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Mischievous Deloitte Partner on Why ‘Keep Doing What You’re Doing’ Is the Worst Career Advice

bird in nest checking its undercarriage, a fool

Financial Review has profiled Deloitte Australia boss Adam Powick and we’re choosing to ignore the ongoing drama over there on that side of the world to instead latch onto this bit of advice he offered not only aspiring partners but really anyone who seeks to get ahead at work.

He may be CEO now but unlike some naturally talented, born-to-lead handshakers, he didn’t get there right away. Before finally ascending to the highest rung on the ladder, he didn’t make partner (twice!) and came in second in his first race to be CEO. He got there eventually, obviously.

On the most helpful career feedback he’s received, here’s what he said:

It’s interesting. You usually get this feedback when you fail, “just keep doing what you’re doing, you’re doing a good job.”

Now that is BS feedback because every human always needs to improve.

I need to keep growing and learning as a CEO every single day in my role. So if someone tells you that you’re doing fine, and you don’t need to do anything else, that is the worst possible piece of feedback and advice you can ever get.

You should be asking, “what else can I do?” As I said to you before, “how am I perceived?”

The second year I failed to make partner, I kept asking why, why, why, why? And eventually, I got that feedback, “you are perceived as a larrikin, as a lad, you have the gravitas.” And then we started to talk about feedback. “Okay, what can I do to change that perception?” And that feedback I could use, and I could apply for the rest of my career.

Yeah, we’re gonna have to Google that.

Larrikin is an Australian English term meaning “a mischievous young person, an uncultivated, rowdy but good-hearted person“, or “a person who acts with apparent disregard for social or political conventions“.

It used to mean “a lout, hoodlum, or hooligan.” Further reading from this century: Q&A: The origin of “larrikin”

Illustration of a larrikin from Nelson P. Whitelocke’s book A Walk in Sydney Streets on the Shady Side (1885)

Anyway, seems ol’ Adam took that advice to heart and changed not who he is as a person — “I’m still a larrikin. You can’t take that out of someone,” he told AFR — but how he is perceived. When it comes down to it, that’s all that matters in professional services after all. His colleagues at PwC know all about that.

Adam Powick failed to make partner twice. Now he runs Deloitte [Financial Review]

One thought on “Mischievous Deloitte Partner on Why ‘Keep Doing What You’re Doing’ Is the Worst Career Advice

  1. Rather than pulling out a fancy word like “larrikin”, he could’ve just said that the key to achieving his dreams in the business world was to stop being himself and start acting how people want him to act.

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