Friday, August 9, 2013

Part 3: I choose to Zig

See Part 1 here
See Part 2 here

As for myself, I am back in the 'What if this is your last job?' mindset. Perhaps one might think this is a pessimistic statement, but I think it is the key to why I developed a reputation and resume that were strong enough to elicit high interest in a tight job market. It may be counter-intuitive, but here is my rationale:

We are all taught that as soon as we move into one role, we should pick the next one and begin working towards it. That's how my father coached me, and that's how career coaches the world over develop their clients.

But, if you behave the same way as your competitors, what makes you stand out? Besides performance. We all know great performers that end up collecting unemployment. I was one of those myself, in the past.

Game Theory makes my head hurt. I am sure the game theorists have catchy ways to describe beahvior in a competitive market. But, I prefer a couple simple maxims to describe my behavior. In poker, you are taught to play loose when the other players are tight, and play tight when the other players are loose. That may not mean much to most readers, but to poker players it is the short route to win the most money. So, for the non-poker aficianados, there is this:

Zig when others Zag.

Applying this to the workplace, if everyone around is positioning themselves for the next raise, then you would just be another competitor playing the same game the same way as everyone else. In this situation, everyone behaves rationally, there is a modicum of equilibrium among competitors, and you may as well pick names out of a hat for the next promotion.

So, I Zig. I spend more time making my team successful as individuals than I spend promting myself. By growing them, I increase their capacity and performance, gaining economies of scale and force multipliers. By expressing true interest in them as individuals rather than employees, I gain a shared commitment to the team. By working to develop scalable processes, waste is reduced and eliminated. By taking the time to get to true root causes so corrective actions reduce variability, we make our lives easier and enjoy better work-life balance. These are all investments; by building strong people and strong processes so my last job could become one I could enjoy with equal parts of work-life balance for the next 20 years, I end up generating attractive results.

And by promoting team accomplishments, I end up promoting myself. Figuratively and literally.

So, as long as my competitors continue to focus on the next job, I'll be happy keeping my head in my own house, making it a showplace. If I do that, I am sure the right people will take notice and clamor to join my team. And there are enough other "right people" who will want me to do the same with larger teams. So,  I won't have to be a victim of circumstance, wishing things were better but accepting that "it is what it is".

I choose to Zig.