The other day someone posted on LinkedIn about the two characteristics that each good hire should have: Trustworthy and Enthusiasm. The obvious logic coming after this sentence is that with those two attributes, you could teach anyone to do anything. I think we all have heard this before and I don’t think it is wrong. But I do believe it falls short.
Every job -at least in our company- has a specific number of strategic and non-strategic tasks, and very often it seems that the latter type can overwhelm the former. I think it is here that the theory bumps or crashes into practice. Of course, no one wants to work with someone who lacks enthusiasm. Of course, no one wants to work with someone who can’t be trusted, who will hide facts from you, or not deliver on her/his responsibilities. Let’s assume then that all our team members have these characteristics - I am 99% sure of that fact. And yes, most of our team members learned their job and indeed perform well. But strategic thinking, addressing those strategic tasks, requires something else, something more than trustworthiness and enthusiasm. And I know what you are thinking: people are busy, we are a growing company, and issues, things, situations! need to be addressed; how for the love of God are we going to tackle those strategic tasks? When do we have time to think?
I know many of you feel this way. I’ve seen it: it happens in Development, Product Management, Operations, Sales. This is not different from what the company, as a living organism suffers: our most challenging activity is prioritization - what is the next action we should tackle? And still, we prioritize, we take action, and we move on.
The other day, in a cold winter New York Sunday morning, we were having brunch with a friend who criticized her boss for her short-sightedness. It was awful to watch because you could see that her job was really making her miserable. At one moment she said: Can you believe she has been doing the same thing year after year for the last decade? The question went right through my guts. I could not shake it. It tormented me then as it torments me today: Am I doing the same thing I was doing last year? Are you?
What drives us to change the way we do things? Enthusiasm? I think recurring non-strategic tasks do not get solved with enthusiasm. In fact, they are the enthusiasm’s killer. Sometimes we experience anger about it, and that drives a certain level of change, but rage is not a sustainable habit. You can’t be angered all the time - that is no way of living. So what? What drives us to change? To perform better, differently? To come up with ideas?
I think the answer relies on something way less frequent and intuitive than enthusiasm. I think the answer to that is your personal vision. Dreaming. Because a personal vision, the dreamed version of you, is a commitment to yourself. It is not something you turn on and off, when you go to work. You either have it -you’ve actually sat down to develop it- or not. And when I use the words “have it or not”, I don’t mean it as a special attribute, like having brown eyes or a certain height. This is actually available to all of us, we really just need to sit, dream a little, write it down, and commit to it. Really commit to it, repeating it to yourself every day, like failure against it is not an option, there is no negotiation, it is what you want, and you’ll get it. Because you can. And what is more important, if you are managing people, you won’t be a good leader without it; because you can’t (at least you shouldn’t) follow someone who does not know where she/he’s going, who does not dream, and who has no commitment.
You can read these words and shrug your shoulders -nah, Antonio is weird. But think about people you admire, people that have achieved something, do you think they woke up every day and do “well” on their job, and then life just gave it all to them? They probably had a personal vision, a dream, and they broke rules because they were obstructing the way to their vision. They had challenges and broke through them because they were a threat to their vision, to their dream. This is a debt to yourself, the key to a satisfying life, because you can do hard things and have an easy life or do easy things and have a hard life. But time does not stop for anyone, and it always collects its debts.
I write this because we are at a phase where we need your ideas, that dreamed version of yourself, we need your inspiration and your personal philosophy in your job. We need you to start asking yourself the question of whether you are doing the same thing as last year, and whether those actions are taking you closer to your own dream version. I can give you a vision for the company, but if you don’t bring your own, my vision will just be words on a piece of paper or one more slide on a deck. More bla bla bla that you’ll do for compliance's sake (because my boss told me so), and not because you FEEL is what needs to be done. Think about it, there’s nothing to lose and there is everything to gain. What kind of professional do you want to be at the end of this year? How does that differ from what you are doing now? Do your days look the same as last year’s? What is in your way? Take the time, sit, dream, and write your vision, bring it to the table, let’s hold each other accountable, and be the best team. Let your vision, your dream obsess you, you’ll be a better person, professional, and contributor to society. I’m waiting and eager to help you become the next improved version of yourself.