Sage Advice

There have been a number of people that have provided nuggets of wisdom that I’ve carried with me my whole life. Today I am sitting in silent gratitude for those people who cared enough to pass along what they’ve learned. Some of the ideas are simple, other are more complex than can be adequately be stated in one sitting. For now, I’ll just pass them along, happy to engage in dialog where further discussion warrants.

“I have learned through experience that it is far better to fail or not succeed.”

Live with no regrets.

I have learned through experience that it is far better to fail or not succeed (which is not the same thing as failure), having tried every possible way, no matter how slim the chance, to accomplish your goals. If even for one moment you take it easy, relax your effort, or give up while any hope still remains — you will always wonder, “What if I had only…” and that can lead to deep regret.

A Company is a Fictitious Entity.

This pearl was paired with “perception is reality.” As an optimistic person I like to believe that the world and its organizations can achieve some utopian level of corporate culture, where honesty and integrity are strongholds; and where “truth is truth” not just what one perceives it to be. But the reality is that a company is a fictitious entity — it doesn’t really exist on its own. A company is the sum of the people who make up that company. As long as companies are comprised of people (who are all fallible) organizations will be fallible too.

The takeaway however is that it can be easy to blame “a company” — but it still really boils down to people. One of the phrases I’ve coined at Idea Spring is “The business is you… but you are not the business.” That is, the corporate culture is defined by the people. But people should not be defined by the business. This works at the macro level, as well as the personal. In other words, make the company the best of who you are… but don’t wrap your entire self worth in the perception of your company or what you do for a living.

“It doesn’t matter if you want your boss’s job. If you do, you’re certainly on the right path. If you don’t, you’ll have no higher recommendation.Your Job is to Make Your Boss’s Job As Easy as Possible.”

When taking on a new job, the best mandate for success should be making your boss’s job as easy for them as possible. Be proactive, figure out what they are going to need, and do your best to provide it before they ask. With proven success in smaller tasks, keep taking more off of their plate (to the extent possible without negatively impacting regular duties.) In short, as quickly as possible, you want to be able to replace your boss.

It doesn’t matter if you want your boss’s job. If you do, you’re certainly on the right path. If you don’t, you’ll have no higher recommendation. However, this activity is more shrewd than just being a great employee. When you become the critical path in getting the information your boss needs, it make you more critical when tough times come. Whether that is through disagreements, or tough fiscal times for the company. When you’re able to do your boss’s job, and cost reductions start … your odds of surviving just improved.

If you have a truly horrible boss, and by this I mean where your emotional, physical, or reputational well being is at stake your first option should be to change jobs as quickly as possible while keeping the same high level of commitment. However, taken to the extreme, this also gives you a level of “power” in exactly what light your boss will be perceived by those who hold him/her accountable. (See the next point.)

You Can Delegate Authority — But You Can Never Delegate Responsibility.

I have seen many “leaders” delegate tasks while failing to realize that they cannot delegate ultimate responsibility. If there is a bad employee, then there is a leader who failed to hire correctly. Conversely, where there is a great employee, there is a leader who was successful in their hiring decision.

Great leaders don’t blame their employees for failures — they take responsibility for having hired or allowing a bad employee to accomplish the negative action that occurred. I’ve certainly made bad hiring decisions, but the negative results that occurred were most often because I didn’t confront a problem or decision I knew might be bad, because it was easier to let it go and deal with “bigger issues.” In the end, those small things grew into bigger things, and ultimately the failure is then my responsibility.

Problems you encounter with an employee / new job in the first two weeks, will most often be the very reason for parting ways down the road.

This is one nugget of wisdom that has proven itself to be true so many times. When you start a new job, take on a new client, or hire a new employee — if you have conflicts that rise to serious doubts about the decision within the first few weeks, you should really pay attention to those warning signs. If you choose to turn a blind eye, the majority of times it is those very reasons that will cause a major disruption and the parting of ways.

Hiring someone smarter than you, or better at what you do, doesn’t make you less valuable — it makes you smart for hiring them.

I’ll never forget the first time as a young regional IT manager in my first real hire-fire roll. I had stepped into a new role for the company was responsible for maintaining the regions IT network and desktops while hiring a team to help. The first person I hired turned out to be a great IT support person that knew far more than I did. In very short order it was clear that he could easily do all of the technical tasks I had been doing, and then some.

In my youth and lack of self-confidence as a new manager, I worried whether or not the company would simply decide they did not need me anymore. Fortunately I had a great mentor who taught me how to have the right perspective. Because I was in charge of making the hiring decision, the more I elevated the new hire, the more it elevated my own position as the person in charge. Further, by growing my team with all superstars, I would not only appear to be a great manager — I would have the ability to focus on managing customer relationships and bring innovation to the company.

Coby Pachmayr is an entrepreneur who is #SlayingDragons for his family, team, and for clients — while on the journey of not just earning a living, but living a life well-earned.
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