- Master = Good Student
- When Employee is Ready, Good Boss Appears
- Nobody Gets Better Being Comfortable
An interviewer once asked Neil Pert, the legendary rock drummer, why he still took lessons. He is, after all an icon, a Master Drummer who’s won numerous professional awards, been inducted in several rock Hall of Fames, and was awarded the Order of Canada.
“What is a master,” he explains, “but a good student?”
That’s what a CEO friend of mine had to learn.
Last year, the CEO confided in me that he was having serious troubles with his “jerk” boss (who runs Asia-Pacific). It was a clash of cultures, styles and personalities. But he wanted to make it work– and keep his job– so he applied himself to figuring out his boss’s mindset. Success! Now he regards that “jerk” boss as a personal friend and mentor.
This true story reveals 5 important points about your job:
Managing up is part of your job. Getting along with the boss (and colleagues) is crucial to your success. Your task is to figure out how to submerge your differences for the good of the enterprise. What the CEO understood clearly is that succeeding with key relationships work is a critical part of the job. Easy? Not always. (Actually, hell no it’s not easy!) But any professional endeavour — be it sport, music, theatre or business— makes high demands of your interpersonal skills and most people have no idea of the effort required to succeed at this level (So You Want to be a CEO?). Don’t feel bad if you’re not up to it, most people aren’t. But would you like to be?
Sometimes it’s the job. I once forewarned a General Manager whom I was recruiting that his success hinged upon only one thing: the ability to get along with his boss, the CEO. (I’d already done 4 exit interviews with past GMs and knew this CEO was prickly and imperious— on a good day!). He accepted the challenge and now, 4 years later, he’s still there and the CEO got replaced. Sometimes, just surviving the boss is the crux of the job.
Know why it’s important for you to adapt? Because your jerk boss, disagreeable colleagues, inept co-workers, imbecilic head office aren’t going anywhere. You need to adapt to them since they are obviously incapable of modifying themselves to suit your expectations. So your adapting is mandatory because your continued employment isn’t.
Besides, nobody gets better by being comfortable. Acquiring new skill or expertise always involves some frustration and ‘growing pains’ whether it’s speed-reading, sport, music, business or relationships. Upgrading any skill that you currently possess entails departing your comfort zone in pursuit of something better.
So take frequent flights from your comfort zone. Your comfort zone is a transit lounge not a permanent fixed abode. Your comfort zone is just an aggregate of things you already know; habits and skills you already possess. It’s you, here and now. But that’s not good enough for who you can be, who you want to be, or for where you’re going. To make that upgrade you must make frequent departures from your comfort zone. In short: expand your comfort zone; expand your self.
That’s what my CEO friend learned.
His old style wasn’t working so he found another way to relate to his “jerk boss”. It changed both their lives for the better. Being receptive rather than resistant does that.
Whether CEO, Rock Star, or regular guy/gal, never stop learning, never stop improving, never stop growing.
Duff Watkins, a former psychotherapist, has worked internationally in Executive Search. He hosts the AmCham Business Podcast and is Director of ExecSearch International- Australia.