The statement progress over perfection probably sounds like an oxymoron or makes you think of phrases heard in the midst of defeat such as “it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” Paradigm shift folks – – rest assured, this is not spin, nor a consolation prize, as by definition, “progress” is the movement towards your goal.
Why We Might Focus On Perfection
I know from my own personal experiences that my challenges with confidence during my youth, driven by a lack of validation, caused me to strive for high performance and over achievement as I grew older. Striving for high achievement in and of itself is not a bad thing. However, that needs to be balanced, a theme I have found to resonate with many as I have shared my story in my book and during speaking engagements.
It is only in recent years that we have been able to fully witness the journey of people unfold through popular shows such as American Idol, America’s Got Talent, The Voice, etc., Top Chef, etc. Even then, we often don’t consider that it could be us in those very positions. In large part, we are accustomed to a reveal of the finished product in its full glory as it were. This magnificent specimen pops on the scene with superhuman ability, great appearance, unshakeable demeanor, masterful skills, and so on.
The Golden Nugget
The fact is that what we become during the journey (the process of making it to the destination) is equally or more important than that particular outcome.
During the course of the journey, you will experience steps forward, twists and turns, decision points and more – – the road is rarely as straight and steady as planned. You learn to overcome barriers, be more resilient, build up stamina, courage, determination, plan better, and more. Therefore, the progress you make, and I mean each additional notch on your belt, matters – – take none of it for granted.
Three Key Tips to Making Progress:
#1: Manage Your GPS
Set goals judiciously as it is your destination. As with any journey you need to know where you are going in order to ensure you are moving in the right direction. Be focused and ensure you don’t plan too many destinations. A trip with too many stops may leave you on the road too long. Said differently, be careful as to how many goals you are pursuing at any one time. Pick a few to focus on.
I recall when I began my role as president of LegalShield Business Solutions. There were so many opportunities in front of me. I will also readily admit that I am what is called in PRINT language a 4/2, which translates to creative and empathetic as my stronger traits. My creative side enjoys variety and attacking lots of different problems.
Fortunately for me, I have had great counsel prod along the way relative to choosing priorities. I was able to do the exact same thing when I had a new hire join. I will never forget the story I told her. “As you start this job, it will be like walking through a desert, then all of sudden ten oases will pop up at one time, you just can’t take them all at once, you will have to choose.”
As you venture out on your journey, new opportunities will arise that can take you off course and that is ok, provided it is a conscious choice. In other words, it is important not to let a new shiny object take you off track without an assessment. That is a time when you should take a moment, pull out whatever information you created when establishing the goal (e.g. S.M.A.R.T. Goal creation sheet) as we sometimes forget the value we associated with that goal and then compare that against this new opportunity. From there, make a conscious choice and move on.
Lastly, from a macro point of view as it relates to managing your career GPS. Follow that one as well. One of the biggest lessons I learned was when I was seeking out a new job inside of JPMorgan Chase back in the late 2000s. As I was already a senior executive, with a great track record in the company, I thought this would not be too difficult. I underestimated the effort and initially was not prepared in my approach.
While I knew where I wanted to go (e.g. head towards a C-level role, revenue generation, be close to the Philadelphia and family), I had not articulated it well, nor my value in terms of transferable skills to the other organizations. In return, I spent quite a bit of time informally interviewing internally, establishing a network (which has value of course) and even receiving a job offer or two that were totally off the mark relative to what I wanted, such as CTO for South Africa. How much further off the mark could something be?!?!? LOL.
Here is the deal though. I am accountable, I own it, my GPS to manage, up to me to share the destination with folks – – thoughtfully. Once I began doing that, shaping my script (so to speak), conversations were more focused, the networking sharper and I found the right opportunity inside the company that provided me with the experience I needed to continue along my career journey.
Three Key Tips to Making Progress:
#2: Get Coaching Along The Way
When I was growing up one of the phrases I used to love was experience is the best teacher. Then, when I was in my early twenties, my pastor at the time, Pastor Chuck Coleman, told me his father’s saying was “Wisdom is learning from someone else’s experience.” I found that one to be much better. In my mind that translated to, if there is a flame burning on the stove and you have already burned and tell me that it hurts, I’m good!
You would think getting coaching would be fairly obvious and I do think it is, in some cases. However, in some, it is not. I am reminded of a team-building experience I had with a team during my early years at JPMorgan Chase. A number of us from the Delaware Operating Committee of the campus had an offsite. What was really nice about this Operating Committee is that we were all from different businesses, Shared Services, Private Bank, Retail, Credit Card, Investment Bank, etc.
We are all set up at tables, about five or six to a table. The facilitator starts the session and gives us the instructions. Our task is to head into the mountains and to come back with as much gold as we can. Sounds simple enough right? The facilitator informs us that along the way we will find different choices we need to make in terms of routes, caves we can go into, etc. We are then instructed to assign different roles and we are off to the race. Each team takes a turn. If I remember correctly you rolled a die and took a certain number of steps, etc.
Interestingly enough, right at the base of the mountain when you started, there was an old man sitting there. He didn’t interrupt us by waving he hand or anything, but he was noticeable and appeared as if he had been around there a bit – – in other words, he clearly looked like he knew those mountains. As each team took off, they raced into the mountains, right past the old man.
At the end of the race, during the debrief, the facilitator told us how we did. We all did “ok.” However, we were then informed that if we had stopped and talked to the old man, he would have told us exactly where we could have found the gold and we would have saved ourselves a lot of time and not have wasted some of our turns taking the wrong routes and going into the wrong caves, etc. That is the value of getting good coaching!
Three Key Tips to Making Progress:
#3: Be Promotable
This terminology was admittedly not in my book originally, so I will have to add it to an upcoming book or a 2nd edition should I publish one. However, some of the points I will mention below definitely are.
Managers sometimes refer to a person as fungible. That is a powerful word. Fungible means that something can be exchanged for something else of the same kind. As a person moving along their career journey, particularly when you want to transition to another role where you might not have the technical skills, that means having a set of non-technical skills that are so strong, that people still see you as fungible.
Below are some of those non-technical or “soft” skills that I believe make you promotable (or fungible)
- Self-awareness: conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires.
- Self-expression: the expression of one’s feelings, thoughts, or ideas, especially in writing, art, music, or dance.
- Interpersonal relationships: The ability to establish and maintain deep, meaningful relationships with people
- Decision making: The ability to assimilate information and make sound, objective decisions, aligned with the stated vision, objectives, and goals of the company, group, etc.
- Stress Tolerance (also known as EQ): The ability to recognize your own emotions and those of others; discern between different feelings, and label them appropriately; use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one’s goal(s).
As always, I hope you find this useful. I welcome your feedback.