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Importance of P.I.E.

Everyone should like pie, but this one isn’t of the food kind. As I support people through coaching, it’s a topic that more times than not I’ll bring up. Typically, when people are struggling how they can progress in their career or not feeling their contribution is recognised.

P.I.E. stands for Performance, Image and Exposure. These are three elements that I believe are fundamental in sustainable career growth. This is not a new model and has been around for a while, with plenty of different references available if you google PIE model. For this article, I’d like to share my interpretation of it. Let’s start with definitions of each element.

· Performance – it hopefully goes without saying, but to be successful you need to perform well. This doesn’t necessarily mean always performing at a great than expected level, though that wouldn’t hurt, it’s about consistency of good performance as a minimum. While you may get away with not performing for some period, especially if you’re very good at the I and the E, but eventually you’ll be found out. This is why I believe performance should be seen as 70% of the ingredients to success.

· Image – this is how you perform, everything from your behaviours through to the approach you take to your work. Netflix used to say in their employee manifesto ‘We don’t tolerate brilliant jerks’, which is one way of looking at how the wrong image may be portrayed. Now there are some organisational cultures where they do value that sort of behaviour, but thankfully they are becoming less and less. In summary, it’s the positive image that you should be portraying around how you treat people and the approach you take to your work

· Exposure – is really about who knows you and what you do. Now this isn’t walking around the office (or dining table in the current environment), pounding your chest and saying how great you are, but rather making sure that your output is known. We’ve all worked for bosses who have taken the credit for our work, sometimes unintentionally, but often because we’re not good at that ourselves. But we can’t always rely on others to promote the work we do, so one option is to talk about the impact of what you’ve done. Maybe even connecting with the people that have benefited from your work and checking in with them. It’s about making that connection, but this one is very personal, and you need to be comfortable with the approach you take. Think about it this way. If you put an achievement on your resume and an interviewer wants to call the person who benefited from your work for a reference, would they associate that outcome with you?

Think about the people that you admire and respect, especially the ones who have been successful in their careers. Do you recognise the three aspects above in them? Some might be more subtle than others, but I guarantee that they’ve consistently demonstrated all three over time.

Exert your talents, and distinguish yourself, and don’t think of retiring from the world, until the world will be sorry that you retire. – Samuel Johnson

I’ve seen people who have been exceptional at the Image and Exposure piece (often referred to as ‘talking a good game’) but haven’t focused on their performance. It might work for one or two roles, but eventually they’ll stagnate in roles and struggle to progress as they have few true outcomes to talk about. Think about the picture at the top of this post. It's a beautiful car (Image), in a public place (Exposure), but wouldn't be any better than just an ornament if is didn't drive (Performance)

Then you have the people who deserve the promotions and career growth, but don’t get it because they are typically not great at the Exposure side of things. The perfect example of this that I always use is an individual who worked for me as a senior developer in Melbourne. His code quality was some of the best I’ve ever seen, both in the clear and standardised way it was written, through to the exceptional test pass rate. If there was a problem, he was the first to volunteer to help and would not hesitate to work the hours it took to resolve the problem. He was the role model of performance. On top of this, he was a lovely person to deal with. Always smiling, always respectful, pleasant to talk to, and as mentioned, always willing to help. Big tick in the Image box.

Where he fell short though was around Exposure. He sat at a desk in the far end corner of the building, kept himself to himself and just got on with things. That certainly helped with his performance, but not with the awareness of him in the organisation. When I joined the company, I realised quite quickly we had this hidden gem amongst us. Even though it as only a relatively small group (80-100 people), when I did the talent review with the MD and put forward this individual, it was received with a blank look. Not knowing who they were, which we quickly changed.

So why is the P.I.E. model important to me and something I talk about all the time, well it’s simply because I see it as the key to success in your career. But please, please, always start with your performance and do that well. Then if you also do it in the right way and ensure it is seen, which if you’re working on the right things, shouldn’t be hard, your growth will come.

Thinking about your own career, where have you been strong in the past and which element could do with some attention right now?

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