No One Will Do Your Professional Development For You

It’s always easier to make a comment than make a difference.

It amazes me how some people behave at sporting events. There may be a boxing event, for example, where two superbly conditioned athletes are in the ring. They’ve been working out, six hours a day, six days a week, for six years. They’re down to 3% body fat and in the best of shape.

Then you’ve got some man in the third row, who is fifty pounds overweight, who hasn’t exercised in eight years, eating a jumbo bucket of buttered popcorn and drinking a super-sized Coke. He’s sitting there shouting at the boxers, “Who ever taught you how to fight? Your mother? Go ahead, hit him! What’s wrong with you anyway?”

Just once, I’d love to see one of those boxers call time out, go down to that third row, take off his gloves, and say to that man, “You’re right. I don’t know what I’m doing. Go in there and show me.” I’d love to see the expression on the man’s face. You see, talk is cheap because supply exceeds demand.

Unfortunately, the same is true in business. Too many people would rather make a comment than make a difference. But that’s not how success works.

If you want to be successful, or if you want your team or organization to be successful, you START WITH CONVICTION. After you compare and contrast the alternatives with your teammates, after you offer and debate your various opinions, there comes a time for the discussion to stop and your conviction to start. That’s key.

And we’re not just talking semantics here. There’s a difference between an opinion and a conviction, and the difference is huge. An opinion is something you can argue about, but a conviction is something you’d die for.

Now I know “conviction” isn’t very popular these days. People with conviction are often labeled as “fanatics,” while cynics are praised as “realists.” I beg to differ. Cynicism is not a sign of tough mindedness; it’s a sign of cowardice–because it means you don’t have to try. Look wherever you want, in any industry, or in any period of time, and you’ll find that success always starts with conviction.

Then, if you really want to be successful, TAKE RESPONSIBILITY. It’s a quality that too many people lack.

Business leaders consistently report they have trouble finding people who will take responsibility for making good things happen. Too many people have become institutionally dependent, waiting for the company to train and promote them–and blaming the company if it doesn’t happen.

That’s not how responsible people, success-seeking people behave. Responsible people take an objective look at their skills and figure out what’s missing. They find ways to improve their skills and learn new ones. If their companies don’t offer the training they need, they find their own courses at a local college or sign themselves up for seminars. They join associations, attend conferences, and maintain a network of colleagues inside and outside the company.

Conviction and responsibility will give you a great start. But it’s not enough. You’ve got to SEEK FEEDBACK. If your organization has not instituted 360° feedback, you can and should do so immediately. Find people you respect, people that know you, and tell them you’re trying to be more effective and that you’d appreciate their feedback. Ask them what you should start doing, stop doing, and continue doing to be more successful. Do this every six months, or at least once a year, and you’ll be amazed at how fast you move ahead.

Along a similar line, ADOPT SOME MODELS. With all the turmoil in the workplace these days, not very many people have time to mentor you. So set up your own mentoring program by adopting some models. Find some people you admire and study how they behave. Adopt or adapt whatever lessons you can from the example they provide.

Finally, TAKE ACTION. All the learning and knowledge you gain from the previous steps won’t do you any good if you don’t apply them. You’ve got to take some initiative and go for it.

Are you ready? Are you more like the person making a comment, or are you out there making a difference?

Action:  Let this be the week where you SEEK FEEDBACK. Select three people you respect, you admire, who obviously know something about success, and ask them what you need to start, stop, and continue doing to be more successful. Write down what they tell you so you don’t forget, and then apply at least one of their suggestions this week.