessed and fortunate to have my ducks line up. It is a wonderful feeling to get up every morning and go charging into work each day. Nothing like it. Thanks for stopping by. BTW, loved your poem and especially this excerpt:

      Joy flows through me here;
      happiness is my guide and leader.
      I am solid and grounded like the earth.
      Daily distractions are gentle showers
      — washing over me, and away.
      I am at home in this place of contentment.

      ~ Vicki Flaherty (excerpt from Running)’


  5. After a full day and a tossed brain, possibly the employee who wanted to know your work wisdom sees the value that you have brought to the company and wants to learn from you. We are all getting older and hopefully wiser. Working with multi-generations now days we need to work to try to understand where each person is coming from. Just ask, and also it is okay to let them know if you feel that they are stepping on toes. Being a part of today’s workforce is a very amazing and fantastic experience.


    • Oh, I completely agree with you Tina. The young man has high potential and asked the questions in the most appropriate manner. And yes, the up and coming workforce is incredibly talented. It will be fun to watch this entrepreneurial group will take the hill.



  1. […] morning I read a post written by David Kanigan called  “Making Same Mistakes. Certainly.”  This post caught my eye right away.  It caught my eye for several reasons.  One being that I […]


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