Rise to the Top: A book review by Bob Morris

RisetoTopRise To The Top: How Women Leverage Their Professional Persona to Earn More
Stacey Hawley
Career Press (2015)

How to manage the power of others’ perceptions to achieve the given career objectives

Authors of books such as this one often invoke metaphoric phrases such “rising to the top,” climbing a “mountain or “ladder,” hitting a “jackpot” or grabbing a “brass ring.” Game theory has also had an influence. I was reminded of all this as began to read Stacey Hawley’s book. My rating correctly suggests what I think of its quality of content and presentation of it as well as its potential value to those who read it with appropriate care.

Hawley asserts — and I agree — that perceptions (whether or not they are accurate — often become realities. Why? Because they are formulated by human beings and thus, inevitably, subjective. Hawley asserts (and I also agree) that perceptions by others of the value of a worker’s performance often determine what that person’s compensation will be.

Because it is so important, let’s repeat that second assertion: perceptions by others of the value of a worker’s performance often determine what that person’s compensation will be.

Whether or not those perceptions are accurate is another issue entirely. Also I hasten to add, another reality.

Although this book’s subtitle suggests that it was written to help women “leverage their professional persona to earn more,” the information, insights, and counsel that Hawley provides can also be of substantial value to men, especially those who are introverted. (Susan Cain has a great deal of value to say about all this in her brilliant book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, published by Broadway Books and now available in a paperbound edition.) I also think this book can be of incalculable value to supervisors because, more often than not, their performance evaluations are based on misperceptions by default. That is, those who performance they evaluate insufficiently, if not incorrectly, have given them little (if any) reason to think otherwise.

Hawley responds to questions such as these, devoting a separate chapter to each:

o What is executive compensation and what is it not?
o What is the appropriate role of a consultant retained to assist the compensation process?
o Who are all the “players” involved in that process?
o What are the four types of a “female powerhouse”?
o How best to determine the potential of one’s “powerhouse personality”?
o How best to leverage that personality?
o What is a career “blitz”? How best to prepare for and then handle one?
o When to ignore the “gender gap”? Why then? What to do instead?
o What are the most significant benefits and potential problems of “rising to the top”?

Many (if not most) people are uncomfortable when urged to promote themselves, either because they don’t know how to do that effectively or, if they do know, consider it unseemly to do so. The fact remains, whether they like it or not, most workers are involved in a multi-dimensional “game” and how it is “played” varies (sometimes significantly) from one organization to the next. Those who play it well — as in competitive professional sports such as professional football, basketball, and baseball — are generously rewarded with both compensation as well as opportunities to accelerate personal growth and professional development to earn even more. I invoke the term “multi-dimensional” because the game to which Hawley refers involves how well one does what they are paid to do, of course, but also how well one leverages on-the-job performance to establish and nourish relationships with those on whom one’s career success depends.

Perhaps women will derive greater benefit from this book than will men. However, as indicated earlier, I think most of the information, insights, and counsel that Stacey Hawley provides can help almost anyone to leverage performance to achieve greater recognition and appreciation. Perhaps this book’s greatest value is that it helps to correct the misperceptions that many (most?) workers have about how others perceive them, and, about the impact those perceptions can have on their career advancement.

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