Monica Pleasant, HR Director at Medtronic in Orange County, brings expansive human resources expertise, a passion for helping employees in their careers, and an interesting career journey of her own. We discussed it all on Parent. Boss. Leader several months ago, but one topic in particular has really stuck with me since our conversation: her insights on the PIE theory of success.

First, a little background: Monica’s lifelong interest in psychology—and a timely Myers-Briggs personality test in college—led her to a career in HR. In her first HR job at a television station, Monica recruited, then supported employees through their tenure at the station.  She said, “I found it so rewarding to hire and then watch someone grow and thrive in their career journey. I saw how I could positively affect people working in HR. I could have an impact on their career and future. That sparked my passion, and I knew I was in the right field for me.”

As she advanced in her own career, Monica made the PIE theory a central part of her approach to HR. This blog provides the highlights from this fascinating part of our conversation. Be sure to listen to the full podcast here or in the video below!

Exploring the PIE Theory of Success

When I asked Monica what advice she would give to someone about managing their career and achieving their goals, she mentioned the PIE theory. PIE is an acronym for performance, image, and exposure first introduced in Harvey J. Coleman’s 1996 book “Empower Yourself: The Organizational Game Revealed.”

I love frameworks, theories, and personality tests like the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator that give you a new or different perspective to think about, so I was intrigued by the PIE theory. Monica explained that it’s just one way Medtronic supports their employees, and she thinks it’s a useful way to consider your position in the workplace. It’s a guide that can help you have a more successful career journey.


Performance is certainly the basis. You have to get things done and get them done well. Monica acknowledged that right off the bat—but performance alone is not enough to ensure promotion and increased responsibility and compensation. Just doing your job isn’t going to guarantee that you are noticed, and being noticed doesn’t automatically mean you are chosen.

Monica explained, “Simply putting your head down and getting the job done helps to a degree, but you also have to think about how people are perceiving you (Image), and [if you are] continuing to learn and taking advantage of opportunities to grow your skills and experience (Exposure). That is what will allow people to trust you and give you additional responsibility and take on more in an organization.”

I love this theory! It’s a concise way to map out plans and goals, as well as organize what you should be doing to succeed. Successfully combining all three of the components is what will advance your career.


Image might be better known today as personal branding, but whatever you want to label it, Monica said, “It’s critical! Who you know will open up doors, but how you are perceived—your reputation—is what will get you hired and then ahead.”

How do people see you? Do you have a reputation for being helpful or a problem solver? Are you an “expert” or the go-to person on a particular topic, skill set, product, etc.? Perhaps you’re someone people know they can rely on for information. Do you have the skills that will help you in the role you want to be promoted to? A good image means people feel confident working with you and are willing to give you additional responsibility.


Exposure is the third piece of this framework. Monica stressed that to continue an upward trajectory of success throughout your career, you should be learning new things and exposing yourself to new and different opportunities. The skill sets businesses are looking for are always changing, especially in our technology driven world. Keeping up with new software, tools, and products gives you a real edge and makes you more valuable as an employee.

How do you keep learning? Look for opportunities. One piece of advice I always give is to take advantage of any training your company offers. Find the time. Whether it’s improving hard skills with a tutorial or direct training class, or improving soft skills by leading a meeting, authoring an article, or giving a presentation, it is all part of making sure you stay relevant. This effort will allow you to gain experience that ultimately helps you be better at your job, today and in the next step up.

Monica made an excellent point: “Companies don’t always give you opportunities for exposure and learning, so I’m a big fan of going outside of your organization for this. Volunteer at a nonprofit or on a board of directors.”

Monica told me about how valuable her membership in the National Human Resource Association was for overcoming her fear of approaching people in senior leadership as a more junior professional. She said, “Working with the NHRA gave me a chance to get to know them and be reminded that they really are just people. We’re all human! Even CEOs!”

Monica credits this “exposure” as an important part of her professional development. She overcame her shyness so well that she is now the current president of the Orange County chapter!

Leveraging the PIE Theory for Attraction and Retention

I’ve been thinking about PIE since Monica and I first spoke, and I’ve realized it can be a map for employers too, not just employees. If you want better employees, help them to think in a PIE manner and give them the opportunity to work on all three components. Offer training and support for continuing professional education. Make sure your process for choosing people for opportunities where they can develop important skills includes a broad scope of people, and not just the same few folks. Encourage entry and junior-level employees to join internal committees and external professional groups to give them exposure to new opportunities and challenges, as well as build and polish their professional image.

In today’s competitive hiring market, this kind of focus on employee development and support for career-long learning can be a differentiator that helps attract the best candidates and retain your most valuable employees. 

My thanks to Monica for introducing me to a cool new career theory and for all the great advice she shared!  I encourage you to listen to the full episode with Monica if you want to hear her equally interesting advice on parenting, mentoring, and being authentic in the workplace.

Listen to the full podcast featuring Monica Pleasant, or read more business lessons from our previous podcast guest.

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