Monday, December 5, 2011
A while back a team of several people presented a major proposal to a large corporation. In debriefing, our team lead went on and on about what she did to impress the client. She continually said "I did a really great job showing them....I told them exactly....blaw, blaw, blaw...". We won the deal and at some point our team lead was promoted. Proof that God does not understand the corporate world. In the court of the opinion of her peers the damage was done. Months of preparation by several people was reduced to an insecure young lady trying to prove herself worthy of a seat at the table with the big boys. The rest of us just wanted to put together a great strategy for our client. We went on working with the corporation we presented to and warned them with the aforementioned team lead was coming to town. While she attempted to impress them with another powerpoint we texted each other from across the table with eyes rolling. When the client (now our friends) laughed at my texts the team lead thought they were smiling with astonishment of her professionalism. What a Dum Dum!
I must admit that there are times when I have acted out of character professionally. I went out of my way to prove myself worthy of greater responsibility. I had side bar conversations with Senior Managers bringing to their attention my latest contributions. I look back on that point of my career with disdain. I simply didn't understand the image I was projecting. I was too naive to recognize my selfishness. My bravado projected insecurity.....not confidence. Over time, I grew up.
We all have milestones in our personal development. This is actually a critical part of our professional development. For some it comes from losing a big deal, others lose a job, and there are those who learn from winning. For me, the transition was very subtle. I saw people acting the way I had and I came to understand the inelegance of my former self.
There are 3 things to consider in consideration of others:
Stop saying "I"
Be humble in victory and accountable in defeat
Learn to blow off the unimportant
There is no "I" in R.e.s.p.e.c.t
I once worked with a man who was unable to delegate. He felt out-of-control if he passed anything along to his "lesser" colleagues. He really cared a lot....but he came off as mistrusting. As if to say, you are going to screw this up, so I'll work twice as hard. We heard the story of the team lead who took credit for her team's hard work. I told you of my shameless self-promotion. All of these people are well-intentioned but terribly presented. We often get so focused on the final score that we neglect the style in which we play the game.
Your boss will fire you tomorrow if someone better comes along. The company you work for could close their doors tomorrow. You will, however, always have a reputation among your peers. Your peers are the people who you see in the grocery store and at the kid's soccer games. When you lose your job, you will most likely look to your peers for support. The same people you see on the way up, you will see on the way down.
The Humility of Accountability
I love hearing post-game interviews with players who compliment their team. Interviews are stupid...we all saw the game, we know what happened. So those who take their moment on TV to compliment their peers are admirable. No one enjoys someone who brags when they win, no one wants to hear excuses from those who have lost.
It is best to be Humble in victory and Accountable in defeat.
I remember being really upset about something incredibly unimportant. Someone had let the team down and had tried to pass the blame on others. Nothing upsets me more than lack of accountability masked in unilateral communication. After complaining like a little girl for 10 minutes, I asked my boss how he was able to endure such incompetence day in and day out. To which he replied, "I ignore it"!
From that point on, I learned not to take the mundane elements too seriously. I learned that everyone knows when the ball is dropped and attempting to save face is a natural human reaction. I learned to give people the benefit of the doubt when they fail and they will do the same for you. Yes, you too will fail!
No one is perfect yet we all need to approach life with the proper degree of confidence. We cannot go through each day second guessing ourselves. We have to make decisions and be confident in them....and when we fail we have to own it. A whole bunch of talk does not make one confident but the inability to express oneself is worse. We have to learn to pick our battles and to always present ourselves in a nature that is respected by others.
Years from now the team lead I mentioned above will deliver a pizza to my house....and because I'm a nice guy, I will tip her an extra buck. It is in those moments that the selfishness of poor personal promotion comes back to haunt us. In fact, the best personal promotion is no personal promotion.
Don't Forget to Remember!