Lessons in Life & Leadership
We welcome InnerWill Board Member, Guy Clumpner, as a contributor to our weekly blog.
Several months ago, I had a conversation with a fine young man who reminded me of my own sons. The fact that we were sitting across our kitchen table makes me think it was one of my sons.
As the conversation turned to work, he shared that a new co-worker joined his team. The new guy but wasn’t saying much to him and seemed somewhat aloof. As is my tendency, I began with questions: “Since he’s brand new to the job, do you know what he’s thinking? Do you understand his motivations and fears? Is it possible that he thinks that competing with you, or others, might be the key to his success? Do you know him as a person”?
We finished our conversation and I retreated outside for some yard work and reflection. Having posed those questions, I found myself contemplating how to offer some advice to help shape his perspective, for the arc of a long career.
As we sat down to dinner (having 36 more years of life and career experience than he has to draw upon) I shared my prescription for success. It’s the result of my own struggles, challenges and evolving self awareness that has guided my leadership development journey: A “bulletproof strategy” for maximizing focus, ownership and personal accountability, while minimizing unhealthy conflict and dysfunctional behavior which sometimes persists in the work environment.
“Early on in my career,” I noted, “it became pretty obvious to me that to be successful, I had to get along with people.” Over the course of time, “getting along” evolved into a much broader pallet of behavior, which included proactive collaboration, partnering and sharing ownership for the success of others.
I went on to note that my early realizations about people and relationships quickly lead to a career long focus on the two things I could “compete with:” 1) My role responsibilities and 2) My personal goals.
As mundane as it may seem, having a clear and concise understanding of role and performance expectations is non-negotiable as an element of achievement and success. I cringe to see how so many companies (and bosses) fail to provide such fundamental information to job incumbents. Beyond the activities, actions and outcomes required of one’s role, its also necessary to be intimate with the quantitative and qualitative measures which reflect success. You get what you focus on and you treasure what you measure!
Personal goals are the second variable you can own, manage, monitor and compete against. They include productivity, learning, achievement, relationship building, experiential and career growth objectives. While it is not be realistic to assume that no one can get between you and your goals, setting, monitoring and refining/adjusting them enables you to have a much higher degree of control and direction for your personal growth and evolution.
“Personal achievement” is a team sport.
Paradoxical? Not if you have experienced the success which comes from high levels of collaboration [e.g. assertive cooperation]. Individuals who focus on competing with the standards of success in their roles and the personal goals they have established do best when they maximize the benefits of building and sustaining strong relationships along the way.
How many of our meaningful achievements don’t require or involve others? In a leadership context, maintaining successful relationships is central to fulfillment, achievement and career evolution.
The beauty and value of the “bulletproof career prescription” is that it encourages and rewards individuals for being competitive, assertive and dynamic in the pursuit of achievement [e.g. Executing your role and achieving your goals] while embracing the value of doing so “with others” instead of “against them.” I believe that’s what is referred to as win/win.
In the organization I have been with for 36 years, we currently have the highest functioning team I have ever been part of: We all pull on the same end of the rope; We are committed to individual and mutual success; We collaborate and take ownership for the clarity, honesty and healthy conflict which characterize organizational success and excellence.
If you lack clarity in your role, take ownership for gaining clarity. If you don’t know how or why you are being measured, then ask. Leaders go first. If answers to those questions are not available, or are not a core element of the organization you’re in, look for another job!
There’s significant and substantive difference between activities (being busy) and outcomes (getting results). Some organizations struggle with differentiation between the two. A twist to an old saying about a place in Nevada goes as follows: “What happens in vagueness stays in vagueness”.
High performers crave clarity, measurement and feedback and make them an integral part of their work space DNA. Organizations that don’t have the capacity or commitment to provide clarity on (and reward) individual, team or company goals and success are not suitable environments for high performers.
As I walked toward the kitchen after our dinner conversation. I felt a hand on my shoulder. “I don’t say thanks often enough, Dad. I appreciate the insight and advice. What I really want is to be part of a team, so I can help my new team mate be successful”
That must have been my son! But it could have been a million other people, seeking bulletproof advice.
Reprinted with permission from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/bulletproof-guy-clumpner