Archive for June, 2008

Promotion? — No Thanks

June 23, 2008

Getting “promoted” could move you away from what you do well.

The popular little book titled “The Peter Principle” was written in 1969.  After studying hundreds of organizations, the author, Laurence Peter, concluded that “in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his/her level of incompetence.”  We’ve all seen it happen: the great bank teller who gets moved up to branch manager only to leave in disgrace for not being able to sell new business or to manage employees.  The sales rep that gets promoted to territory manager but cannot discipline his former buddies.  The best construction worker who is asked to be project overseer but leaves in anger because he could not understand the budget forecasts.

The author thus proposed that the best “work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence.”  But isn’t this just a matter of learning new skills and growing in responsibilities?  Perhaps – but frequently it is simply taking someone out of what he/she does well and putting them into an area that does not match their strongest abilities at all.

As a business owner I recognize my areas of incompetence quickly – managing people or budgets are not things I do well.  I love to think, write and be the visionary but I’m fooling myself if I think I can perform all the functions in our business better than anyone else.  I bring in others whose skills clearly exceed mine in many areas.

“Comrades, you have lost a good captain to make him an ill general.”

– Michel de Montaigne  (1533 – 1592)

One of the keys to living out our calling is to be doing work that blends our (1) Skills & Abilities, (2) Personality Traits, and (3) our Values, Dreams & Passions.  Think how frequently we see this violated when someone is “promoted:” The quiet introvert who is thrust into the middle of office interaction; the analytical person who is forced to represent the company in a sales and marketing role.  The best nursery teacher in the school is not necessarily the best candidate for school principal.  A great youth pastor may be miserable as a senior pastor.  This isn’t a matter of unwillingness – we have to realize that even “open doors” and “opportunities” can lead us away from God’s ideal path.  The key is to know ourselves and see confirmation of God’s preparation in other ways as well.

In today’s volatile workplace people are often forced to move from organization to organization.  In many ways, this is a positive occurrence.  Rather than being expected to move vertically up the ranks to a position of incompetence, you can address your strongest areas of competence and again apply them in a new organization or opportunity.

Do you know your strongest “areas of competence?”  Are you using those effectively each day?

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The Country of the Blind

June 21, 2008

Back in 1904 the English writer H.G. Wells wrote his famous piece titled, “The Country of the Blind.”  The plot unfolds as a mountaineer named Nunez happened on to a community that had been cut off from the rest of the world.  While prosperous in many ways, this community had been struck by a disease that made everybody there blind – including newborn babies.  Nunez finds this unusual village with windowless houses and no candles for illumination.  Recognizing that he is the only one who can see, he begins thinking to himself — “In the Country of the Blind the One-Eyed Man is King.”   He’s thrilled as he realizes he can teach and rule them.  But the villagers have no concept of sight and don’t understand his attempts to teach them this strange fifth sense.  Instead of welcoming his new knowledge and the opportunity for them to experience something beyond their “normal” existence, they resisted his willingness to help expand their world.

After falling in love with a young girl in this village, he is turned down as a suitable suitor by the elders – because of his “unstable obsession with sight.”  A local scientist offers a solution to the seeing man’s problem.  He must undergo an operation to remove his eyes and free him from all the damaging and confusing input he is getting.

What would you do?  Would you submit to the operation so you could be “normal?” Would you risk the scorn of family and friends who were telling you to be “realistic” and “practical?” Have you ever given up on a dream?  Was it because it was unrealistic or did you take the “advice” of people who were living In The Country of the Blind?  Where are those dreams today?  Are they dead – or perhaps just dormant?  Are you willing to see what others cannot?

“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” —  Albert Einstein

Are You Losing Your Soul?

June 16, 2008

Goodbye, Nights and Weekends??  Most Americans believe the 9-to-5 workday no longer exists, according to a survey by Management Recruiter International.  Of the more than 3,500 executives polled, 61% said the traditional workday hours have disappeared.  Many people don’t even look forward to weekends because they no longer exist.  As more people gain more control over when and where they work, it seems neither the workday nor the workweek have a distinguishable beginning or end. 

This is another of those blessing/curse things.  We welcome the flexibility that technology allows but the breakneck speed many of you know in business is further blurring the line between work/home/family/leisure.

Already workers from the factory floor to the executive suite are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Many professionals like real estate agents have convinced themselves that to be competitive they must be available 24/7.  Many have cell phones, lap tops, and pagers within reach at all times.  I see people in church who are text-messaging and Twittering during the service.  I don’t really think they are absorbing the intended worship experience.

Watch this blurring of lines in your worklife.  The natural cycles of work and leisure and taking time for the weekly Sabbath will not disappear without leaving a devastating trail.  If you just exhale in your breathing, you will turn blue, pass out and die.  You must take time to inhale the clean, pure, wholesome air to continue living.  If you just work and never take time for leisure, you will pass out in some form:  there will be family, emotional or physical death.  The “company” may not create the boundaries; you will need to create your own.  Working on my own allows me to build in times of Sabbath rest during each day – not just once a week.  I often break to go for a walk – or take a nap if I’m feeling especially busy.  Yes, the busier I am the more likely I am to take breaks for the inhalation of physical and spiritual health and inspiration.

Don’t equate time with productivity or profitability.  The most successful people I know have plenty of leisure time – in addition to plenty of money.

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“If you are losing your leisure, look out.  You may be losing your soul.” – Logan Pearsall Smith (1865-1946) U.S.-born British essayist, biographer, critic

 “There is more to life than increasing its speed.” Mohandas Gandhi

“Only those who are able to relax can create, and then ideas reach the mind like lightning.” – Cicero

Better to Try and Fail — or Fail to Try?

June 9, 2008

Last night I watched the 2007 movie Lions for Lambs with my son, Jared.  In this movie a brilliant but apathetic student asks his professor (Robert Redford), “Is there any difference in trying but failing, and simply failing to try – if you end up in the same place anyway?”  He was attempting to justify taking the safe route; never really taking a stand or trying anything big.

What do you think?  Do you cringe at trying something big because of the possibility of failure?  What if you tried for the promotion but failed to get it, started a business but lost your investment, or tried a MLM system but got nothing other than a garage full of vitamins – are you somehow better off?  Or would your life have been better if you had avoided the hassle and the disappointment altogether? 

Yes, I hear from people every day who tried and failed.  One gentleman lost $11 million in a gas and oil business.  Another lost $3.2 million inherited from his grandmother in a failed retail clothing business.  Research shows that if you are under thirty years old, the chances that you will be fired in the next twenty years is 90 percent.  Bernie Marcus was fired from a job as manager of the Handy Dan Improvement Center, then went on to start Home Depot.  In 1988 I experienced a horrible “failure” in business – having to borrow a car to drive to start generating income again.  Should I have avoided the pain and anguish by taking a safer route, or was that experience the necessary catalyst for learning the principles that launched the success I enjoy today?  My friend Dave Ramsey lost his real estate business and suffered personal embarrasement after trying to become rich through his investments. Should he have taken a safer career path?

What has your life experience taught you about trying big things?  Have you learned to keep a low profile to avoid failure?  Or have you found that “failure” leads to bigger successes?

Still Hate Mondays?

June 8, 2008

I don’t often include just a link to a video.  But someone sent me this hilarious little video that gives a visual message about the way some people still feel about going to work on Monday mornings.  It’s only 43 seconds long so won’t eat up your day.  It may just give you a humorous jolt to modify you own work plan and join the growing ranks of the No More Mondays crowd.

What if you worked for Hillary?

June 5, 2008

I am hearing from politicians around the country.  Yes, I literally got a call from the White House yesterday.  Think about it for a minute.  What if you put all your efforts into working for a politician who is suddenly no longer a contender?  What is your next career move supposed to be?  As the presidential field shrinks more and more people are having to ask themselves that question.  It seems to be somewhat like an athlete who realizes they are no longer a contender.  What do you do after you have been in the limelight and now are a “has-been?”

Even those currently in the White House know the clock is ticking.  If John McCain is elected he will bring along those to whom favors are owed.  Those presently in positions will be put out to find new opportunities.  January 20th is looming.

What does someone who has put heart and soul into getting an individual elected do when that fades from reality?  Transitions to new organizations appear easy for truck drivers, IT professionals, graphic designers, teachers, accountants or CEOs.  But former politicians tend to experience dramatic drops in their careers.  Anyone remember John Kerry or Walter Mondale?

My advice – be prepared at any given time to describe your strongest transferable “areas of competence.”  Know what contributions you can make to organizations beyond your current “industry.”