Friday, June 15, 2012

But not as low as our low, low standards

Recently I've been watching Louie, Louis CK's second show. There's a scene where a single mother of one of his children's classmates is around for dinner and she calls him a great dad. Why is he a great dad? Because he is 1) in their lives 2) cooks food and 3) picks them up from school.

Whilst a nice complement to Louis, its a sad indictment of the state of dad-kind. This notion that one becomes a 'great' dad simply by doing what one would consider the bare minimum of being a father.

Today I got sent a manager-tools bulletin titled 'how to stand out'. It was well written and lengthy as regards careers, here though is a much briefer guide as to how to stand out:

Do your job.

If you want to shine out like a star, simply read your job description and then do what it says you should be doing. Just the same as taking care of your kids seems to be the obvious thing a father should do, doing your job is a similarly obvious but elusive career strategy.

In our minds, as encouraged by the media, educators and employers in general, we have this idea that today's job marketplace is a tough and competitive environment where only the strongest survive.

The media glorifies, it looks for people who are rich and successful and then tries to retro-fit explanations for that success, calling people who are merely lucky to be in the right place at the right time, visionaries, geniuses, prodigies etc. Seldom do they call them 'trust fund babies' or 'dumb lucky bastards'.

Our educators foster a deep fear that unless we are at the top of our game, today's employers won't want us and pay us money. Who knows why, you are going to graduate into the employ of some dumb lucky bastard who isn't even entirely sure what you are going to do or why they supposedly need you.

Companies are least willing to explain their success as mere luck because they want to believe they somehow earned it. They want the best recruits and so promote themselves as genius institutions with teams of high-achievers from diverse backgrounds working together to be the best.

This is all untrue, it is actually pretty rare to find people who are carrying out their own job competently. The few support the many, and the many represent much much fat in very pear shaped organisational pyramids.

The fact is that the standards of competency, efficiency and productivity are so low in the labor force that one can shine out as a star simply for doing the job they are paid to do.

The average person won't tell you this because they simply don't realise it. The average person has no real idea how good or bad they are at their job and only a vague idea of why their job exists in the first place. This is often the product of the people that created the job and hired them for it not being very good at their job either.

If a person gets promoted, it is rarely purely performance based, it often has to do with seniority, bargaining power, politics etc. the process is highly bastardised. It's a vicious cycle, if the recruiting position contains somebody incompetent, incompetence will breed. The more managers you have that are incompetent the more incompetent employees will go unchecked.

Inversely, when somebody resigns it is rare for their managers to do anything but try and fill the position. Seldom is the position itself reviewed by a competent manager that says 'this job could be rolled into Joe's, if we just pay him $10,000 more it will save us a $50,000 wage' or 'we don't need this job at all, it's embarassing that we didn't make Steve redundant sooner.'

The standard approach to 'standing out' is to disregard the job you were hired for eg. 'Sales Manager' and try and achieve some important milestone 'Organise Customer Conference' this is as flawed a way to stand out as being absent from you entire kids childhood and then buying them a ticket to disneyland for their 18th birthday is a flawed strategy to being father of the year.

So dust off that job description, read it, and then do the bare minumum expected of you, you'll be gathering low hanging fruit and hurdling really low bars to the top in no time.

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