Making the Case for Well-roundedness and Experience

Have you ever passed off an ask or a task to someone else because you didn’t know how to do it or just simply because it wasn’t your job? While I’m sure we all want to manage our workload so that we are not overwhelmed, the lack of diversity in skillset or the unwillingness to learn new skills just might come back to haunt you.

Basketball is a favorite sport of mine, and over the last couple of years there has been a change in the way teams have built their rosters. There’s a high value in players that can play multiple positions and do different things, and the “specialist” players are now finding it hard to get any time on the floor. Players that can play multiple positions and do different things provide teams flexibility and the ability to adapt to other teams. Offensively and defensively there are less weaknesses.

This sort of thing has been playing itself out in the corporate world for a while now, or at least that’s what I believe. As budgets continue to shrink, people are being asked to do more with less. If you’re able to bring multiple skills to a job or an organization, the higher in value you will be. Be wary if you find yourself in a position where your skillset only allows for you to do one thing. And be realistic about that, as much as I’d love to say that I have the skills to be a sports agent, if I don’t have the experience it won’t really matter.

And speaking of experience, it’s sad to hear about companies that seemingly look to force older workers out the door simply due to age. Being a well-rounded employee with multiple skills doesn’t happen overnight, skills are something that you acquire through learning and experience. If you’re looking for a digital marketer that can write, create and edit digital content, and lead strategy, you’re going to look for someone that has actually done something in those areas. Not just someone who says they have or says they’re knowledgeable simply because they took a course.

Taking courses to learn a new skill is great, I highly encourage it, but then those skills need to be applied somewhere so you can build experience. You can achieve this through a number of ways. Maybe the company that you work for will allow you to take a stretch assignment with another team. If you know friends that have small businesses, maybe there is something that you can help out with. Or if you’re like me and you need to brush up on your writing skills, start a blog and write.

The point is, go out and produce. People want to see results, and the more experience and skills that you have at your disposal the more likely you’ll be able to produce more, with better results.

So perhaps being a “jack of all trades” isn’t a bad thing after all.

Could You Phone It In If You Had To?

Before you quickly answer this question, stop for a minute and think. In a perfect world, good paying jobs would be plentiful and expenses would be low, but that’s really not how it works is it? There are bills to pay, mouths to feed, and/or a lifestyle that you want to keep, and for most of us, companies aren’t knocking at our door ready to throw gobs of money at us.

Hold up for a minute. Shouldn’t we all just take jobs that we like? Why sign up for a job you don’t like or want to do? Well first off, I don’t suppose many people willingly take jobs that they know they won’t like. Well maybe except former New York Knicks Team President, Phil Jackson. But don’t get me started on him, and that is my obligatory sports reference for this post.

Businessman talking on the phone
How long could you stand to be in a job you don’t like?

But in all seriousness, I don’t believe we take a job in something we don’t want to do unless we absolutely have to. Instead, what usually happens is that we’re “sold a false bill of goods” so to speak and the job isn’t what was advertised, or it came with complications that weren’t made known up front.

Also, sometimes jobs we want and would love to have don’t pay enough to cover the bills. I’ve seen people claim that they have the best jobs in the world, that they’re doing what they love and they wouldn’t have it any other way, but then they set up a GoFundMe to ask for help to pay their dental bills. How does that make sense?

If you have a job that pays your bills and allows you to survive, you would phone it in if you had to. And you know what, it’ll show.

As a manager, if you’re not in tune with your team members and you can’t see the signs, you risk losing your team. And talent will find a way to move on. Chances are that if someone on your team is phoning it in, that they’re also looking at options to leave.

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Managers, you have the ability to keep your employees from walking away.

“Josh Bersin of Deloitte believes the cost of losing an employee can range from tens of thousands of dollars to 1.5–2.0x the employee’s annual salary.” (Huffington Post)

Managers play a key role in talent retention, as we know that most people quit managers, not jobs. “Unsurprisingly, the manager relationship is highly correlated with employee engagement”, says Jack Altman. People will stay in roles that might not be the best fit if they find their relationship with their manager to be positive.

In some cases, it could be best for both parties to move on from each other, but I would suspect that more often than not, simple, honest communication can prevent employee turnover. If anything, you might be able to find a better fit on another team, preventing them from leaving the company altogether and losing the talent completely.

If You Want Respect, Take Responsibility

Respect goes a long way and is a currency that must be earned because it cannot be taken. It can be earned quickly, or over time, as a result of an action or inaction, but it requires proof or a reason. When you’ve gained the respect of peers, competitors, or strangers, you’ve done something to earn it.

Some people think that by attaining a position of power, it should demand respect. But I disagree. Those in positions of power should work to earn respect just as much as everyone else.

Showing respect and earning respect are two different things. I can show respect to someone in authority but I don’t have to respect them. If you’re having trouble figuring out if the people that you surround yourself with or have been given to lead respect you or not, think about who would come to your aid when you’re in trouble, and who wouldn’t.

And before your blood starts to boil when you think about those that won’t back you, stop for a moment and take a step back and really understand why they wouldn’t. Sure, maybe some of them are jerks or they’re simply jealous of you for some reason, but even the fiercest of rivals have been known to have a healthy respect for each other.

Earning respect starts with taking responsibility and owning up to your actions as an individual, and if you’re a leader, manager, or coach of a team, owning up to those too. It means standing up and taking the good and the bad, not just enjoying the success and passing blame for failures to someone or something else.

“You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.” ~ Carl Jung

Leadership Isn’t For Everyone

One of the best experiences that I’ve had and fondest memories is when I used to coach basketball. I did it for 10 years and I loved it. There were a lot of ups and downs, it took a lot of time and dedication, but I really enjoyed it. There’s something about creating a team and watching them grow and succeed that’s just enjoyable to experience and be a part of. But in order to endure the ups and downs and experience the joy of seeing your team succeed, you have to be in it for the team and not for yourself.

In sports, it’s really easy to be enamored with winning championships and trophies, after all you play the game to win. But what you don’t see are the countless hours of practice day after day that the players need to go through, and in addition to that the hours of planning that the coaching staff needs to work on to make it all happen.

Good coaches are right there with their players and the team is like a family. Good coaches understand the strength and weaknesses of each player and put the team as a whole in the best possible position to succeed. They understand that the team is only as good as its weakest player.

Coaches must always be learning and adjusting, finding new ways to teach things and accommodating new players and their skills and weaknesses. If a coach decides to “phone it in”, the players can tell and then the failed product shows up on the field or court. If coaches want player loyalty, they must show the players that they are undoubtedly dedicated to the team.

I’ve always found it easy to translate lessons from sports to the corporate world. I can tell when a leader or manager only cares more about themselves than the team. I can tell when someone wants to become a manager or leader only because they see the benefits of a higher salary or status within the company. And it doesn’t come as a surprise when people leave the team because of these managers and leaders.

It is unfortunate that the path for success in corporations seems to require becoming a manager. In my opinion, companies that can create success for employees without having to go through that path will do a better job retaining talent. After all, leadership isn’t for anyone.

And one day I’d love to get back into coaching. I really loved it.

Why Do We Value Hype Over Substance?

They’ve been dominating the news feed for what feels like forever now. People who I won’t name because I’d just add to the attention that they crave so much. One guy claimed that he could be Michael Jordan in a one on one pickup game on one leg, and the other… well… all you need to do is follow his Twitter feed if you want to know what it’s like to live in a real life land of make believe.

I bet that if you didn’t know who I was referring to and all you had were those two descriptions, you’d probably walk away from them and not waste your time. But sadly it’s not the case. The first gentleman is now a recognized media personality (whether we’d like to admit it or not) and now a successful businessman and the other is the leader of what I feel is still the greatest country in the world (at the moment of this writing). People bought into hype over substance, and they continue to do so.

And it’s not just in the world of entertainment, although it seems that the line between entertainment and reality are blurring dangerously close nowadays.

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People that are all hype rarely come through and are always full of excuses.

I was told a while back that when recruiting, to make personality and boldness a priority when evaluating candidates. What ever happened to prioritizing skillsets and evaluating whether or not we thought a candidate could actually get the job done? In one particular case, it was unfortunate to see a candidate rejected because they were “too quiet”, even though they had the strongest skillset for the position. Needless to say, the hiring team experienced the ramifications of going with hype over substance.

Unfortunately this happens all the time. The people that get noticed and all the chances are those constantly beat their own chests and brag about all the things they done. They name drop and always have “the best” stories to tell and always have “the best” ideas. They like to direct people without taking on any real work and they never take responsibility. They tend to overpromise but underdeliver and when they do they always have some sort of excuse. Things are never their fault.

Even if they ask you for your opinion they’re not really listening to you, but just waiting for you to stop talking so that they can give you theirs. They only want to do things their way. If you were to take a closer look at their history, you’ll find that they really haven’t done much either, but are good at embellishing the little they have done. But yet these people are labeled as “the talent” and “rock stars” and “future leaders” of the company.

One of my managers from a long time ago told me that “those that know why will always manage those that know how”, and at the time I completely disagreed. To me the statement didn’t make sense. How can someone lead, without knowing how to actually do the work? Well sadly, now I know. We like to value hype over substance, and I would love to know why. Do you have any suggestions?

Why Goals Should Have Measurements for Success

I ran my first marathon last year in New York City, and at the time my goal was just to complete the race. The time it took didn’t matter, I just wanted to cross the finish line. While I’m proud of myself for completing the goal that I had set for myself, I didn’t really have any measurements for success.

I know that completing the marathon could be seen as a success, and I would agree with that. I’m very happy and proud to have finished it. But I think success, or a win, should be seen as something beyond the goal. To me, having measurements for success take you beyond completion of your goal.

Historic stop watch time measurement.
How do you measure the success of your goals?

I tend to think we make goals broad and general so that they can be achieved. And I can’t argue with that. If you set goals that are unattainable, all you will ever know is failure, and that is not very motivating. On the other side, if all you have is your attainable goal, you’ll most likely only do what’s necessary to attain that goal, when you could have gone so much further.

Nick Saban, the head coach of Alabama’s top ranked college football team, has an incredible track record of keeping his teams at the upper echelon of the sport. And in college football, that’s really hard to do. Coaches are tasked with keeping their teams motivated at all times, even against teams that aren’t as talented on paper. That’s a hard task, and Saban has found a way to do it consistently. I absolutely love this quote below from him:

“It’s not human nature to be great. It’s human nature to survive, to be average and do what you have to do to get by. That is normal. When you have something good happen, it’s the special people that can stay focused and keep paying attention to detail, working to get better and not being satisfied with what they have accomplished.” ~ Nick Saban

So after the marathon last year, I made another goal, and that was to run all of the New York Road Runner borough races. To be honest, I wanted to complete those races in the same calendar year so I could take a photo of the medals. That’s the photo geek in me. But along with that goal I also set a success metric, and that was to finish the races with an overall faster average time than last year.

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Accomplished the goal of taking this photo, but the success was completing the races faster than the previous year.

The measure for success motivated me to take my training and workout more seriously. But it made me committed to the process, which I had to keep all year long. Sure some sacrifices and tough decisions were made, but in the end it was worth it and I’m a better and faster runner because of it.

Goals with measurements for success will help you to achieve more than “just getting by”, if that’s what you want in the first place. What are some goals and measurements for success that you’ve set for yourself?

How Likable Are You? It’s an Important Question.

I think it’s safe to say that most of us are driven to want to be successful in the career of our choosing. And we often think that in order to achieve that goal we need to be the smartest, most knowledgeable, and more driven than anyone else. But there’s one other thing that will help you be successful that seems to be overlooked, and that is to be likable.

So just to be clear, I don’t have any data to support my position, it’s just my opinion based on my experience working with others. But I think that being likable is half the battle. And the reason I say that is because if you are likable, people will want to work with you again.

You still have to have substance though, and have to have skill and knowledge. You have to be good at what you do. While being likable helps create a positive impression being likable without substance will end up creating a negative one. And that is something that shouldn’t be ignored.

Part of success isn’t really what you know, but who you know. And if who you know helps you climb the ladder to achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself, you had better likable to leave a positive, lasting impression.