Thursday, September 4, 2008

How Hillary Clinton Derailed Her Career - Part I

For corporate executives everywhere, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s failure to win the Democratic nomination for President of the United States is a classic tale of how not to onboard into a new position.

Upwardly mobile professionals can learn a lot from her experience.

Leading a national political campaign was a new role for her. And with any new role, there are certain proven steps that when managed well help ensure career success, but when managed badly, can bring disaster.

Examining how she handled those steps provides a case study in career management.

Assume nothing

According to Roger Simon, the chief political columnist for, as early as 2006 following her successful re-election to the Senate, Hillary and her supporters had their eye on the upcoming presidential election.

They did so, he reports, because they believed she was a lock for the Democratic nomination in ’08. That assumption drove their actions, turned out to be false and contributed to her defeat.

People fail in new jobs for a series of predictable reasons. Chief among them is that they don’t fully understand the requirements of what they need to do or it takes them too long to finally figure it out.

Because she assumed that her nomination was inevitable, she misread the requirements needed to succeed. Then she compounded that error by building her campaign on that miscalculation.

And while it’s fine to have assumptions – even strong ones – it’s a career derailing mistake to allow yourself to believe those assumptions are true until after you’ve completed your assessment.

It looks like Hillary may have put them in the wrong order.

“Leave your assumptions at the door,” is the most important piece of advice you can get when beginning a new job.

Assess everything

Conducting a clear-eyed and non-emotional assessment of the situation is the first step any executive needs to take when beginning a new job. It’s from that assessment that everything else flows.

But according to Simon, Hillary allowed hubris and emotions to cloud her judgment and influence her assessment.

Because she assumed she’d win, her assessment of the situation – the most critical part of ensuring success – was flawed. It caused her to not ask all the right questions of all the right people.

Being thorough and unbiased is what the assessment phase is all about. Not doing that effectively is a prime cause of career derailment among those taking on new roles.

Senator Clinton is testament to that.

There's more

Coming to a new challenge without succumbing to assumptions and being diligent in the assessment phase are two of the critical elements needed to successfully onboard into any new role.

Hillary had difficulties with these steps and warning lights were flashing even before her campaign approached Iowa. We'll look at some of the other key onboarding steps and see how she managed them in the next post.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good stuff! Like the case study approach.



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