3 Keys to Career Success: The Pieces of PIE

by Frank Battiston

Share Button

Performance, Image and Exposure (PIE) How well you do your job has very little to do with how successful you are in your professional career.   Or, more precisely, how well you do your prescribed work will account for about 10% of your overall success.  That’s according to Harvey Coleman in his book Empowering Yourself, The Organizational Game Revealed.    Briefly stated, Coleman asserts that career success is based on the 3 key elements of Performance, Image and Exposure (a.k.a. PIE):

  1. Performance:  this is about the day-to-day work you’re tasked with and the quality of the results you deliver.
  2. Image: this is what other people think of you.  Your personal brand.  Do you maintain a positive attitude? Do you lead with solutions to issues, or are you the person that solely offers roadblocks when others suggest changes or alternatives?
  3. Exposure:  Who knows about you and what you do?  Does your boss know what you do?  Does their boss know you and what you do?  Do others inside and outside your organization know anything about you? 

Doing your job well gets you 10% of the way there?

The more contentious and possibly unsettling aspects of Coleman’s conclusions revolve around the weightings placed on these elements:  performance counts for 10% of your success, image 30% and exposure an eye-popping 60%.   Perhaps this is self-evident to some people, but when I first read this it caught me off guard.  It implies that working hard to deliver great results on what you’re tasked with is far from good enough. 


Although the book was published way back in 1996, its implications still resonate true today.   If all you do is perform your job well  then you’ll get some form of pay raise or bonus, which for some people is perfectly okay.  To get a promotion you’ll need to perform well, cultivate a positive image and proactively gain exposure to a broad array of the right stakeholders.

Observations on Promotion Discussions

Reflecting on my experiences as both a non-manager and, more tellingly,  a manager of by-and-large exceptional groups of sales and technical people, I’ll have to admit there’s a large degree of truth in Coleman’s PIE model.  When I think about management discussions I’ve been part of regarding promotions and succession planning, these typically start with someone in the room putting forth a candidate’s name for consideration.  My first thoughts aren’t usually about whether the candidate is any good at performing their job (I assume they are, otherwise why bother putting forth the name?).  Instead, I immediately jump to wondering what I know about them (i.e. their exposure):

  • Do I know what they’ve done or accomplished? 
  • Have I interacted with them directly? 
  • Have I seen them do  presentations?
  • Have I read things they’ve written?
  • Have I heard others talk about them?  
  • In a nutshell, are they visible? 

If I don’t know anything about the person I’ll be inclined to push back, as it  seems irresponsible to build the next generation of leaders and role models on complete unknowns.  Having said that, just putting forth the name gives the candidate exposure for the next cycle of promotions, and I’ll be more inclined to notice their activities and proactively engage them.  The final litmus test generally involves discussions surrounding the candidate’s image .  If the person is viewed as being a capable, consistent and positive change agent then it’s typically a done deal.  

Good managers can help you get some exposure, but they can’t do it all for you.  Nor can they solidify your image.  It’s really something for which each person needs to take personal accountability.

What do you think?  Have things these days changed radically or does PIE still apply?  

Previous post: