Four Ingredients to Build Great MOJO

Talent Management

March 7, 2010

by Marshall Goldsmith

Our mojo is apparent when there’s no gap between the positive way we perceive ourselves and how we are perceived by others. Four vital ingredients need to be combined in order for you to have great mojo.

The first is your identity. Who do you think you are? Often I ask people this question and their first response is, “Well, I think I’m perceived as someone who… .” I stop them immediately, saying, “I didn’t ask you to analyze how you think other people see you. I want to know who you think you are. Taking everyone else in the world out of the equation, how do you perceive yourself?” What follows is often a long period of silence as they struggle to get their self-image into focus. Without a firm handle on our identity, we may never understand why we gain — or lose — our mojo.

The second element is achievement. What have you done lately? If you’re a salesperson, this might be landing a big account. If you’re a creative type, it could be coming up with a breakthrough idea. This is a more subtle question because we often underrate or overrate our achievements based on how easy or hard they were to pull off.

For example, one of the most senior human resources executives I know told me she could pinpoint the exact moment her career took off — though she thought nothing of it at the time. She was the assistant to her company’s CEO. One day she heard him complaining about the company’s tracking system for expenses. That night, she wrote him a memo on how she would streamline the system. It didn’t require much effort on her part; as someone who had been filling out the CEO’s travel and entertainment reports for years, she had a very good sense of the reimbursement system already in place. But the memo impressed her boss, who almost immediately moved her into the human resources department, where she could shake things up with her ideas. In her manager’s eyes, she clearly demonstrated insight, initiative and executive ability — and her memo became the moment that jump-started her career from assistant to where she is today, overseeing hundreds of employees.

Look at achievements from two perspectives: what we bring to the task and what the task gives to us. Until we can honestly put a value on what we’ve accomplished lately, we may not be able to create or regain our mojo.

The third element is reputation. Who do other people think you are? What do other people think you’ve done lately? Unlike questions about identity and achievement, there’s no subtlety here. While identity and achievement are definitions you develop for yourself, your reputation is a scoreboard kept by others. Your co-workers, customers, friends and sometimes strangers grab the right to grade your performance — and report their opinions to the rest of the world. Although you can’t take total control of your reputation, there’s a lot you can do to maintain or improve it, which can have an enormous impact on your mojo.

The fourth element to building mojo is acceptance. What can you change, and what is beyond your control? On the surface, acceptance — being realistic about what we can and cannot change in our lives and accommodating ourselves to those facts — should be easy. After all, how hard is it to resign yourself to the reality of a situation? You assess it, take a deep breath and accept it. Yet acceptance is often one of our greatest challenges.

Rather than accept that their manager has authority over their work, some employees constantly fight with their bosses, a strategy that rarely ends well. Rather than deal with the disappointment of getting passed over for a promotion, they’ll whine “It’s not fair” to anyone who will listen, a strategy that rarely enhances their image among their peers. Rather than take a business setback in stride, they’ll hunt for scapegoats, laying blame on everyone but themselves, a strategy that rarely teaches them how to avoid future setbacks. When mojo fades, the initial cause is often failure to accept what is — and get on with life.

By understanding the impact and interaction of identity, achievement, reputation and acceptance, we can alter our mojo at work and at home.