Key Point: As we learn more about real contribution, it is very important to focus less on your job title and contact information on your business card. Instead, demonstrate the “actual value” you’re able to provide employers. Who really cares what the title on a business card is these days? And with digital identity, many people don’t really care about business cards at all. At the same time, I do believe, words like “president,” “director,” “manager,” “partner,” “Dr.,” etc. carry some introductory weight. But as we determine the benefit of a relationship with others, proof and evidence of “value provided” is what really counts.
It is really interesting to be back interviewing for a job after eight years of being a CEO of an international, privately held, profitable company. I am, by business card criteria, very accomplished. I have CEO and president in my title, three times. COO once, and VP three times. I also have the titles of “founder” and “partner.” I might as well have the title of “Supreme Intergalactic Commander.” The reality is that people who are interviewing me only care a little about those titles. However, they are laser fixed on my ability to demonstrate how I solved problems and achieved results. And they are very sophisticated in separating wheat from chaff.
- Wherever you are in your career/ job, document problems solved and results achieved. Do it as you go, not after you have left.
- Develop a “value offered card” more than a “business title card.” Be great at a few things… Benchmark to be the very best. Practice, practice, practice, and ten years later, few will have your results and skill. This will hopefully allow you to monetize the equity you have built in yourself. (Think ahead… Is anyone going to care about what core skills you currently have a few years from now?)
- Most of us are NOT great at everything. Be honest about areas that are not strengths. However, let’s commit to being THE best at what we’re good at and like to do.
- Someone out there likely needs what you are good at and like to do. That value, in the western capitalistic society we live in, usually is expressed in monetary terms. For example, the value we bring to the largest group who needs/wants what we have to offer, usually results in the biggest monetary pay out.
- Build a value card more than a business card.
Value card in the Triangle,
In our current recession-framed, uncertain economic environment, heads are down, tails up and understandably focused on survival in the work place. Under these conditions, it’s easy to lose sight of our humanity. Organizations are only as complete as the people that make it work.
I’m not talking about BIG things here; how about the small stuff that leads to the big stuff? …greeting team members with a smile and personal acknowledgment? …getting to personally know people outside of our immediate area? …having fun and hoopla in the work environment? The preceding things require the investment of care and intention for each other. In most cases acting on them is totally FREE if we want it to be. So the recession and related impacts can become a big lazy excuse for not taking care of each other. It’s all too easy to have work become just a place of commercial or political transactions. When we spend as much time at work as we do, who wants just that? Great teams are full of life and energy. They have fun together. They respect each other. They recognize that collective success is based on connected, vibrant, individual contribution – the weakest link concept.
Character Move: honestly evaluate yourself on the following, regardless of what role you have in the company or organization you’re part of:
- Do you greet people with a respectful acknowledgment when you interact, even just passing by? Do you know their names and something about them personally? That is to say: what they like to do, what they’re good at and the contribution they make to the company.
- In your sphere of influence (regardless of how small or big), do you influence fun and hoopla? Do you: Bringing in cupcakes? Having a pot luck? Having contests? Sports pools? Baby picture contests? Cube decorating? Birthday celebrations? Anniversary celebrations? And 100s of much more creative ideas?
- If you want to get blown away look at the “free” stuff great companies like Zappos do?
Sometimes we all need a good kick in the pants. This blog is everyone’s, at every level of responsibility. If respect and fun are left to the HR department or any other function, my belief firmly establishing these principles will not become deeply and permanently embedded in the corporate culture. We need to care for each other and to have fun.
Respect and Fun daily in the Triangle,
Before we head out for summer vacation it is prudent to check the tires and alignment on our vehicle. It is also a good time to check the metaphorical equivalent for a good journey at work. Like four good tires, there are four primary areas that I believe determine whether people are able to optimize their contribution at work (and that includes you, me, and people who work for us):
- Pay and Recognition. Are you and I getting compensated fairly? Are we being sufficiently recognized for the work we do? Do people honestly care and value us for our individual contributions? How do we know? There are a lot of components to answering this question well. It is much broader than base pay. Ideally we feel great about total compensation AND the amount we get recognized.
- Knowledge and Information. Do you and I have the right information to do our work well? How are we measured? How do we stack up to those metrics? Do we have access to the data we need to do our job well? We need to discern between data and insight. Ideally we have insight-rich feedback systems guiding us.
- Education and Learning. Are we trained to do our job well? Does the management and information systems allow us to continuously learn? Are we getting better at our job? How do we honestly know? How much coaching and development are we seeking? … And getting?
- Engagement and Involvement. Do we have an opportunity to improve processes we’re responsible for? Are you and I actively participating in making things better? Have we made things better? What evidence do we have to prove it? Does our input to improving processes we are responsible for and impacted by really count?
You and I have a responsibility to assess whether we score high on ALL of these four areas. If any one area gets out of balance or alignment things can go badly; at worse we end up having a “blow out.” We have a responsibility to take action to elevate our score in each area. This means not being passive. We are self accountable for our work environment.
Character Move: the big four are what I call the “People Contribution System” and are part of an overall leadership framework called the “Rubis Leadership System”™. Take a moment during your summer vacation to ask yourself tough questions, while self assessing where you are on the big four. Please remember that it is important to score highly in EACH area. Put a plan in place to get the right balance. If not, a wholesale tire change may be necessary.
Time for a tire check in The Triangle,
Essentially we all have a need to belong, support each other, and contribute. This is not bologna and soft headed mush but based on evolutionary science. One of the world’s leading social economists, Jeremy Rifkin, author of the recently published The Empathetic Civilization, has captured powerful precepts on the concept of empathy.
Rifkin states, “Social scientists, are beginning to reexamine human history from an empathic lens. … The growing scientific evidence is that we are a fundamentally empathic species. This has profound and far-reaching consequences for society, and may well determine our fate as a species.” And as a result it has implications for the workplace.
This is a pretty dense book to work through but it is rich in insight. If you want a shortcut, I urge you to watch Rifkin’s RSA 11 minute video. Rifkin refers to scientific data which shows that brain patterns mirror feelings in each other; not only amongst humans but between many of the animal kingdom.
My point in this underscores empathy as a key element within the respect framework of the Character Triangle. As people working together, a commitment to understanding what our team mates are feeling is progress. So at work: seek to understand and work from the belief that almost all of us want to belong and contribute. It’s the civilized way to work together.