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Book Club Guide: Expect to Win by Carla Harris

Mel Butcher Blog | Book Club Guide | Expect to Win
Image of book - Expect to Win by Carla Harris

Every time I host a book discussion, I'm committed to sharing the facilitation questions I develop. I hope you'll use these to journal learnings for yourself or to host your own book group.

All quotes below are from Expect to Win by Carla A. Harris.

"I had bought into the ideal of a pure meritocracy, 100 percent objectivity, and thought that merely being smart and hardworking would be my keys to long-term success. Wrong! What I failed to understand is that despite the fact that the financial services industry, investment banking in particular, is a numbers-oriented, bottom-line driven business, it is not 100 percent objective, and objectivity is at the core of meritocracy. After more than two decades working as a woman in the intense, dynamic, competitive, tough environment called Wall Street, I have learned that Wall Street (every industry, really) is driven by people, and people are subjective by nature. Therefore, most environments are not true meritocracies."

  • Have you bought into the idea of meritocracy? How might you need to shift your mental paradigm in order to be successful in your industry?

  • Who are you (in a career context)?

  • What to do you think is the appropriate balance (for you) between focusing on strengths versus weaknesses?

  • What are 3 of your competitive strengths?

  • Where do you have strengths that are not yet fully developed (your future competitive advantage)?

  • Are you fully owning the decision you make, especially passive decisions?

  • Do you believe you are in a position to showcase your best strengths regularly through your work? If not, what could it look like to be able to do that?

  • Are you living your life the way you want to?

"You cannot rely on the the senior team members you work with to teach you what you need to know. While technically it may be their responsibility to train you, they may or may not be able to do it. You may be assigned to someone who is very good at what they do, but they may not be a good teacher, or you may be assigned to someone who has been lucky in their career to do okay, but has never fully mastered some of the basic concepts and, therefore, cannot really teach you. In both of these cases, you must take the initiative and get the information on your own."

  • How does this passage change the paradigm for how you seek advice, guidance, mentorship?

  • Later, Harris writes, "The truth is, people won't always have or wish to make the investment in your development." Acknowledging that, how are you committed to take your development into your own hands?

  • What is one thing you are committed to apply the 90-day rule to?

  • Review the beginning of the chapter titled Perception is the Copilot to Reality. It's important to remember that most people's perceptions of you are happening subconsciously. Reflect on how you want to be seen. What's the gap between how you want to be seen and how people perceive you at work? What might you want to do differently to shift perceptions?

  • Also in Perception is the Copilot to Reality - consider Harris' story about the young woman who worked to change perceptions, in particular, using visual cues. How does this land for you?

  • Harris writes, "be careful not to pick up [someone else's] baggage and carry it as my burden." What unneeded baggage have you been carrying around?

  • How did you feel about the suggested tactics for approaching "non-fans"? Will you try any of these?

  • What is a decision that's been made about your career when you weren't in the room? With that knowledge, what might you want to change in how you are showing up (change, do more of, less of...)?

  • Have you had experience with an assigned mentor? How about a mentorship relationship that grew organically? What worked well (or not)?

"Many organization will assign you a mentor when you are hired because their intentions are to help you integrate smoothly, effectively, and quickly into the organization. This objective is very different from what you are really looking for in a mentoring relationship. It is not just about integration, it is about career progression and success maximization."

  • Acknowledging this truth, does this change how you will approach seeking and cultivating mentor relationships (as a mentor or mentee)?

  • Share your understanding of mentor versus sponsor.

  • Have you had experience successfully garnering sponsorship? How did you do it? What might you do differently next time?

"Think about how you will use your voice. Do you want to use your voice to be constructive or to complain? Do you want to use it to be supportive or to be contrarian? Do you want to interrupt people all the time or be the one who summarizes the discussion after every meeting to exhibit that you were not only listening, but also to have the chance to put your own spin on what was said?"

  • How will you choose to influence your team? your organization? your industry?

  • What calculated risk have you thought of taking, but hesitate?

  • "The way you treat your network is the way your network will treat you." How are you treating your network?

  • How might you show up differently to cultivate your network?

  • How might you show up to grow your network in breadth and depth?

  • Harris defined balance as, "integrating giving back and your passions into your professional life." How does this definition help you see things differently?

  • Share your mantra. What does it mean to you?

  • Think about a time when something in life or career changed that was unanticipated and you weren't thrilled about it. What do you think was at the core of your discontent? If you had a similar experience again, how might you approach it now?

  • Are you waking up expecting to win?

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