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Avoiding Confusion

If there is a single piece of advice that will lead you to success, it is simply this: Learn to be one thing extremely well.

May 1, 2008
Related Topics: Technology, Diversity Measurement
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Like me, you probably receive more magazines, free and paid for, than you can possibly read. If you took the time to do so, you would either not have time to do any work or you would end up so overwhelmed by numerous, often conflicting prescriptions you would be paralyzed. If you are not confused by all this data, you probably are not even reading the rags.

Add to that pile all the unsolicited conference programs, e-mail ads and Web letters, Facebook and LinkedIn contacts, and there is likely no way you are not snowed under by information. Good golly Miss Molly, what can you do to draw some value from this heap of alleged erudition?

Just as Odysseus had to tie himself to the mast to avoid the call of the sirens, so too must we HR and talent management professionals fight the allure of songs from so-called gurus. Peter Drucker said the reason journalists call people gurus is because they don’t know how to spell charlatan.

Focus

If there is a single piece of advice that will lead you to success, it is simply this: Learn to be one thing extremely well. Let me clarify the word “be.” There is a fundamental difference between doing and being. Doing is your activity. Doing is your job description. Doing is your title. All these things are exterior to you as a person. Being is your purpose --— in this case, your career purpose. It is the guide behind how you do what you do. There are many things you have to do every day, and some of them may not be directly related to your purpose. You have to decide which of those activities take you off the path to your career purpose and how you are going to minimize them.

What is your purpose? Is it to manage a function, be an expert or lead others? You can be a very competent manager of a human resources department if you have the aptitude and perseverance. You can be one of the most knowledgeable persons on a given topic to the point that everyone seeks you out. Or you can be a charismatic individual who inspires people to great effort and superlative accomplishments. It is not likely you can do all three of these.

Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, met with Drucker a few years ago. During their conversation, Drucker asked Collins what he wanted to do: be an expert researcher and writer or manage a consultancy. His point was it is difficult to be the best at both. Besides, being one gives more satisfaction than trying to do both.

Be Tomorrow’s Leader Today

The first step is to know your purpose. The test is what do you enjoy doing most? As Joseph Campbell said, “Follow your bliss.” Becoming a vice president is a goal, not a purpose. Second, do you believe you have the capability to be that? The biggest stumbling block is commitment, along with the strength and dedication not to stray from your purpose. Whatever you want to be, start today. Before you excuse yourself by claiming you have too much to do right now and will start next week, month or year, let me rid you of that misconception. If you don’t start now, you likely never will.

The second step is beginning to live what you want to be. You probably have a plate full of duties and people pressing you for your time. So what are you going to do about it? HR people have a great deal of trouble unloading work on others. They are so afraid someone won’t like them, they spend their lives taking on anything thrown at them. At the end of their careers, all they have left is a plaintive whimper: “Why didn’t I be what I was meant to be?”

There Is Only Tomorrow

Yesterday is lost, and today is going quickly. The question is, What are you going to do with your tomorrow? You can make excuses, tell yourself lies or act. Tomorrow will be whatever you make it, so make it good.

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