Reflections on Professional Development

I’ve learned a lot about people this year. It’s the first time I’ve managed teams of people. In prior roles I’ve managed customers and projects, but this is the first time I’ve managed humans, and had to collectively organize them in a way that adds value. Literally, creating systems and processes out of the people and resources available to me.

I decided last year to focus on myself, to practice the art of solitude, and being with myself. Being aware of distractions and vices, even if they’re not obvious. Bodybuilding became a distraction. My ex girlfriend was a distraction. I had to confront things and people and situations, and ask myself if they aligned with the grand vision I want to manifest in this life, and if they supported the version of the person I wanted to be, or needed to be to make that manifest.

And what is this grand vision? My goal is to add value to the world. Real value that wasn’t there before. Measurable value. There are lots of ways to do this, but whatever way you choose needs the utmost devotion and focus. You get what you give. Value is anything which elevates the state of mankind.

Professionally, this means generate more value for my organization than anyone. It goes beyond my personal sales numbers. Value is my goal. Not just doing my job. But doing whatever it takes to make the business grow, Even if it’s not my formal responsibility. Even if it means advocating for proposed changes in the broader organization.

I think this is the only way to rise up in the world.

I applied for over 400+ jobs. I wrote over 100 cover letters. I had close to 50 interviews. I was holding out for an opportunity to make a difference.

I was fortunate to find my company. The organization is in much dysfunction. I joined because I saw it as an opportunity to make an impact. I was told the business group was struggling, but I was told that they were committed to doing whatever had to be done. That it was a global priority, and the Japanese HQ was providing unique strategic support.

My director looked me in the eye during our interviews, and literally told me it was not going to be easy, that at a company this size things happen slowly. But that the company has smart people, and they have tremendous resources, and that if I’m patient, and work hard, we can turn things around.

I looked him in the eye, and asked if he was willing to do whatever it took. I told him I’m looking to make an impact. I want to win, and I want the support to make that happen. I asked him, are you committed to making these hard changes?

We looked each other in the eye for a moment, and he said yes I am. I am committed, and I’m serious. I said then this is where I want to be, and I look forward to making things happen.

About 6 months into the job I began to question my decision. Work was hard. There was no strong leaders. No one going above and beyond. Not even my director or Sr. Director. No one providing direction. There were no answers, no support. It’s very sterile. Good people. Smart people. But no leaders. No people stepping up.

Most of the team just complains. And I started to do the same thing. Just criticizing and complaining and critiquing. Wishing for people or things to be different. And just kind of throwing up their hands like that was enough of an excuse to justify going through the motions.

But then I had a good long hard look at myself.

If everything was great, how could I make an impact?

If there were no problems to solve, what value would I bring?

How would I stand out if everything was great?

I reminded myself that the harder the struggle, the greater the adversity, the bigger the opportunity to grow, and learn, and make a difference.

I got disciplined with myself. Every time I noticed my attitude getting critical or down or I felt helpless or defeated, I stopped myself. And told myself to do something about it. Be the change.

If I want things to be different, I can’t wait around for anyone else to make that happen. I need to do whatever I need to do. Take responsibility.

If I can’t rely on my engineer to follow through on projects, am I going to let that stop me? Nope. Learn the engineering. Learn not to depend on him.

If I don’t have good marketing, am I going to let that prevent me from identifying and reaching out to my target customers? Nope. Learn data analytics. Build a market model. Generate leads. Cold call. Do it yourself.

If I don’t have product managers who know or communicate our value proposition, am I going to let that prevent me from selling? Nope. Dig into the technical weeds. Develop the value proposition for myself, my territory.

So I just started doing whatever I had to do.

I don’t keep track of how much I work, but I work… 24/7. Not saying this is sustainable, but for the time being, there is work to be done to achieve my goals, and the only one stopping that from happening is me. So I do whatever necessary. I think about work all the time. It’s not even work. It’s life. It’s a problem to be solved. It’s a puzzle. It’s a challenge that I am obsessed with overcoming.

I kept this activity to myself for months. There was a status quo that I felt uncomfortable disturbing. I was hesitant to make waves, to stand out, and then be found out that I’m stepping out of line.

But soon my activities began to spill over, out of necessity, because I had to do whatever I needed to. It felt risky. Speaking up or doing something beyond my “formal job description” responsibilities. I always wondered if someone was going to call me out. “Who do you think you are?” “That’s not your job!” “Stay in line!”

But that never happened. Not from my immediate colleagues or Sr. Management. Instead, they praised it. I realized, I was making their job easier, even if I was doing their job. I was making the look good. And they began to reach out to me and consult, and me questions, ask me for guidance.

I did get pushback from those “below” me. People who wanted to maintain the status quo. They see my activity as more work. They try to avoid work, avoid responsibility.

But when I questioned what I was doing, and shared with Sr. Management, they were very supportive. I felt very blessed that they support me no matter what I do, because they either believe in me, or because I’m adding real value, and helping them, even if they should be responsible for leading it.

Adding value means making other people’s jobs easier, better, clearer. To make everyone else look good and feel good.

My current mindset is be the change I want to see.

I want my attitude and practices to be a model for the organization. I will never ask someone to work harder than me. I’ve tried, and it’s impossible.

But I’ve found that in order to be a leader, and possess the power of leadership, by working harder than everyone else, by being the most responsible for outcomes, it elevates the game for everyone. It raises the bar.

No one wants to look bad. My goal is to create such a contrast in attitude and work ethic that it inspires or drives or motivates people to up their game. To be more dependable. Because I will do your job if you don’t. And then what value do you bring? I will never ask something that I would not ask of myself. People start seeing this, and they start realizing that it’s their choice to be a team player, and they want to have a place on the team.

And those that don’t, realize that this isn’t the job for them. And they quite.

You can only hold people accountable when you hold yourself accountable to them.

Often times, this is all that’s needed to influence organization change. You are responsible for the success of everyone involved in the goal of your organization.

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