Whether you are starting your career or have been in one for a very long time. The chances are you have already received a lot of advice on what to do and what not to do. You might even think you have it all figured out.
I spent fifteen years of my career managing and leading teams. I hired hundreds of managers, and other people in the organizations that I worked in.
Here is the one piece of advice that I personally never received, nor have I read or heard about others giving this advice.
You should look at all positions you take as three-year contracts with your employer. I would even tell them this. Now, some employers are old school and they think you will stay there forever, so proceed with caution with sharing that information. But I personally would love it if someone says, “I will be in this position for three years. I will become really good at it, and then I will seek other positions.”
Why three years?
In any position you take it is going to take to you some time to figure it out. I say after a year in a position you will have a pretty good gage on what the position is and how to do it effectively. If it takes you longer than that, than I would encourage you to learn how to speed it up.
In that second year, you should get better at the job you are doing. You now have enough information and knowledge to probably even make changes to what you are doing and can contribute to making your position better.
In that third year, you should start to seeing a lot of results from the changes you have made and you are really fine tuning all of the things you have learned from your previous two years. You now really have your position figured out and are probably even helping people who are doing similar jobs as yours.
From my experience doing the same job past three years doesn’t have very many advantages. You do not become incrementally better at the job beyond three years. You learned what you need to learn, and if you are good at the job, you have proven that you can get results in that position.
You may be thinking “I have been in leadership for many years and I learn everyday.”
When it comes to positions such as sales and leadership.
I belive that your first leadership position is usually leading and managing a small team of people who are performing a job that you used to do yourself. After three years of managing those people. If you have proven that you can get them to perform and deliver results, you should be looking for your next position, which would include managing other managers.
Leading a group to perform a task is one skill set, and leading a group of managers to get others to perform a task, is a different skill set. Again, the three-year contract fits.
If you are in sales, you are learning daily how to get better at your position. You are constantly seeking new ways to deliver results. The job itself requires you to constantly learn and develop. But eventually you will get things in a good place, with a great pipeline.
Unless you go into sales management, you should strongly consider looking at selling different products that may require a different sales process or selling to a different set of buyers.
The goal in life should be skill development not years in a job or in a position. The more skills you can develop the more marketable you become. And what happens typically in a company is most people, including myself. Is we get into a position and we are so excited to have that position, the money that goes with it, the prestige of the position or the company, and we spend the next five, ten, or even fifteen years doing that same position. We may grow, or we may think we are growing, but in reality you are really just doing the same things over and over.
I would love to hear your thoughts on my advice.
To your success and your future.
The question I am asked most during my training seminars by leaders, managers, and sales managers is “How do I motivate my people?”
As a manager and leader for many years in a very large organization leading a big team, it was the question that I asked quite often as well. Since the answers I got were very vague and really unusable from an application standpoint. I decided to study the topic myself.
For about five years I studied the topic of motivation, peak performance, willpower, inspiration, human behavior, and anything else you can think of that would have something to do with motivation.
I read all of the great studies around human motivation and human behavior. I read and studied the experts who had studied under the greats in the field of psychology and human development.
There are several books that I would consider to be some of the best on any of these topics around motivation. But honestly the best answer to this question is to study yourself.
I recently wrote an article on some of the mistakes managers make when leading other people. You can read it here
In this article I stated that managers make a mistake when they try to use tactics with their employees that they have found or use to motivate themselves. I am not contradicting what I said here. What I am saying is, what are the conditions that must exist for you to do your best work?
That is where the motivation comes from, not tactics, not words by themselves, but from conditions and the right environment.
When I think about the conditions that existed for me when I was most motivated here is what I found them to be.
I had the right attitude first and foremost. Although, I may have not known what to do or how to do it, I was willing to learn. Since I was willing to learn, it opened opportunities up that were already around me, all I had to do was take advantage of them.
I had a manager, and a manager above my manager, that allowed us and me specifically, to operate under minimal supervision and provided me the resources to experiment to see what worked. This autonomy was very motivating. I didn’t have any fear of failing and was allowed to operate how I saw best.
They provided guidance and support, which was very beneficial because nobody can do it alone. The guidance was more of a conversation around what can we do to get the best results for our department, instead of “you should do it this way or that way”.
One of the biggest failures I see in business today is the all or none mentality. We either hit a home run or we didn’t win the game. We either achieve the goal or we didn’t. I am all about results and I believe we should all meet and exceed expectations. However, there are times when a single should be celebrated just as much as a home run, to use a baseball analogy.
We as human beings need to have little victories, it is built into our DNA. These little victories are what motivate us to keep moving towards the bigger goal. And when I think about the times when I was most motivated, we were hitting a lot of singles and eventually we hit a few home runs. But those singles and doubles kept us motivated.
So what conditions existed when you were most motivated? Maybe it is now, which makes it even easier to see and make sense of it.
Lastly, I want to share this. It is a formula that I have shared with thousands of people who have attended my trainings and seminars.
Motivation usually begins because you were inspired by something. It could have been a talk you heard, a book you read, something somebody said to you. It could be a variety of different things. But that source of inspiration usually provided you some information that you didn’t have before.
So motivation is preceded by inspiration, and inspiration is preceded by information, or what I call education. The education is the true source of motivation.
It could be that you had never saw something the way someone opened your eyes up to seeing something. Your doctor could reveal to you that you have a condition that you weren’t aware of before. It could be that you learned about a diet that seems easy to do. It could be that some new information gets you to see something that you just haven’t seen before. It could be for a cause that instills anger inside you because of some hardship of others that you weren’t aware of.
In all of these cases you received some additional information/education that you didn’t have before. That is the source of motivation.
When I was most motivated on the job, I was getting new information and an education daily. That motivated me to keep trying new things. This education was the source of my motivation that pushed me to keep trying and tinkering with processes and approaches. It kept me excited and engaged in the job I was doing.
I ask you again. What was it that was so motivational about the job you had were you seemed to be most motivated? What conditions existed? My guess is your supervisor had a lot to do with it, but you were also learning every single day which kept you excited and inspired.
To your success and your future.