What does it mean to be a Tall Poppy?

Being different. In some countries it’s undesirable. I use to work for an Australian company and we’d hear mention of ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’. Australia has changed greatly over the last decade but Tall Poppy use to be part of the culture. I had to ask when I first heard it too. The term originated with Aristotle, that’s how old it is. The idea is that a uniform field of poppies is ideal and the ones that are taller than the rest should be cut down. The official term is actually intended to be pejorative.

I feel like this Tall Poppy sometimes- at least I hope I am. Is that odd?

So how is it relevant in this day and age?

I see this in corporate contexts. Say the boss spends $1M on a outside consultant to deliver a finding. The Boss agrees with the finding and cascades it out to the generals and then to the troops. In a corporate culture, the people closest to the the customer, the troops, have no say in the strategy. It would be a rare example to hear about a soldier (keeping with the analogy) who pointed out flaws in the finding and was able to make positive change to the project. Soldiers may be able to affect the implementation, but we do see a higher scrutiny and less tolerance for someone in the ranks to question leadership decisions. The Tall Poppy Syndrome is that feeling that the soldier who makes waves will be scrutinized. That is how it’s been explained to me and how I interpret it.

I’m a passionate person – passionate about my industry and my work ethic. I thrive on making educated leaps, being a first mover, and persistence. I believe that if you haven’t failed, you haven’t tried hard enough. In an environment that favors diplomacy, following protocol and subtlety, you don’t do well being celebratory, insistent, innovative, disappointed, or proud. Some would say that until you reach a certain level you’re best to just tone it down, go with the flow. (It’s the opposite in the start-up environment. The more personally invested you are, the better.)

I’ve worked with my share of battle-worn colleagues who have been put in one box on the org chart and then moved to another box the next year then back again. And with the economic downturn these are the lucky ones to have survived numerous waves of lay offs. Perhaps this has something to do with mellowing of emotions in large corporate environments. And it’s the culture of tan cubicles, layers of management, but mostly keeping your eye on the horizon of long term goals.

My field of Digital Marketing is constantly reinventing itself and it excites me to no end! So being housed inside of a 40k person company has been such a juxtaposition of large and nimble. Working in the corporate environment has made me a better professional and employee. I don’t want to lose the Tall Poppy in me, that entrepreneur. I’m not going to change the way corporations work but I’ve come to understand the perspective. Corporations are built for long, steady progression. But even though we invest ourselves in our work, sometimes at our own personal expense, corporations manage in thousands not by individuals. The loyalty and passion you invest has to be rewarding to you first. Brave the harsh winds, the sun is worth it.

Building On Your Strengths

My eyes have been opened. (Dramatic, huh?) I have always believed that I was an introspective person, old enough to know who I am and young enough to know who I want to be. The difference between last week (above) and this week is that I can put my finger exactly on my top 5 strengths.

If you haven’t taken the Strengths Finder 2.0 online test, stop reading this, go to Amazon, purchase the book (which has a unique code allowing you to take the online test). My Marketing department did this as an exercise and over 90% of the team agreed the results were shockingly accurate. What an experiment too! We had many core strengths in common- achievers, analytics, ideation, futuristic- but we also had some interesting outliers like woo, fairness and consistent.

The premise of strength-based research is that success can only be achieved by improving and operating from our strengths. To that end, we cannot become accomplished by trying to improve our weaknesses. It’s a common behavior to say, I’m horrible at xxx, so I’m going to take classes to fix it. The book argues that you can only become competent this way, but not excel. Managers who only focus on weaknesses, like parents, are only creating more problems. By focusing on our strengths we become happier, more engaged and our creativity shines.

See what you think. Open your eyes.

Book description from Amazon:Do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day? Chances are, you don’t. All too often, our natural talents go untapped. From the cradle to the cubicle, we devote more time to fixing our shortcomings than to developing our strengths.

To help people uncover their talents, Gallup introduced the first version of its online assessment, StrengthsFinder, in 2001 which ignited a global conversation and helped millions to discover their top five talents.

In its latest national bestseller, StrengthsFinder 2.0, Gallup unveils the new and improved version of its popular assessment, language of 34 themes, and much more (see below for details). While you can read this book in one sitting, you’ll use it as a reference for decades.

Love What You Do

If you love what you do, you’re passion propels you forward. You find yourself so engrossed in the work that 1pm comes and goes and you finally remember that you forgot to eat lunch.

The pathways in your brain are firing and if you took a minute to listen to your body you’d feel your heart rate dancing the samba. And success follows.

So how do we get to that nirvana? First, you should realize that not everyday will be like this. There’s going to be one day you have to be the heavy and lay down the law with someone, and another day that is filled with frustrating tasks that have to get done. And yes, there may even be a day where you thought you were going in the right direction and you have to back track.

It’s important to love your everyday. But it’s more important to love the direction you are going in. You can make the most meticulous plans but keep some flexibility in there for diversions, for research, for instincts. Eye the horizon and not your feet.

(Get out the crackers, I’m about to lay on some cheese…) And as Terry the yoga teacher in Daytona Beach quoted, “It’s the journey y’all”. So love your journey and success will come.