Green Board Business Ideas
The 15 Best Things My Career Clients Ever Said
Part Two, by William S. Frank

7. There are 1,000 steps in a cardiac surgery, and 1,000 ways to kill a cardiac patient.
A heart surgeon said this, and Wow! It got my attention. "The point is," the surgeon said, "you can't skip steps, or eliminate them. If you do, the patient dies. Some steps must be completed in 10 seconds, or the patient dies." That's not much margin for error.

Many activities in life require checklists. Flying an aircraft is one; jobhunting is another. A large number of job seekers throw an overnight resume together and race out into the job market, not realizing that it's a step-by-step process, beginning with career evaluation and focus. High achievers, what I call my "type-AAA" players, are among the worst. They're doers and "drivers" by nature; so it's foreign to them to stop long enough to think and plan. They're good at getting a job really fast; trouble is, it's often the wrong one.

In my work I see people succeeding well and failing badly, and I came up with this maxim: "There are 1,000 ways to ruin your life." Literally a thousand. Maybe more. Just look at the news. No day goes by without high-profile bankruptcy, crime, fraud, self-caused accidents, or scandals of infidelity—to name a few. This got me thinking. If there are 1,000 ways to ruin your life, not ruining your life is a task. It involves being alert: seeing red flags and avoiding hazards. It involves concentration, commitment, and above all, a clear vision of where you want to go. Muhammad Ali said:

    "Champions aren't made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them—a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have the skill, and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill."
8. I wasn't doing it for the money; I was doing it because I loved it.
A young Internet entrepreneur who had just sold his business for $32 million hired me to advise him. His question was, "Where do I go from here?" As he told the story of his business skyrocketing, he said, "I wasn't doing it for the money. I was doing it because I loved it."

I've heard this theme many times from top leaders with big salaries and long severance packages. Their huge successes didn't come from the pursuit of money. The money came from the passionate pursuit of their dreams. The reverse is also true: sometimes no amount of money is enough.

Bernhard, a team-oriented leader, joined a Fortune 500 company as Vice President of Finance. Collaborative by nature, his motto was, "We all win together." Two days into his tenure, the Vice Chairman of the company told him, "Bernhard, you'd better be watching your back; they'll be out to get you." Bernhard didn't immediately know what that meant, but it was a red flag that someting was fatally wrong. Within a few weeks he learned that the company's culture was "fear-greed-and-fear."

The senior leaders were motivated by money and only money, at all costs, and they motivated the workers by fear. Everyone in the organization was highly paid, but terrified of losing their jobs. Morale was zero. After six months I was worried about Bernhard, acutally thought the job would literally kill him. He wanted to resign, but couldn't because of a $60,000 relocation package and signing bonus he didn't want to return. After a year, they offered him a $600,000 retention bonus. He resigned and left the bonus on the table, because the culture of fear-greed-and-fear was just too painful.

9. I'm scared! But if I'm not scared, the job isn't big enough.
Over a 20-year span, I helped Steffan make four upward career moves as CEO each time. Once when I asked how he was doing in a new role, he said, "I'm scared. But if I'm not scared, the job isn't big enough." The great actress Katherine Hepburn said she never accepted a role unless it scared her. That's food for thought.

As I coached a regional manager for a national paint company (name confidential), he was promoted to a higher sales management position in the southeastern U.S. After two weeks, I called to ask how he was doing.

    He said, "I'm doing great!"
    "Really, what's happening?"
    "This is a totally new territory for us. No one knows our name.
Further, he said, "There's a Sherwin Williams store on every corner, and I'm going to come down here and kick their ass."

Wow, that's a high-challenge attitude. So many workers are bored in their jobs, even if they're running the company. I've been there; maybe you have, too. High performance professionals can be the first to burn out: the dentist who's pulled 187,000 teeth, or the trial lawyer who's won 2,500 lawsuits. All of us are good candidates for "repetition burnout," until and unless we keep challenge, even a little fear, in our day-to-day.

10. Success is a team sport.
This phrase was coined and trademarked, by Rory MacDowell, the former VP of Information Technology for Fischer Scientific. Rory attributes his career success to the power of the teams he has built, and to the leadership teams he has played on. The CEO of Ball Corporation said he would always choose a team to solve a difficult problem, rather than an individual superstar. That surprised me.

Being an independent consultant, I've been a Lone Ranger all my life. But I've had dozens of employees and have been hired by 355 brand name businesses, non-profits, and educational institutions. Asking others for their thoughts and ideas gives you leverage you can't get alone. Others can see your strengths and weaknesses, and the pros and cons of your ideas. My most-effective and highest-paid clients often say, "I really didn't do it myself. It was a team effort." So even if you're a Lone Ranger, "Success is a team sport."

:: Go to part one  :: Go to part three  :: Return to index of articles



"Work is love made visible." —Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

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