Read an Excerpt
Becoming the Obvious Choise in Business and in Life
By David Cottrell, Robert Nix
McGraw-Hill Education Copyright © 2014 David Cottrell and Robert Nix
All rights reserved.
Escaping the Status Quo
This is like déjà vu all over again. —Yogi Berra
A four-by-six, brownish-gray cloth cubicle waits. It waits there ... in the middle row, on the middle floor, in the middle of the building, in the middle of the street, in the middle of the city.
Perhaps it awaits you.
Somewhat sarcastically and with an underlying, embarrassed resentment, you call it your "achievement center." The outer walls look no different from the next cubicle with the exception of a nameplate announcing your location in a faceless crowd of other coworkers in the same cookie-cutter, four-by-six, brownish-gray cloth achievement centers. You have placed a mirror there, by your keyboard, to alert you when some quiet passerby stops to peer uncomfortably over your shoulder. Nothing you do or say is private. You know this from experience because you hear and smell more about the lives of your fellow cubicle coworkers than you desire.
Whether the sun shines, the wind blows, or the rain falls, you see only brief glimpses of the outside world. Along the precious landscape of windows are offices with doors, real desks, and even chairs for visitors. In these walled-off offices reside people who have somehow escaped their caste confinement in the brownish-gray modular workspaces. Now these office people watch the activities of the cubicle people and sometimes even close their walled-office doors and discuss with other walled-office people what they see ... or don't see. Occasionally they discuss you.
Of course there are worse places to work than that four-by-six achievement center, and work experience is important for your future. But was it ever part of the vision you had about life? Was it your dream to be confined to a nondescript, cookie-cutter existence of sameness? Was it your goal to be one of many? Organizations need people in workspaces. It does not have to be you.
There is an answer. You can escape the cubicle.
* * *
Standing behind the counter, you watch the clock. The minimum wage challenges your willingness to work through an aching back, tired feet, and embarrassing uniforms. It is the third job you have had this year, and it bears little difference from the previous two. The door opens, electronics chime, and another customer enters—no smile and dragging an attitude. The manager just informed you it is time for your employee review. Looking around, suddenly everything appears in slow motion. Every day you have hoped something better would come along. All around you are fellow employees in the identical uniforms. In this introspective moment, you recognize that they have become your mirror. You speak like them, dress like them, complain like them, and earn like them. Their view of the future has become yours. You are jolted back to reality. A customer has spilled an industrial-sized vat of cola by the front door, and it is your responsibility to clean it up. The customer has walked away hurriedly, laughing and offering no remorse or assistance.
Of course there are worse places to work than behind a counter, and interacting with the public is valuable experience. But was it ever part of the vision you had about life? Was it your dream to wear a smock and take orders from everyone? Was it ever your hope that next year you could receive a $0.50-per-hour raise? Companies need people in smocks fulfilling requests. It does not have to be you.
There is an answer. You can escape the counter.
* * *
A business struggles. Your associates' attitude is to put in the hours of eight to five or preferably less. Employees push the limits of casual day. Delays in IT are part of the daily employee banter and associated eye-rolling. Customer Service isn't. Managers gather off-site to rate the staff and discuss financial cutbacks, and they strategically attempt to deflect blame. But no one stops to consider that the staff, the product, and the work effort most often reflect the attitude, the personality, and the drive of those who lead. Was the original business model to be inefficient, late to market, and mired in the lack of creative solutions? To employ a workforce of unmotivated task zombies? Many organizations are mired in poor performance and little vision. It does not have to be yours.
There is an answer. Your organization can achieve more!
* * *
You can escape the status quo by being the very best right where you are. To be the very best, you have to look, act, and sell like the very best.
You may not believe that you are in sales. You may think that salespeople are those pests calling you on the phone, bugging you at the mall, and deceiving you at the car lot. You may not even like salespeople, and you attempt to dodge all interaction with them. You may tire of their "May I help you" when you know they actually mean "Can you help me by buying this?"
But whatever your work space (cubicle, counter, driver's seat, corner office), whatever your action (customer service rep, cook, driver, coach, programmer, manager, business owner), whatever your goals (more money, status, recognition, security), and whatever your hopes ... you are selling yourself every day, in every encounter.
Unknowingly, you may be selling mediocrity. You may be selling a lack of interest and passion or a critical attitude. Whether you believe, intend, or want to ... you are selling. Every day, every meeting, every casual encounter with upper management, every interaction with fellow employees, customers, delivery people ... you are selling. Whether you are a business owner, hourly employee, entrepreneur, jobseeker, doctor, new employee, or tenured employee ... you are selling.
Of course it's not fair. There were no classes in school on selling. You studied accounting, programming, business, or maybe even psychology. Your company has not sent you to sales seminars, training courses, or even recommended a book on sales. Your employer is busy teaching you how to do a task, a procedure, a responsibility, a service, a report, a reoccurring set of mundane activities. And you have responded, perhaps even excelled ... there in your achievement center or behind that counter. But no one has taught you how to sell yourself.
Never fear, the news is GOOD! Here is the secret. Stop and look around. All of those cubicles have people doing their daily tasks, hoping for a 2 percent increase in pay, who just like you simply do not realize they are selling. They are consumed with their daily routine and responsibilities. They are selling mediocrity, without knowing that they have control over their own future. They are successfully selling that they are exactly where they belong.
There is an old joke about a couple of hikers on a forest trail. Suddenly a hungry bear spots them in the path. Recognizing the danger, the hikers turn to escape. One hiker stops and fumbles through their backpack, frantic to put on a pair of running shoes. The other hiker stops to look back and yells, "What are you doing? Even with those athletic shoes, you will never outrun the bear." The track-shoed hiker responds, "I don't have to outrun the bear. I simply have to outrun you!"
Now you know whom you will be competing with for your next opportunity ... the people around you. They may be your friends and coworkers. But they are also your competition to a better position, more status, more money, a better office, or whatever your goals and hopes are. You will not betray them by positioning yourself and achieving more. You betray yourself by accepting their standards. If you act like your competition, talk like your competition, look like your competition, have the same attitude as your competition, then guess how you will be viewed in comparison to your competition?
How are you selling yourself? Have you succumbed to the philosophies and negative examples that surround you? The reality is that we are not dramatically different in degrees of intelligence or competence. We are more often victims of our own expectations and efforts. We sell ourselves short. A Gallup study published in July 2011 revealed that only 27 percent of U.S. workers are engaged with their employment.
"Engaged" means actively committed. Only 27 percent. For you, this should be good news. The competition is small.
A popular word used to describe the 73 percent majority of today's workforce is "disengaged." It's an interesting way to describe someone—detached, disconnected, cut off. Who wants to spend the majority of their waking hours that way? Why would people consciously choose to be disengaged? Don't fall into the same trap others are in. You are the driver of your success. You can do better!
This book's goal is to help you learn how to better sell yourself. You can become more. Whatever your goals or circumstances, people will notice a change. It is not about bragging, talking louder, or being a jerk. It is about illustrating how good you actually are, regardless of your past history, age, economic condition, or your hardships. Whatever your definition of success is, if you want to become indispensable, your success will be determined by action, commitment, and effort.
Most people are satisfied with mediocrity. Let that sink in. Most people are satisfied with mediocrity. They may want more, but they are not willing to challenge themselves and escape the valley of mediocrity.
Those stuck in mediocrity have accepted their roles and given up. Excuses are easier than honestly looking within. Excuses are trial balloons that we send up, checking to see if anyone is accepting. When our excuses are not challenged and they are accepted by those around us, then those excuses start to develop our self-view of our internal worth, and over time that view becomes a reality. The white flag comes out ... we have surrendered. We have become the disengaged. We live in the valley of mediocrity.
Success, happiness, attitude, and effort are all choices. Your choice. In this life, everyone will face hardships, bad news, health issues, unforeseen obstacles, insults, bias, and other devastating events. Everyone. How people react to these moments in time is what separates the successful from the trapped. The reaction you have to any issue is your choice. You can choose to be depressed, to give up, and to assume that all is against you. You can also choose to fight through it, to survive, to excel, to smile, to beat the odds, to believe. You can choose to be passionate with your life. Even if you do not yet know what your life's mission will ultimately be, now is the time to prepare to become indispensable.
This does not mean that you will not face obstacles or that you will win every difficulty. It means you do not have to be defined by the difficulty. You do not have to give fear the authority to dictate your future. Something or someone is going to direct your future. Why not make it you?
Becoming indispensable is not easy. Most folks will quit before they begin. Others will give up along the way. Some will deny they need to change. But the people who are all talk and full of excuses are easy competition to those determined to achieve more.
Are you willing to become indispensable?
You have probably seen Olympic athletes visualize their maneuvers, strategies, and races. Visualization is a powerful tool. It provides them with a rehearsal in their brain for what they are about to do with their body. After visualizing a spectacular performance, they replay live the performance they have already seen.
Visualization will work for you too.
What if you spent time considering what you will do tomorrow, what you will say, how you will act, what you will wear, where you will go, how you will position yourself? Visualize yourself being successful and indispensable. Think about it: How would the most successful people you know look, act, speak, and interact with those around you? Visualize how they would respond when they are faced with a difficult challenge. What if you mentally practiced handling situations similarly—that is, with a positive attitude and manner?
What would happen is ... you would be better prepared for anything that could happen. As you read this book, visualize yourself incorporating changes in your life. Think about how you will interact with others in various situations and how you will maintain a positive and dynamic attitude.
The first step to becoming indispensable is to see yourself as that person and to act as though you are indispensable already. Beginning today, act on your positive vision and begin separating yourself from your competition.CHAPTER 2
Know thyself. —Socrates
Not every person is cut out for every job. And that's OK. For some, being promoted can be a disastrous career step. Many times the best salesperson is promoted into sales management. Within a month, or even sooner, that same "best salesperson" has created nothing but chaos for that once crack sales team, customers, and everybody else. An excellent nurse may not be a good nursing supervisor. An outstanding insurance agent may not be a good corporate trainer. You get the picture. In fact, that outstanding salesperson, nurse, or agent would much rather be doing anything other than giving performance reviews.
Is it your manager's responsibility to prevent this disaster from happening to you?
No. It is your responsibility to understand your talents, values, and desires and then develop the courage to move forward. In addition, it is your responsibility to evaluate how these elements fit the requirements of the position you may be seeking. If you find that there is a conflict within any of those areas, you are destined to be miserable. And, chances are, you will not be successful. The most rewarding opportunities are those that utilize your unique talents and provide you enjoyment and fulfillment—without conflicting with your values.
There are four tests you can give yourself to determine if you should pursue the next opportunity. Does the new position pass the talent, values, desire, and courage tests? Here's how you can tell.
The Talent Test
Don't paint stripes on your back if you're not a zebra. Focus on building upon your unique abilities. —Lee J. Colan
Everyone has talents. These talents vary from person to person, but everyone has areas of excellence. The key to job satisfaction and long-term success is discovering what your talents are and becoming the best at putting these talents to work.
Your greatest area of expertise may be in your current job—there is nothing wrong with that. If this is the case, and you are reaching your goals, great. But if you have talents that exist beyond your current position, you're cheating yourself and your employer by not pursuing advancement.
However, a word of caution: don't confuse talent with desire.
Talent is being naturally gifted in a certain area. It may be writing, selling, auditing, human relations, nursing ... whatever. Desire is completely different. It is something you would like to happen.
For instance, I would love to be a professional golfer. I have that burning desire, and I am willing to work 14 hours a day to make it happen. The problem is that I'm just an OK golfer. And frankly I do not think I could ever make a living playing golf, no matter how much I wanted it or how hard I tried. I would be thrilled to be on the golf tour, but that will never happen. I assure you, people would not pay to see me play golf.
What I realize is that my talents are in other areas, and it's in those areas that I need to spend my energy. I can still enjoy golf as a hobby, but I can't fool myself into thinking that it will ever be more than a hobby.
So, where are your areas of excellence? What activities are seldom boring, even when you are doing the same thing over and over? What do others say that you are especially good at doing? What comes naturally to you? What skills feel good and comfortable when you use them?
Discover those areas, and focus on finding the right place—the right job—that relies on them—your "talents," your gifts.
The Values Test
There is no pillow as soft as a clear conscience. —John Wooden
You probably know more than one extremely intelligent, successful person who is totally miserable. Their misery exists because their job clashes with their personal values. Maybe the job requires constant travel and time away from family. Or they have to work a schedule that keeps them away from participating in and enjoying their kids' activities. The money may be great—but those people may be under constant stress because of their desire for more time at home.
Somewhere along the way, you will probably face a tough decision: Are you willing to sacrifice your personal values for short-term gain? Listen to yourself. Deep down, how do you feel about the situation? If money or prestige was not involved, would you be pursing this opportunity?
Before pursuing your next position—that next step up—know yourself and your values. Then check out what the position requires, and make sure that it won't create a "values clash." You may have to make trade-offs in some areas, but at least take the time to fully understand what's involved in this give-and-take process. If the promotion is not right for you, for your sake and the sake of your organization, let it pass, and wait until your right opportunity appears.
Excerpted from Indispensable! by David Cottrell, Robert Nix. Copyright © 2014 David Cottrell and Robert Nix. Excerpted by permission of McGraw-Hill Education.
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