“You just summed up your entire sorry career here in one sentence! If you had a tenth of the heart of Ruettiger, you’d have made All-American by now! As it is, you just went from third team to the prep team! Get out of here!”
Even though I am not what you would consider to be a football fan, there are nonetheless many powerful moments in the movie Rudy from which the above quote has been taken.
Moments that I believe transcend the sports world, and apply to both business and life in general.
The reason I thought about this movie, and in particular this scene, is that I was recently asked the question does desire and commitment trump talent alone?
The individual, who is a senior executive with a large corporation, posed the question because he was having difficulty in deciding which one of two people on his management team would be promoted to a new, more demanding position.
On one hand, the candidate who he had initially favored was – at least on paper, capable of doing a great job based on a long list of degrees and academic accomplishment. In other words, he possessed the prerequisite skill sets that appeared to perfectly align with the requirements of the job. However, he had never demonstrated a desire to do more than what was necessary to get by in terms of fulfilling his past assignments.
In considering this individual, the executive’s hope was that when faced with a new and bigger challenge, he would find his passion and rise to the occasion. In essence finally deliver on the potential the company saw in him when he was first hired.
The other candidate, who was now being seriously considered, at first wasn’t even on the radar screen for the new position. After all, the executive explained to me, she did not have the same level of education as the “preferred” candidate, nor did she have the same level of seniority. What she did have however, was a desire to excel in everything that she did.
If she did not know the answer to a particular question, she would without fail do the research that was necessary to get the right information.
If there was a need for overtime or to double check her work to make certain that it was the best it could be, she did so without fail. She was even available to help fellow employees with their assignments when called upon.
In short, and while she wasn’t as qualified as the preferred candidate, she did possess what I call an inner Rudy. She had heart and a burning desire to succeed.
The difficulty according to my executive friend was determining which candidate was more likely to excel in the new position. Which one would be the best hire?
Would the candidate who was clearly more qualified for the position finally live up to his potential?
Alternatively, and even though he had no doubt that the less qualified candidate would give it her very best, would that best be good enough? Would she be up to the task?
Rather than simply giving him an answer in favor of one or the other, I asked him a question.
When you first started out, and eventually rose to the position you are in today, what made you successful?
At first he looked confused, but then paused for a moment to think about my words.
He then said that despite his level of education, he had throughout his career, encountered many challenges that required him to look outside of what he knew to seek the answer. In doing so, he relied heavily on the support of others – his fellow employees, managers and mentors.
However, the one thing he learned is that their level of support, and his ability to find an answer, originated with his desire to do the best job he could.
I then reminded him of a quote regarding Henry Ford from Napoleon Hill’s book Think And Grow Rich. Specifically Hill’s assertion of Ford’s belief that “Any man is educated who knows where to get knowledge when he needs it, and how to organize that knowledge into definite plans of action.”
In the end, I told him that I think this definition of education still holds true today, because it reflects a true desire to excel, and a real heart for achievement.
Given the above, if you were in this executive’s shoes, who would you hire?
The one thing I will tell you, is that the executive ultimately made the right decision.
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Note: This post originally appeared in the Procurement Insights Blog and makes reference to an SAP Academy training course featuring Roz Usheroff’s brand building strategy.
“Procurement professionals are great at delivering value, but terrible at promoting their value to their organization and beyond.”
This is the statement I made to open my second session at last weeks 25th Annual Public Procurement Forum in Virginia.
Titled Strategically Speaking: Procurement, the Organization and You, I focused on the significant changes that are taking place not only within our own profession but within the larger business world as a whole. This included a detailed breakdown on how both Finance and IT professionals are themselves going through a major transformation, and what it means in terms of the dissolution of the functional silos that had for too long restricted rather than stimulate enterprise-wide collaboration.
As exciting a time as it is, to fully capitalize on this much larger and more diversified stage, procurement professionals need to become more adept at branding themselves and the value we bring. Or as…
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As far as I am concerned, one of the best examples of being open to trying something new is reflected in the following excerpt from my new book The Future of You! Creating Your Enduring Brand.
While the story of Denise talks about being your own best PR person, the underlining message is that a willingness to embrace change and try something new – in Denise’s case this meant accepting a position for which she had little prior experience – will almost always open the door to opportunities that you might have otherwise missed.
Denise is the Chief Procurement Officer with a major corporation. Founded by one of the world’s leading entrepreneurs, whose enterprises have included professional sports teams and international retail chains, the company with whom she works is a recognized brand the world over.
Over the past 16 years Denise has had many different bosses. Despite these changes at the top, Denise has been successful because she has been open to leveraging her Unique Ability to assume the leadership role within different areas of her company including finance, HR, and now purchasing.
To me she exemplifies the importance of volunteering for important projects, building an effective rapport with her bosses, and being willing to mentor and coach those with whom she works.
Having had the opportunity to share a cab with her to the airport from a speaking engagement in which she was in attendance, I was moved by her calm and certain demeanor that seemed to accentuate the very adaptability that has led to her enduring success.
Now you might ask yourself what Denise’s story has to do with how you can become your own best PR person. Similar to those executives about whom I talked in my Personal Reflection earlier in this chapter, Denise recognized that while changes at the top can and obviously do happen, her success in promoting her brand value was based on a solid understanding of the organization’s inner workings. When confronted with a change in management and company goals, Denise looked for ways in which she could become a champion of that change, even if doing so meant that she had to move outside of her apparent comfort zone.
In short, Denise realized that the new skills that were needed to play a different role in her company’s success could be acquired through listening and building a rapport with both existing as well as new team members. It is through this rapport and relationship-building process that Denise did her best PR work. And by adopting this attitude of service as opposed to being defined by a particular position, Denise established her reputation as a go-to person who could be counted on to take on the tough jobs and deliver the results.
There are of course many examples similar to Denise’s to which I could refer. I can remember the story of a very successful sales executive taking a management position in his company’s service department. When asked why he had volunteered to pursue this seemingly “new” career path his response said it all; “this new challenge will give me the opportunity to demonstrate to my company that I can play multiple roles in the organization’s success. I believe that this will increase my value to the team, while making me a better overall employee.”
What opportunities do you have, to move outside of the familiar to embrace something new and in the process advance both your career as well as your personal brand’s perceived value?
Besides the fact that it never ceases to amaze me how jet travel can place you on the opposite side of the world in a matter of hours, my speaking schedule has also afforded me the opportunity to meet different people from different cultures. This has been a great gift in many ways because it has provided me with a lens through which to view both the similarities and differences in terms of how people look at personal career development.
For example, when I had the privilege of addressing an audience in Asia, they were quietly earnest and appeared cautious in their replies. It would have been easy to judge their restrained participation as disinterest or boredom. The opposite however was true, in that the apparent lack of enthusiasm was not reflective of an absence of commitment to advancement. It was instead indicative of how they valued the added insight which was later demonstrated by the questions they asked at the conclusion of our time together.
This of course got me to thinking of not only the differences but, the similarities we share in being part of a global community. After all, our respective marketplace is no longer geographically limited or confined to a particular region of the world. We are all ̶ for all intents and purposes ̶ globetrotters whether we physically board a plane or commute virtually through the Internet. As a result, understanding our differences in communicating and the similarities in our intent is the key to success. While I have found that we all share a similar desire to make a positive contribution, our approaches vary greatly. The real question is how do we respond to differences in a way that opens the door to building a meaningful rapport and trusting relationship?
For me, the first step is to embrace the differences and be open to change or trying something new.
In part 2, I will talk about what it means to be open to trying something new, and why it is important to your success in developing a sustainable personal brand.
. . . to find success and fulfillment you must understand who you are, what your unique value is to your business, and adopt an entrepreneurial mindset of continually marketing yourself and your expertise.
The above brief excerpt from my book The Future of You! Creating Your Enduring Brand provides what I believe are the key tenets for building not only an enduring brand, but enduring success.
In essence, to bring value to your relationships you need to first understand who you are and more specifically for what you stand. Once you have ascertained your personal value system, you can then better identify your unique abilities or talents in terms of how you can apply them to have a positive impact upon those with whom you associate or seek to serve.
Finally, you have to proactively look for ways to be of service to others. This requires what I call an entrepreneurial mindset.
It is this latter point upon which I will focus today.
In Part 1 of this series I had made reference to a comment by Ruth Stafford Peale, the wife of The Power of Positive Thinking author Norman Vincent Peale, of the importance of finding a need and filling it. So what does it really mean to find a need and fill it?
Powerful and insightful in its very simplicity, it reminded me of an article by Jon Hansen titled “Rosslyn Analytics: Find a Need and Fill It!” In the article, Hansen lamented the fact that the true meaning of this axiom is surprisingly and consistently overlooked by the majority of organizations.
Referencing a number of companies within the high tech sector, Hansen pointed to Robert Spiegel, the author of Net Strategy (Dearborn, 2000 ) and The Shoestring Entrepreneur’s Guide to Internet Start-Ups (St. Martin’s Press, 2001), to support his position. Specifically Spiegel’s assertion that the majority of companies that “failed did so not because they were bad ideas, but because they didn’t solve anyone’s problem.”
While Spiegel concluded Hansen believed that “Many of the technology ideas were brilliant,” it means very little at the end of the day “unless you can demonstrate a need that is getting met by these products, technology and ideas.”
To me this redefines or perhaps expands upon what it means to be entrepreneurial. Specifically, you can have the entrepreneurial courage and passion to pursue your vision, but you also have to make certain that what you are doing aligns with your organization’s or clients current needs, otherwise you will ultimately fail. This is at the heart of the Peale challenge to find a need and fill it.
Over the years I have seen many careers take an unexpected turn toward the unemployment line. The reason was also fairly simple. The individuals, while experienced and talented, had lost sight of how their unique abilities were valued by the organizations for whom they worked. In other words, they lost sight of how they solved their company’s or client’s problems and thus failed to make an indelible and enduring mark. In essence, they failed to build a legacy based on filling a tangible need.