Talent Will Only Get Us So Far

From sports to work, we see so many individuals with an incredible amount of talent that still somehow manage to jack it all up and fall flat on their faces. Whether it be the charismatic new employee that can charm management, the eager recruit that oozes with potential or the biggest and fastest athlete, it is apparent that it takes more than raw skill to survive and prosper in this world. It’s takes a special “it” to move beyond flashes in the pan to consistent, long-term success.

Vick+Head+DownToday I’m over at Performance I Create discussing exactly what that “it” is and how it can take us from potential to the promised land in our careers. Here’s a quick sample:

…listening to sports analysts and reporters talk about the best in the game, they will talk about on-field stuff, but the conversation always go back to what that person does after the cameras go off and their teammates go home. We’ll often hear of how much time the person invests in developing their craft or niche in the weight room, film room or with personal trainers and coaches. They study…

I hope that you enjoy the full post HERE and I asked that you take it to heart and share it with anyone that is relying on talent alone to get ahead.

Check out my post and those of my fellow contributors for relevant, in-your-face, performance altering insight at Performance I Create!

Workplace Astigmatism

For the last 10 years, I’ve boasted that my vision has not changed. I laugh at optometrists when I walk into their examination rooms because I know that the result is going to be the same…”Well Mr. Harris, everything is fine…no difference…here’s your prescription.” to which I say buttholishly, “I know! Told ya things are the same.”

eye-exam-checkupBecause of this status quo, I take eye exams for granted; only going when I actually need new glasses due to wear and tear…which is like every 5 years. I actually get tired of putting myself (and my money) out there to have my time wasted…until my visit a week ago.

This trip I entered confidently as I usually do, preparing my normal giggle and forming my mouth to say my usual know-it-all words, until Dr. Eyedude says, “Your right eye has changed. We’re going to switch your prescription and it may be a little drastic.”

When you think that nothing has changed, everything has

Not having had to look through “different” lenses for so long, I found myself being uncomfortable on my way home. The change was making my head hurt. Things were blurry. I didn’t like it. Was it because it was unexpected? Was it because something was different? Was it because it was unwelcomed? Maybe it was because I had gotten too comfortable. Too used to knowing what everything looked like and how everything was supposed to feel. The moment a new process was introduced, a new person was brought aboard, a new policy took effect…wait, am I describing your office or my eyes? Hmm? Maybe both.

As we get older, more experienced, more tenured, we must face the inevitable fact that things must and will change. Our vision, our surroundings, and the ways our businesses must operate all change. We can either roll with it, adjust or we can resist and remain in denial. That denial stems from the fact that we think things are fine just the way they are and we think that if we don’t acknowledge it, it’ll just go away.

Resistance to change can be costly

If I had paid regular attention, not been so arrogant and stubborn, maybe a drastic change could have been avoided or eased into. The gradual change would’ve helped me to make better adjustments. Being open to changes in the way our companies must do business will help our employees make better decisions as it relates to the new normals. Maybe they need regular examinations and consultation…I mean evaluations and one-on-ones…so that any issues can be identified early before they become problematic and cost us in the end.

What’s better? One or two? Two or three?

The next day, I could see things better. The headache had gone away. Those moments of temporary discomfort turned into my new, clearer reality. It took me getting broken down and taken out of my cocky comfort zone to realize that acceptance, flexibility and acknowledgement helped the headaches to go away and for things to seem clear again. I had to be humbled by the fact that I don’t know how bad things are until someone shows me something better, different, clearer.

Does your job give you “headaches”? Is it them or is it you refusing to adapt? 

Let’s not wait until it’s too late to let someone check us out. Let’s take some feedback and let it make us better. Let’s understand that us becoming more seasoned is when more changes need to occur…as opposed to things always having to change to our liking. Yielding to necessary adjustments may be blurry at first, but it can ultimately help you to see your vision more clearly in the end.

Pissed Off For Greatness

I’ve never been a huge Baltimore Ravens fan (partially because they’ve beat up my TN Titans too many times), but I did enjoy watching Linebacker Ray Lewis play. Lewis, a future Hall of Famer and amateur “preacher”, was known just as much for his hard hitting, sideline to sideline play as he was for his “motivational” speeches.

I air-quote motivational and preacher there because while he was great a firing people up, people admit that they didn’t know what the hell he was talking about. It was as if he was speaking in some kind of deep biblical, mythological, gridiron code. Whatever it was, it fired his teammates up to the tune of 2 championships in twelve years…and several victories in between.

In 2012, ol Ray Ray was brought in to speak to the Stanford Basketball team before a game. The greatest line in the sermon…I mean, speech was “I’m pissed off for greatness!” Never lacking in the passion and pissivity department, that line shook something in my spirit. In a sport that requires one to be violent, one must indeed be pissed off to execute. To deliver bone-crushing blows and to put your body at risk the way the players do, one must dig deep, channel something from within and play angrily.

When we go to work, we’re pissed at people all of the time, but we don’t use that to our advantages. We actually let it work to our competitor’s advantage. While I’m not condoning tackling people by the copier (not all the time) or stiff arming someone to get the best seat in a meeting, I am saying that we need to take the stuff that we do not like in our offices and use them to fuel some change. Channel the anger that we feel toward policy, “the man”, or lazy teammates and shake some stuff up!

Are you tired of that lady that meets you at your desk every morning before you can even put your bag down…messing up your morning flow and throwing off your focus for the first half of the day? Take that pissivity and use it to let people know what your boundaries are…because a happier, focused you equals a happier, focused team.

Your employees not performing, thus making you look bad? Don’t just chalk it up. Channel that anger and let it motivate you to do something drastic and different. It’s ok to show emotion as a manager. It’s ok to be tastefully and necessarily forceful. Just be specific, respectful and don’t over do it.

Can’t stand that fact that people aren’t following up with you and giving you feedback? Use that feeling of neglect as the inspiration to get out of the fetal position from under your desk, walk straight into the office of the person in the To: field of your email and initiate a conversation about your opinions and ideas.

Unknown-2Get pissed off for greatness! Get hype and make the play everyone else is afraid to! Because like a former employee of mine once told me, it’s better to be pissed off than pissed on…and by not standing up and putting a foot down we sometimes end up with a foot on the back of our necks. So get out there and tackle somebody (figuratively)! Score a touchdown (in the boardroom)! Knock the ball loose (when someone tries to screw you over)! And like Ray said in that speech,

“…you got to go out and show them that I’m a different creature now than I was five minutes ago…because if you ain’t pissed off for greatness, that mean you ok with being mediocre.” 

Huh? Anyway, get fired up and go make a difference while everyone else is just making noise…and get your celebration dance ready!

Stop Hiding

I had a habit of hiding in my office when things get chaotic around the office. At least when that chaos was “someone else’s problem” or responsibility. When I started to hear people getting feisty or when I heard questions being raised up and down the hall, that was my queue to close my door.

It’s my only way to get peace, quiet and to not be pulled into drama or someone else’s mess…right?

Then one day, something happened to my peace and quiet. I started to get intercepted before I could make it to my office and I was forced to be that extra assistance or the different outlook that was needed. I couldn’t not get involved anymore. I couldn’t not give input or offer to fix the issue. And these interruptions changed the way I looked at my role. 

I believe that everyone feels as if they have more to offer than they are being asked to…but when it’s time to cash in we oftentimes don’t want to be bothered. We want it both ways. We want easy and cushy, and then complain when we’re not asked to help solve the difficult. After an issue has been tackled, we run from our hiding place and gripe that we weren’t consulted. If you haven’t done that, I have. I’m guilty.

It took me leaving my current employer and then coming back to understand that I was being asked to participate in the chaos because I was trusted to bring about some order while others were scrambling. I eventually learned that throwing my hands up when I might have had THE suggestion only helped in keeping the calamity and status quo in tact. I was great at pointing out what was wrong but I was not doing enough to change it. 

What I Learned
People in leadership positions are a proud breed of people. They may not outright say, “Hey kid, we need your insight or help”, but instead casually ask your opinion in passing, ask you to make a phone call for them or hand you a document to proof. That is sometimes their way of saying, “What you think matters” without saying, “What you think matters”.  And once I jumped into one of those chaotic situations and helped to calm it down or to make sense of it, the people around me realized what I knew or said silently all of the time…I CAN do more.

If you can do more, do more. Don’t run from the difficult, don’t shy away from the challenge and don’t avoid the uncomfortable..only then to complain that you’re not being used in your workplace properly. The old adage remains, “Respect is earned, not given”, and earning it means getting our hands a little dirty more often than not. Respect is earned by staying in the midst or close to it when things don’t make sense and helping to decode it. Respect is given when our ideas aren’t held for ransom for fear that we won’t be popular, liked or politically correct. 

20140723-064044-24044763.jpgBeing counted on and accountable is tiring, it is busy and it might just make the workdays longer. But isn’t that better than flying under the radar to a point that I’m virtually insignificant and useless? Isn’t that better than my phone not ringing at all? I think so. 

We have enough of those people…the ones hiding behind their doors like I used to. Avoiding challenge but having the loudest opinions about how those forced to deal with it handled or mishandled it. The opinions and ideas voiced behind those doors do us all no good as the real work is done and real respect is earned on the other side of it.

Follow The Signs

When we want certain things so badly, it’s hard for us to read the writing on the wall that says it’s not for us.

Like in high school, when you had a major crush on that special someone, only to finally get a shot and realize they’re a jerk. Then we miserably try to make it work because that is the guy or gal that everyone else wants. That’s the situation that looks good…but it really sucks. That happens in our professional careers as well. The key though is realizing sooner rather than later that it’s OK to leave. Some things are worth the sacrifice, some things are not.

We are all fighters, and that tenacity that we have (when guided) gets us far. We never retreat when faced with a challenge. We stand for what we think is right and that is how we’ve gotten this far.

But I’ve learned that just because something is wanted, doesn’t mean that it’s needed. That place that would be “perfect if…” may not be worth the time, discomfort or struggle that it would take to make it “perfect”. And honestly, if it were perfect, our imperfect self would mess it up.

My wife and I recently visited a place where we both so wanted things to work out a certain way. Our visit was basically a decision-making one. The funny thing about that visit was that everything that caused distractions, discomfort, annoyance or passiveness over the last few years all coincidentally happened in that one trip. What were the odds? And while she is always quick to say, “That’s a sign!” when things like that happen, I actually beat her to it this time. We looked at each other and agreed, “It’s time to move on.”

There are signs that our tenure at certain places has come to an end:

  • Some relationships don’t seem as natural as they once did
  • You find yourself trying to convince yourself that you should be there
  • It’s difficult to be focused and productive because you are easily distracted or angered over the smallest things
  • Some things just don’t feel right anymore, and what used to feel natural and right has become more of a chore or burden

no-reason-to-stayI believe that the quicker we come to grips that it’s time to move forward in our personal or professional missions the easier the transition will be. When we follow the signs and read the proverbial writing on the wall, we are able to amicably part ways and focus on the future. While there are many things worth suffering and fighting through, there are others things that require us to use the right balance of emotion, logic and intuition to determine when they’re not.

Sometimes the missions of our companies do not align with our personal ones. Sometimes the values don’t mix. Sometimes, we just don’t fit. Sometimes, all parties have gotten what they needed out of the relationship and there is nothing left to achieve. And sometimes we’re all moving in different directions, and while it’s painful to part ways, that pain should fuel us to be bolder, stronger and more committed to those things we deem worthy of the fight.

Embrace the Unsexy Stuff

We all want to be able to say we changed the world from the inside out. That’s cool and that’s a great goal. But there are plenty of things in the world that need tweaking from the outside in as well. And unfortunately, those tasks aren’t sexy. They’re needed, but boring and/or tedious.

I have personally been in roles where I am depended on for things that are clearly outside of my area of expertise. I love gadgets, so people think that means I am an IT guy. I’m pretty good with a screwdriver and pliers, but that doesn’t mean I’m Facilities Management. I like to talk, but that doesn’t mean I’m a speaker or Master of Ceremonies. I’m dashingly handsome, but that doesn’t mean I want to model. I love cigars, but that doesn’t mean…yeah, I do know a lot about CigaHrs.

So I’m learning (and it’s a struggle) that maybe people are depending on us for these things because we’re trusted, because we know how to get stuff done, because if we don’t have the answer we’ll help in figuring it out or we have the right connections to solve it. And that’s a beautiful thing…I think.

It causes extra work. Every issue is critical and can’t wait. I’m realizing that the ability to be all things to all people is a talent in itself, and valuable in any setting, whether I see it that way at the time or not.

Getting Stuff Done may not be what’s listed on your degree, but the ability to do it will propel one far further than what they studied in school. Far beyond certifications. It’s all about talking a good game and backing it up. Or not talking at all because you’re too busy doing!

I-can-doSo I’m working on NOT complaining about being asked to do the unsexy stuff and I’m trying to change my mindset that if I know how to do both the Sexy AND Unsexy stuff, I’ll be indispensable… more than normal anyway, as no one in business is completely indispensable. Plus, that stuff still has to get done so who better to tackle it that me!

No task is beneath us, as they all prepare and elevate us to something greater.

Now What?

I am fresh back from a wonderful conference in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (LASHRM) and I am still pumped up and excited about my profession.

As I emptied my conference bag and began sorting through all of the pamphlets, pens and notes, I reflected and thought to myself, “Now what?”

We go to all of these conferences for development , fellowship, and to meet our Social Media peers and friends in person, but what good is all of that development and fellowship if the organizations that we return to don’t see and reap any benefit?

What are we going to do? What are we going to change? How are we better and will the colleagues we work with daily see it? Or are we just going to hoard all of the cool stuff we learned and keep all of the free pens and water bottles to ourselves.

I saw something special in that convention center, and because of that I’m motivated to share until my colleagues get tired of me.

I had the pleasure of working with my Performance I Create colleagues as the Social Media team for the event. We had a ball, sharing session content, promoting social media, blogging, etc. As the River Center staff began breaking down the exhibit tables and attendees were clearing out, we thought that our work was done. Just then a volunteer approached us and said that there were a couple of attendees that really needed to talk to us. Agreeing, a couple of us walked out to where our Social Engagement Portal was (that staff broke those tables down fast!) and we were immediately hit with a series of questions about how “Social” could help them in their workplace. They wanted to know how to move their thoughts from ideas to execution…and which tools and mediums would be best for what they were trying to accomplish.

connectAs we engaged them (my colleague did most of the talking, ahem), you could see light bulbs not only coming on but exploding. The concepts we spoke of were not complicated. They just needed some of that stuff that we teach and talk about to come off of the screen, out of the blogs and made plain to them in person…right there in their hands so that they could grab it and implement. What they needed was the knowledge that we had gained from doing…ideas that we got from conferences….strategies that we picked up from our peers. They needed it to make sense and tie in to what they were dealing with every day in their organization…and that if they had questions afterwards that they could reach out and get support.

“Don’t just help light bulbs come on, help them explode!” – Justin Harris, 2014

That’s what stuck with me. That’s what made me realize that it’s not that the people upstairs from me don’t care to do things differently, it’s that they don’t know exactly where to start. They have ideas, but they need help planning. Those of us that say we’re experts are needed to reach out occasionally and break it down for them. Because sometimes our messages are too big and they can’t run with that load. If we break the messages into manageable chunks, focus on process instead of the presentation, we’ll see more people grab hold and put the stuff in action.

So it starts in my shop. Being the change that I talk about and helping others to implement. Helping others to get involved and learn more about the tools of our trade. Because the Resources that we have are no good if we are not sharing them with other Humans.