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The Way Up: How to Keep Your Career Moving in the Right Direction Hardcover – March 1, 2011
About the Author
Donald J. Hurzeler, CPCU, CLU, spent twenty-seven years at Allstate before becoming CEO and president of Zurich Middle Markets, a billion-dollar segment of Zurich Financial Services. Hurzeler was also president of the Zurich Foundation and national president of the 25,000-member Society of Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriters. A former columnist for various trade publications and a former speechwriter for executives at both Allstate insurance and Zurich Financial Services, he lives with his wife, Linda, in Chicago.
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I particularly like Chapter Five, "Install a Periscope in Your Cubicle." He begins by saying...
"Learn more than just your own job. The biggest winners in Corporate America understand how the whole mechanism works. By that I mean they understand how the economy work, how the industry works, how their company works and makes its money, hot their department works and makes its money and how the various parts of the organization work and work together to do the whole job."
He's right. The more you understand how things work in your department, company, industry and economy as a whole, the better equipped you'll be to create the life and career success you want and deserve.
My first job in business was with Marathon Oil Company. I was hired to work in their Training and Organization Development Department. When I arrived one of my colleagues had me over to his home. He had a copy of a book called, A Portrait in Oil: The History of Marathon Oil Company on an end table. I asked if he had read it and if I could borrow it. He said, that he hadn't read it, but it looked good on display if senior people in the company ever visit his home. He told me that I could get a copy of my own by asking the corporate communications people.
I got a copy and read it. It was a puff piece created by an author who had written numerous company histories. Regardless, I learned a lot about the history of the company and the oil business by reading it. In those days, Marathon's headquarters were in Findlay Ohio, a small town about 70 miles south of Toledo. We sometimes traveled on company planes, but usually drove company cars to the Toledo or Detroit airports. Often there would be four or five of us in one car heading to an airport.
One day, I was seated next to a pretty senior executive. We began chatting about the business. After about 15 minutes he said, "How long have you been with us?" "Four months," I replied. He said, "You know more about this company and the oil business than a lot of people who have worked here for 10 years. How did you learn all this?"
I learned it all from reading the company's history, reading business publications, the oil industry publications that were circulated in the office and the company's newsletter. I thought everybody read that stuff. It turns out that most people got the interoffice mail envelope with the publications and just sent them on to the next person on the list.
I realized that my natural curiosity had helped me stumble on the career success strategy described by Don Hurzeler in The Way Up. I had a periscope in my cubicle -- and I used it to better understand, my company and industry. You should too.
Don Hurzeler also suggests that you learn how your company makes it money. He says that if you understand the financial workings of your company, you're likely to be a career success....
"Start by reading what others say about your company from a financial point of view. Check out Internet sources of information such as Yahoo! Finance or the Motley Fool. See what the analysts have to say. Red and seek to understand the financial highlights. Your company doesn't make money by just selling widgets or whatever. It makes money by investing, by selling assets and leasing them back, by cutting expenses, by taking advantage of various tax breaks, by creating profits and losses at the right time of the year. There is a lot to learn in this area - a lifetime of learning."
I agree with what Don Hurzeler has to say in "The Way Up". The more you understand the financial workings of your company, the better able you will be to create the life and career success you want and deserve. Business runs on numbers. Understanding the numbers is important. Demonstrating that you both understand the numbers and how you can make a positive impact on them is even more important. As Don Hurzeler says, "No one becomes the CEO of a significant company without knowing how that company makes its money." He's right - and that's some great career advice.
Today's shaky economy prompts many of us to yearn for a formula to guarantee career success and job longevity. Competition for jobs is tough. Competition for advancement slots is cutthroat. Consolidation and belt-tightening are the orders of the day. We seem busier than ever, but there often creeps in the nagging doubt as to what demonstrable value we are adding. What does upper management think about my performance? Will my unit be downsized? Will my job be outsourced to a vendor in Bangalore?
In his newest book, The Way Up, retired insurance exec Don Hurzeler argues that making some simple choices - and executing on them - will vault you ahead of your competition. A 40-year veteran of corporate struggles, changes and upheavals, Herzeler distills his lessons and take-aways that can help turbo-boost the career of any insurance person or business professional. While Hurzeler's frame of reference is the insurance industry, his advice rings true regardless of the economic sector in which you work. In other words, insurance folks (of which I must confess, I am one) will relate to his stories but his audience is a broader business market. He does not come across as preachy and peppers his career "nuggets" with wit and humor.
It would be tough to make a case that Hurzeler breaks new ground here or imparts novel revelations that will leave career coaches slack-jawed. Much of what constitutes common sense, however, is not so common. The problem lies not in knowing what to do, but in having the fortitude and stick-to-it-tiveness to follow through on what we know is sound.
Herzeler divides his book into four major sections. Part One focuses on how to prove your value. Part Two discusses specific ways to expand the reader's opportunities for future success. Part Three talks about failure and how to "fail well." Part Four, which Herzeler says in some ways is the most important section, talks about how to deliver impressive results.
Among the many hats that Hurzeler wore in the workaday world, he was a national president of the Chartered Property & Casualty Underwriter (CPCU) Society. He describes himself as a guy who was born with energy that pulsated as though he was plugged into an electrical socket. Such verve and energy comes through with impressive wattage in his book. The guy juggled a lot. At one time, he was leading a major insurance company, serving as National CPCU President (a full-time job in itself) and battling cancer. Talk about having a full plate!
Saddled with a bad boss? Hurzeler offers survival tips on how to get through the experience, noting that each employee is destined to have a mix of good, average and bad bosses in a career. Sometimes it just does not add up, though. He cites one of his former bosses who got paid $2 million a year while the guy closed his office door and played with Star Wars toys. (I bet he could afford a nice collection with that kind of dough...)
One career peril that Hurzeler warns against is insularity. He urges readers to "raise the periscope" and look around beyond their own department or work unit. Find out as much as you can about the entire workings of the company, every department and how the company makes money. True networking may involve getting out of your subject matter comfort zone. He decries claim adjusters who only network with other claim adjusters, underwriters who only schmooze with their like kind, etc. Seek a broader perspective and a way to cultivate a Big Picture perspective on your company and your industry, he urges.
Hurzeler delivers his career success tips in a down to earth, practical and humor-laden manner. He is not preachy and is not above opening the kimono to examine some of the biggest career boners he made in the course of his work life. Nor does he offer any "shortcuts" as delivering excellent operational results is the key to success. There is no MBA-speak or business mumbo jumbo here. Hurzeler really is imparting "things they don't teach you in Harvard Business School."
For an insurance guy, Herzeler seems a bit of an iconoclast. It is probably safe to say you won't find many books written by retired insurance execs quoting Tupac Shakur on business advice (I counted two such references). It is hard to imagine Hurzeler donning a do-rag and riffing through an insurance-themed rap song, but I would not put it past him.
To navigate the traps, snares and pitfalls that can trip up today's business processionals, we could all use the equivalent of a career GPS. Wouldn't it be great to just plug in our desired career destination and have a soothing voice tell us, step by step, how to reach the corner office?
Unfortunately, neither Garmin nor Tom-Tom make such a device .. yet. Until they do, Don Herzeler's The Way Up will fit the bill ably as a manual for career success. The real key is whether readers just read the book and move on or read it, heed it and act on it!
The author's voice and personality shine through in an engaging way. What I liked best about the book was how the author touched on a lot of key topics and simplified them to their core. A book like this can easily get out of hand and run long. This one is tightly organized, conveying a lot of wisdom in an efficient manner.
Lots of thought provoking chapters. Themes which wrap many of them together include the importance of inner strength, discipline, and resilience in the face of adversity. The author describes a variety of stories in which he personally overcame setbacks. There is a nice touch of humor associated with some of these stories. Part of the psychology that helped Don succeed in the business world was undoubtedly related to his athletic background. He talks about the importance of good coaching in his track and field days, and describes how he used coaches effectively throughout his career as well. Also liked the advice on the 80/20 principal.
Bottom line: great advice here almost anyone can relate to and apply if they are honest with themselves.