Deferred Tax Liabilities or Social Networks?

Phew - I’ve finished my statistics and accounting homework and now it’s time to start my MP&O readings. I feel an immediate sense of relief. Is it because these readings are “soft” and do not require calculations that make my head spin? Or is it because these readings are actually relevant to my career and will leave me with lessons that I will not gain elsewhere in this program? To be honest, it’s probably a little of both. Will I be asked to calculate Bayes Theorem or to run multiple regressions once in the real world? My guess is no, but for some reason all of my stress and anxiety has been around these quantitative classes. Managing People and Organizations forced me to take a step back and to re-evaluate what is genuinely important. Along the way, I’ve had to ask myself some difficult questions, and it is through this soul-searching, albeit not always easy, that I have gained true insight into who I am and what I want both professionally and personally.

I’ve learned that “greatness isn’t handed to anyone; it requires a lot of hard work,”[i] and Peter Drucker’s article “Managing Oneself”provided the groundwork that allowed me to come to this conclusion. The following questions inspired me to piece together everything that I have learned in this course in order to focus on the one person who is really in charge: me.

All grown up, but now what?

I entered this class thinking that I wanted to stay in the marketing industry but in a more strategic role. I believe that I’m on the right track, but now I actually understand why. As Peter Drucker emphasizes, the ability to know and to manage one-self is an invaluable skill.[ii] In order to successfully accomplish this, one needs to refine “four fundamental capabilities: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and social skill.”[iii] This takes a lifetime of dedication and learning, and thus far, I have identified my strengths and weaknesses and am able to differentiate between what I need to master and what I can be just OK at. Let’s take accounting for example. Am I good at this? No. Will I ever be an expert at this no matter how hard I try? No. Would it be impressive to strike up a conversation with an executive at a bar and be able to speak intelligently about a company’s financials? Of course. So this is the level of accounting I need to attain.

As Drucker says, you should not expend too much energy and stress on perfecting areas of low competence.[iv] Rather, you should be able to step back and identify those areas which are relevant and are worth expending that extra effort. I’ll never have the quantitative prowess of a CPA, but I’m a good communicator, I love working in teams, and I am beginning to learn what it takes to be a good manager. Brand management appears to fit the bill, but I have admittedly only begun to discover the learning curve. At the very least, I’ve learned where and where not to focus my efforts and I intend to be proactive about it, even if it requires stepping outside of my comfort zone.

Of course I’m a listener. Wait, what did you just say?

Now that I’ve established my strengths and weaknesses, I thought about what prevented me from being successful in my former jobs. This led me to ask myself, what kind of working environment do I excel in and how exactly do I work/perform within that environment? So many people perform in the way that they think is expected of them or mimic their predecessors, without letting their unique personalities shine through.[v] In my experience, I got stuck in an executional rut because that was what I thought was expected of me – just get it done, move on to the next task, and repeat. Unfortunately, I became so good at simply getting it done and pumping out task after task that I never gave myself the opportunity to slow down and offer up creative or strategic ideas. By forcing myself to be a doer and not the thinker that I am at heart, I was never able to be successful, to be challenged or to grow. I ended up being resentful of myself, my colleagues and my profession, which is an extremely unattractive and frankly, miserable way to view the world.

I also realized that I always stayed within my comfort zone at my former positions. When I asked myself how I learn, I discovered the sad truth: the learning that I have done thus far in my career has been negligible. Schools and businesses are organized on the assumption that everyone learns in the same way and thus, this is the only right way to learn.[vi] This couldn’t be further from the truth. I have realized that the key to my learning is to put myself in new and challenging situations and then to practice. “The best people in any field are those who devote the most hours to what the researchers call ‘deliberate practice’.”[vii] This activity goes beyond simply doing; it requires repetition, consistency, discomfort, unyielding fight and a persistent mindset. Rather than merely doing the job, I will focus on constantly trying to improve upon what I am doing.

It’s one thing to identify your weaknesses, exert minimal effort to overcome them, and then pat yourself on the back for a job well done. It’s an entirely different thing to put yourself in situations that make you uncomfortable and leave you feeling insecure. Essentially, it’s the “same activity, different mindset.”[viii] For example, I have always struggled with speaking in large groups. I allowed myself to identify this weakness and to recognize that it is something that I must overcome, but I never did anything about it. This class has taught me that I have to put myself in the scary and intimidating situation of speaking in public in order to truly master it. “Work is hard enough without pushing even harder. Those extra steps are so difficult and painful they almost never get done. If great performance were easy, it wouldn’t be rare.”[ix] This is why I have shied away from this method of learning all my life, but it is the only way I will continue to become more knowledgeable, more confident and more multi-dimensional.

I refuse to be the odd man out

It was not until I dealt with the above questions that I was able to confront the third: Where do I belong?[x] “Successful careers are not planned. They develop because people are prepared for opportunities because they know their strengths, their method of work, and their values.”[xi] I used to think that landing the perfect job was a combination of timing and luck. I now realize just how much power I have in selecting the right job, the right culture, and most importantly, the right people. While it’s a lot easier to be a good leader if you’re running a team filled with the right kind of people,[xii] the reverse is also true. As Bob Radin said, you have to pick the right boss. In most cases, excellent companies value excellent management, so this is a great starting point.[xiii] “Great managers are the consistent variable in great work groups…The average to mediocre manager can set a very destructive tone too.”[xiv] Tony DaDante also stressed that people are so subjective that it can destroy even the most positive experience or relationship.[xv] By choosing a company based solely on its values or culture, you are overlooking the most important piece. It’s frightening to think that one person can have such an impact, but an effective and supportive manager can make all the difference. As simply put by Red Auerbach, “One wrong guy can ruin it so fast your head will swim.”[xvi] Having learned this lesson, I hope to never to put myself in that position because “stars don’t work for idiots”[xvii] and I fully intend to become a star.

As I begin my job search over the next year, I also hope to find an environment whose culture complements my work ethic. Like Bob, I believe that it is crucial to always celebrate success. “Celebrating small wins emboldens you to achieve big ones,”[xviii] and this is at the heart of any successful business. Work should be fun, and if it’s not then maybe it’s time to re-evaluate the situation or to move on.[xix] When you are at the office for ten hours a day, there has to be an element of amicability and celebration. It’s OK to smile, to congratulate someone on a job well done or to have a beer and actually not talk about work for 20 minutes. As Red Auerbach said, “We like our players to play for fun and to be happy rather than afraid. It’s like that in any business. If you have employees who work through fear, you’re not going to get any ingenuity out of them.”[xx] In my experience, praise, encouragement and the occasional beer go much further than fear tactics, and I hope to never work somewhere that does support this type of culture.

Respect, Perseverance and Happiness

Knowing what I’m good at, how I learn and where I belong can only get me so far if my core values are not woven into each of these revelations. Perhaps the most valuable exercise of the class, identifying my core values, allowed me to look in the mirror, to expose myself and to uncover who I truly am at the core. The last question I can ask myself is: Once I am able to satisfy the above three questions, how can I maintain this success and continue to grow as a person and a businesswoman? The answer to that is simple in theory but difficult in practice: Always live by my core values and never sacrifice them regardless of the temptations that may try to steer me off-course.

The only way to do great work is to love what you do[xxi], so I intend to keep respect, perseverance and happiness at the core of each and every action that I make. I know that as an employee, if I feel respected, I will hopefully enrich the lives of all those around me.[xxii] But if I am not treated as a valuable asset[xxiii] and am not involved in the decision-making process,[xxiv] I will not experience and exude the passion and happiness that are critical to my own success. You cannot fake passion, and if you try, everyone around you will know,[xxv]  and this can drive down the morale of those around you. It’s a vicious cycle. By staying true to my values, I hope to avoid this predicament, but if I find myself there, it will be the loyalty to my values that allows me to escape unscathed.

Who me? Yes you.

Undoubtedly, the most valuable lesson that I am taking from this class is how much control I have over my own success. Sounds simplistic, but it’s a huge step for me to take ownership and accountability of my life and career. It is extremely empowering to realize that “talent has little or nothing to do with greatness. You can make yourself into any number of things, and you can even make yourself great.”[xxvi] I recognize that I have the power to become whoever I want and that my opportunities are endless. Peter Drucker’s words strongly resonate with me: “It’s up to you to carve out your place, to know when to change course, and to keep yourself engaged and productive during a work life that may span some 50 years.”[xxvii]

Now it’s just a matter of embracing these opportunities, of continuing to learn and to push myself, and of staying humble and empathetic. As Bob Radin said, “You need to get better at everything – not because you are bad at what you do, but because you are never good enough.[xxviii] I firmly believe that the second that you stop learning and stop challenging yourself is the second that you become a failure. Tiger Woods, one of the greatest sports icons of all time, never stops trying to improve. Yes, his form is close to perfect and his record unbeatable, but he “devotes hours to practice…because that’s what it takes to get better.”[xxix] I hope to one day be at the pinnacle of my career, and instead of sitting at a mahogany desk and sipping expensive whiskey, I hope to be mingling amongst the cubicles enjoying a cold beer and talking sports. These lessons learned will keep me motivated yet grounded, and that is what life is all about.

[i] Colvin, Geoffrey. “What it Takes to be Great.” Fortune, October 30th 2006.

[ii] Drucker, Peter F. “Managing Oneself.” Harvard Business Review, January 2005.

[iii] Goleman, Daniel. “Leadership that Gets Results.” Harvard Business Review, March-April 2000.

[iv] Drucker, Peter F. “Managing Oneself.” Harvard Business Review, January 2005.

[v] Drucker, Peter F. “Managing Oneself.” Harvard Business Review, January 2005.

[vi] Drucker, Peter F. “Managing Oneself.” Harvard Business Review, January 2005.

[vii] Colvin, Geoffrey. “What it Takes to be Great.” Fortune, October 30th 2006.

[viii] Colvin, Geoffrey. “What it Takes to be Great.” Fortune, October 30th 2006.

[ix] Colvin, Geoffrey. “What it Takes to be Great.” Fortune, October 30th 2006.

[x] Drucker, Peter F. “Managing Oneself.” Harvard Business Review, January 2005.

[xi] Drucker, Peter F. “Managing Oneself.” Harvard Business Review, January 2005.

[xii] Taylor, Bill. “Memo to a Young Leader: What Kind of Boss Are You?” May 3, 2008.

[xiii] Bob Radin Presentation, October 14th, 2009.

[xiv] Borden, Marc, Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. “The Great Workplace “Secret”: It’s the Manager, Stupid.” Fortune, October 25th 1999.

[xv] Motivation Presentation by Tony DaDante, Septemeber 30th, 2009.

[xvi] An interview by Alan M. Webber. “Red Auerbach on management.” Harvard Business Review, March-April 1987.

[xvii] Taylor, Bill. “Memo to a Young Leader: What Kind of Boss Are You?” May 3, 2008. (quote by Professor John Sullivan of San Francisco State University)

[xviii] Givray, Henry S. “Leadership Lessons from Mom.” BusinessWeek, May 22, 2006.

[xix] Bob Radin Presentation, October 14th, 2009.

[xx] An interview by Alan M. Webber. “Red Auerbach on management.” Harvard Business Review, March-April 1987.

[xxi] Jobs, Steve. “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish (Commencement Address at Stanford University).” Fortune September 5, 2005: 32.

[xxii] Shellenbarger, Sue. “Rules of Engagement.” The Wall Street Journal Online. October 1 2007.

[xxiii] Thurm, Scott and Joann S. Lublin. “Peter Drucker’s Legacy Includes Simple Advice: It’s All About the People.” The Wall Street Journal Online. November 14th 2005.

[xxiv] Dvorak, Phred. “How Understanding the ‘Why’ Of Decisions Matters.” The Wall Street Journal Online. March 19th 2007.

[xxv] Bob Radin Presentation, October 14th, 2009.

[xxvi] Colvin, Geoffrey. “What it Takes to be Great.” Fortune, October 30th 2006.

[xxvii] Drucker, Peter F. “Managing Oneself.” Harvard Business Review, January 2005.

[xxviii] Bob Radin Presentation, October 14th, 2009.

[xxix] Colvin, Geoffrey. “What it Takes to be Great.” Fortune, October 30th 2006.