A friend called me yesterday. He was asked to speak to new hires joining a well-regarded company. His task was to give the “newbies” advice regarding making the most of their careers. He asked me what I would tell them and here is my view:
Make sure your work is always at the intersection between what you’re good at, what you like to do, and what the company needs. Being out of balance in one of those will likely conclude poorly.
Live the Character Triangle. With all my heart and soul, I believe that connecting and applying the values of accountability, respect, and abundance will allow you to thrive in your career and life. Driving this framework is a lifelong journey for me.
Define a higher order purpose that arches over whatever you’re doing in your life at any time. Your purpose goes well beyond making a living or having a career. It is the ping you want leave in the universe. Defining that is important. Regardless of a change in job or results, and there will likely be many, the higher purpose guides you.
Character Move: Examine where you are against the three point checklist above. How are you doing? Which could you work on?
“Often when you ask someone who lives in a grass hut to build a mansion; they build a great BIG grass hut.”
In the world we live and compete in we can’t afford to build great big grass huts. At a personal and organization level, we need to open ourselves up to what is possible. This means having the courage and awareness to raise the game by challenging all of our assumptions about creating value. If we allow ourselves to be stagnant or closed to this dynamic environment we will likely be left behind; it’s only a matter of time. This can feel threatening or invigorating. That is a matter of mind set.
What’s your mind set? Are you stuck in a grass hut or are you looking to build beyond the metaphorical limitations of grass and mud.
Character Move: I talked to a leader of a system design company and he introduced me to the concept of responsive design. My challenge to all of us is to learn about the concept of responsive design and think about it’s relevance to us as leaders and individual contributors. It will help us peer out of that grass hut.
Tony Hsieh, the CEO of the super successful online retailer Zappos, recently presented a webinar that I had the pleasure of joining. Tony, who sold Zappos to Amazon for $1.2 Billion, is focused on building a culture committed to achieving happiness. In fact Tony has a recently published book called Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profit, Passion, and Purpose.
During the webinar, Tony made a lot of great points. One slide in particular really hit home with people on our team:
People will forget what you said.
People will forget what you did.
People will never forget how you made them feel.
My question to each of us is one of deeply honest reflection: how do we make people feel?
Character Move: let’s make a more conscious effort to think about how we want people to feel after their interactions with us.
Every week I ask my direct reports to let me know specifically who they gave recognition to and why. I expect this from the leaders who work for me.
Gallup states that 20% of the U.S. workforce is disengaged. If you work in an environment where you’re ignored, disengagement rises to 45%. But if a colleague notices a single strength, our disengagement falls to 1%. More importantly I believe it is impossible to fully engage and optimize the skills of others until we are capable of recognizing their strengths.
Character Move: Today …how about right now …write an email, a handwritten note, or personally connect with a colleague, highlighting a strength they have. Do it from the heart; no excuses. Do it now.
In the late 90’s I was the COO of a publicly traded company and we took about 100 employees and their guests to a spa resort in San Diego as a ‘thank you” for great performance. As part of the trip, I had the privilege of hosting a beautiful dinner celebration at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. That evening Julie Scardina, the famous San Diego animal trainer and (at that time) regular guest on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, brought a cast of her animals on stage to entertain and educate us all.
Prior to the trip I had a serious accident where I crushed my sternum and broke my collar bone along with a number of ribs. As I ambled on stage to wrap up the evening and to thank Julie, our CEO and most importantly our team and guests, Julie unbeknown to me, released the two cheetahs she had with her (glad she kept hold of the boa constrictor). There I was bandaged up, in a sling, and these majestic cats gently joined me at center stage. They then began licking my bruised arms and chest, a gesture of healing that will be with me forever. The crowd gasped and a surreal quiet came over the room. I managed to keep my composure, looked at those beautiful creatures, and exclaimed into the microphone, “Who would have believed it if I would have told people at breakfast this morning that two cheetahs would be licking me up here on stage tonight?” That became the metaphor for the trip. No one can make up the wonders our life has in store for us.
Character Move: be open and take in the beauty of the unexpected. Accept.