Avoiding the Career Plateau

John C. Maxwell conveys 5 basic principles leading to the success of a professional: leadership, growth, creativity, excellence, and service.  In his blog, “Life is Difficult, Don’t’ Make It Harder for Yourself,” he explains that by focusing on success alone an individual’s reality and viewpoint of the world can change and thus hinder their ability to reach their desired personal and/or professional goals.  The successful professional will therefore “get ahead” by thinking differently and avoiding the career “plateau” that has become all too familiar amongst employees at some of the biggest and most respected organizations.

Maxwell explains that a significant number of employees become complacent after they are rewarded or recognized for their most recent accomplishment/achievement, and thus they plateau.  One must ask, What if NASA GSFC employees used this same logic?

For 55 years, NASA GSFC has been a valued contributor and leader for the nation’s civilian space program and has developed technologies and capabilities that have improved the lives of individuals nationwide.  The Agency remains relevant today because our workforce continues to pursue innovative new missions, projects, and science that will improve our lives and understanding of the world while resisting the complacency that Maxwell describes.  NASA GSFC employees were not content with simply landing on the moon in 1969, but instead, continue to inspire the general public and next generation of explorers by delving farther into space, exploring low-orbit Earth, the solar system, Mars, and areas outside our solar system, all in an effort to increase our understanding of the universe in which we reside.

The Agency’s focus is not solely based on each accomplishment or the success of a specific mission, nor is it distorted by unrealistic viewpoints.  At NASA GSFC, we understand that society, technology, and our human capabilities are constantly changing.   For the Information Technology and Communications Directorate these changes yield opportunities and the need for us to explore advanced competencies in areas such as cloud computing, virtual desktop infrastructures, and mobility.  With that, we strive to equip our world-class scientists and engineers with the tools to improve their knowledge of aerospace and aeronautics and the origin of our universe as well as to build partnerships with our external partners.  Through such collaborations, we will invariably become and remain successful in achieving our strategic goals.

Although Maxwell makes a strong case that recognition and awards may accelerate pathways to failure, our organization and the agency take a different view.  We view recognition as an opportunity to boost employee morale, performance, and loyalty.  We see incentives as a tool to improve innovation, increase collaboration and productivity, and create a deeper passion for the incredible work we do here within NASA and GSFC.




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