Posts Tagged ‘do your best’

If any of you have spent time traveling with young ones in excess of 25 minutes (or if you can recall being that young one in the back seat of the station wagon for what seemed to be a lifetime), you have heard this woeful cry, perhaps in stereo or in incessantly regular 5 minute intervals:

Are we THERE yet?!?!?

With the advent of online maps, GPS, smartphone apps, we can “guesstimate” our ETA with improved accuracy, but this remains cold comfort for those who are merely passengers, possessing no ability to accelerate the process, to take action to get THERE sooner.

I know what you are thinking…”I thought this blog was supposed to focus on CAREERS, not trips to Wally World!” Well, you are right, and here’s the punchline…

IN CAREER DEVELOPMENT, YOU ARE NEVER THERE!

I won’t cite that “old chestnut” it’s not a destination, but a journey (oops, I just did!), but it is true that you are either moving ahead or you are falling behind. Often not in giant steps, to be sure, but you should constantly be practicing what I have termed “Professional Dissatisfaction.”  To borrow from their excellent book The 5 Patterns of Extraordinary Careers, authors Citrin and Smith invoke what they call the “20/80 Principle of Performance.” In order to distinguish yourself, move beyond your assigned tasks (80%) to impact your organization, field, craft, etc. at extraordinary levels (20%). Invest time going beyond your job description to grow as an individual and a “human resource.”

To quote my good friend Scott Ginsberg (@Nametagscott), “Nobody notices normal.”

And, one more by Harvey Mckay (@HarveyMackey) “Real winners keep moving the finishing line.”

The best path is always the positive one. I owe the following parable to my dear Grandma Lucy Matilda Rhoads Davis. She’s in Heaven now, but thoughts of her always bring a smile to my face and a tear to my eye. Here it is…

Old Saidie, an aged widow in a sleepy little town, always had a nice thing to say about everyone she met. She didn’t seem to have a negative bone in her body, and was consistently able to point out the good side of people.

Well, the town drunk died. This ne’er do well had never held a job in his life. His entire existence consisted of scaring toddlers, taking advantage of others or bumming money for cigarettes and alcohol. As he had finally Optimism buttompassed away, the entire town showed up at the funeral, if only to find out what Saidie would have to say about a man who seemed to be totally lacking any good qualities in his entire life.

As Saidie shuffled up to the casket, one brave soul called out, “Hey, Saidie! What did you think of Mr. Johnson?!

Without missing a beat, Saidie smiled and exclaimed, “Oh, couldn’t he whistle?!”

Let’s be more like Saidie, finding and celebrating the Best that’s around us. We just have to pay attention to find it!

Thanks, Grandma Lucy!

Please allow me to start this “anti-resolution treatise” with a disclaimer. I have no problem with people who choose the start of a new year to make life-enhancing commitments. The title of this blog is directed to my musings alone on the advantages and disadvantages of New Year’s Resolutions.

Early in my career I spent years working in fitness centers, both as a sales consultant and a trainer. The die-hard “gym rats” (not a term of derision, to my way of thinking) always dreaded the first couple of months of the New new-years-resolutionsYear. Scores of “newbies” would descend on the equipment, monopolizing the machines while grunting and groaning, often in poor form with little chance of success, in search of that elusive, fit individual hiding deep within them. By the end of February, however, most of the smoke had cleared, and we were back to the “old faithful” regulars at the gym.

You can also observe this fanaticism for resolutions in the ads on TV and the blogs/tweets/updates on the Internet. Lose weight, transform your business, embrace success, take charge, be all you can be, etc. And you are all but guaranteed success in any of your endeavors as, after all, it is the New Year! It’s all New! You can have a Fresh Start! It’s bound to work this time, right?!

Well, yes and no. Bless those dear souls who, with all the integrity and resolve they can muster, make these Resolutions. I read a tweet from someone just before the arrival of a New Year that noted they had just 2 days left to achieve the results they had committed to 363 days before! Well intentioned, yet not likely to be realized in the next 48 hours!

So, you may well ask, what’s my point?! (Go ahead, ask!) Simply this: To borrow a well-known phrase from Madison Avenue that originated in 1988, “Just Do It!” Start it right away, whether in the shadow of the New Year’s fireworks, the excitement of spring blossoms, the oppressive heat of the dog days of summer, the panoply of fall colors or the grey skies in the dead of winter. To quote the title of one of my favorite books by Barbara Sher, “It’s Only Too Late If You Don’t Start Now!”

And, once you’ve started, stay with it! I recently encountered a T-shirt emblazoned with this pithy phrase – “Just Doing It.” Two steps forward and one step back (the way I typically advance) is still a net gain of one step. Remember that success is more often the result of “grit” than anything else. To quote another favorite author of mine, Dan Pink (in the persona of Johnny Bunko), “Persistence trumps talent!”

Make your resolutions, whenever and however you can and, once you have done so, get caught “JUST DOING IT!”

If any of you have spent time traveling with young ones in excess of 25 minutes (or if you can recall being that young one in the back seat of the station wagon for what seemed to be a lifetime), you have heard this woeful cry, perhaps in stereo or in incessantly regular 5 minute intervals:

Are we THERE yet?!?!?!

With the advent of online maps, GPS, smartphone apps, we can “guesstimate” our ETA with improved accuracy, but this remains cold comfort for those who are merely passengers, possessing no ability to accelerate the process, to take action to get THERE sooner.

I know what you are thinking….I thought this blog was supposed to focus on CAREERS, not trips to Wally World! Well, you are right, and here’s the application…

IN CAREER DEVELOPMENT, YOU ARE NEVER THERE!

I won’t cite that “old chestnut” it’s not a destination, but a journey (oops, I just did!), but it is true that you are either moving ahead or you are falling behind. Often not in giant steps, to be sure, but you should constantly be practicing what I have termed “Professional Dissatisfaction.” In flipping the ubiquitous Pareto Principle (80-20 Rule), the authors of the excellent book The 5 Patterns of Extraordinary Careers introduce their 20-80 Rule: Invest 20% of your time doing your assigned work completely and effectively, applying the 80% balance to acquiring new experience, skill, knowledge, expertise to differentiate yourself from the crowd.

To quote my good friend Scott Ginsberg (@Nametagscott), “Nobody notices normal.”

And, one more by Harvey Mckay (@HarveyMackey) “Real winners keep moving the finishing line.”

I am presenting training for my yearly marathon (26.2 miles, for the uninitiated of my readers) and, God willing, I plan to reach the finish line sometime before dark (we start around 8:30 in the morning).

As any of you who have been involved in a job search, career development (or LIFE, if you’re really paying attention) know, the experience is more like a long distance race than a sprint! My chosen fitness pastime, running, has borne out this fact for over 30 of my years. I can still recall my first marathon experience: the gun went off, we all bolted out of the gate, and I took off like my singlet was on fire. I vividly remember bragging to my cohorts along the course, even as far along as the 15th mile of the 26.2, “this race is MINE!”

Then I met, for my first time, my now bosom buddy The Wall. Somewhere around mile 18-22, most runners reach a point where the body wants to be done but the finish line still beckons. For my first marathon, this meant that last 6.2 miles would be excruciatingly slow. I had not learned the cardinal rule of distance running: PACING. My credo now for marathons is one I borrowed from a T-shirt I read on one of my many 26.2 adventures – “Start out slow, then taper off.”

I have also gleaned one other pearl of wisdom, the title of this blog: Run through the finishing line. As the picture demonstrates, my weary figure has managed to finish ahead of a number of individuals, but NOT because I found another gear, my carbo-loading kicked in, or I reached down deep to burst past my fellow runners in a blaze of glory. I finished ahead of them because they slowed down. They saw the finish line and started to back off, since they were almost there. I simply determined to keep my pace, not slowing down until the finish line was behind me.

I think you see my metaphor. As you move ahead in your job search, your career development, or your life, there is no way to know if the present opportunity before you is the finishing line, or if the real result is around the next bend. My years of running have taught me that, whenever I slow down to jog through the finish line, I am almost always passed by someone who has not done so. To be sure, there have been times when my technique has still caused me to be passed by someone with more talent than me (there are a lot of them out there!), but at least by maintaining my pace I create the opportunity for the best results.

The morale of this blog: if you think you will get your dream opportunity by Friday, don’t stop looking ahead on Wednesday.  In some ways, there really is no Finish Line. Never stop learning and growing!

OK, I will admit that this is probably an impossible task. Gallup research tells us that there is a certain percentage of any work force that will remain “disengaged.” What a great word – DISENGAGED. A recent article gives hard numbers, quoting a ratio of engaged to disengaged at 1.5/1 in the average organization (http://www.gallup.com/consulting/52/employee-engagement.aspx).

I still recall reading a license plate on the front of a vehicle in Western PA which opined, “I LOVE PAYDAYS, VACATIONS, WEEKENDS.” Some quick mental calculations told me that the driver must HATE most of their existence!

There are, of course, people out there who will never be happy unless they are miserable. While discussing this phenomenon in training with a company, one of the attendees raised his hand in the middle of the presentation to “give his two cents.” Anyone who has trained knows that the raised hand can go one of two ways – very badly or very well! Breathing a silent prayer, I acknowledged the gentleman’s presence and gave him the floor.

I am happy to report it went well, and this is why: he shared THE STORY OF SMITTY.

Smitty was a long term employee of the company. Smitty was also a pretty miserable person. Smitty wore a perpetual scowl, seemed to be trying to decide between staying on the job or having root canal without Novacain. His interaction with his co-workers was consistently negative. If queried as to what he liked about work, his response would probably be something like “Payday, lunch and leaving.” That’s assuming he answered at all.

Smitty’s job, by the way, was working in The Pit. I never found out exactly what that involved, but it clearly did not sound good.

One day, his supervisor decided to ask, “Hey, Smitty, do you like working in The Pit?”

“Nah,” said Smitty with his typical venom-laced voice, “I HATE it!”

Deciding to wade in deeper, his supervisor then asked, “Well, what would you LIKE to do?”

Smitty responded immediately, “I’d like to work in Banding” (Once again, I really did not know what this entailed, but clearly Smitty preferred it to The Pit).

The result of this exchange was that the supervisor was eventually able to transfer Smitty to Banding. When this happened, something AMAZING took place!

Smitty became human! He actually smiled on occasion, working more effectively with his co-workers and becoming more productive.

Here is the Big Question: Whose fault was it that Smitty was so miserable for so long? The supervisor or Smitty?

And the Big Answer: BOTH!

To quote from two companion books by Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans (Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em and Love It, Don’t Leave It, my reviews on LinkedIn, of course), “ASK!”

Smitty should have thought to ask if there were any other positions that he felt he could enjoy/do better at (often these two factors work together), and the supervisor should have checked much sooner on Smitty’s interests and skills. To paraphrase a favorite author of mine, Marcus Buckingham (formerly of Gallup), “Companies should stop trying to make people what they aren’t and use them for what they are.”

By the way, so you do not consider me to be a starry-eyed idealist, I realize that EVERY position will require the employee to perform some tasks they would rather give up. I like to call this “The Grown-up Stuff.” I don’t want to do it, but I have to because they told me to. Welcome to Life.

However, by asking about and considering the employee’s key interests, satisfiers and skills we can come as close as possible to eliminating that favorite term for Wednesday touted by morning DJ’s – HUMP DAY!

I must take issue with the 80’s rock group Loverboy – Not “Everybody’s working for the weekend!”

As are so many truths, the concept of “strength-based organizations” seems to be obvious. Why would any company or business ask their people to do something they aren’t good at? To cite a quote (inaccurately, I am sure) from a Marcus Buckingham article I read years ago, “Companies should stop trying to make people things they aren’t and use them for what they are.”

So true, yet most organizations are struggling to stay afloat, much less seeking to devote the time and energy they would like to in developing the talent of their workforce.

Here’s the shorthand for this quandary – YOU discover what you are best at, what inspires and enthuses you, what causes you to lose track of time and space, etc., and then seek a way to do it for the company you work for! If it does not exist there, maybe it’s time to start looking.

This can create a Win-Win scenario for all involved. Your employer gets the very best Return On Investment from you as a worker, and you can stop calling Wednesday “Hump Day!”