I have already hit 40, and career-wise I am somewhere in the grey zone, between being barely young anymore, and just about old enough to have an opinion.
Over the years, one thing I always enjoyed doing is observe the people I worked with, and more so the people I have worked under, and try to identify what puts them ahead of me on the career ladder. “Age and experience”, one might rush to say, but that’s certainly not the case.
Leaders, senior managers, owners, principals, in our business always come with the reputation of a “character”. That “X factor” that sets them apart from their peers. Is it competence, narcissism, guts that sets them apart from everyone else, or is it something a lot more profound that puts them ahead of all others? I would say it is a bit of a mix, but they all have one thing in common.
They are all, without exception, purely facts and results-driven. Nothing is more important to them than the end result, whether that is a fixture, a service contract, or a discount. They do not care about being likable, couldn’t care less in fact, so long the business objective is met. And that to a lot of people might seem like a mystery even a flaw. As human beings, we all want to be liked, but from a business perspective, is it what really matters?
Chemistry between colleagues is what makes businesses run harmoniously, but it is not necessarily what keeps them afloat. Have you ever wondered why every second boss you’ve had, you could easily label them with the “A” word? “The bad guy always lands the top job” reality ?
Peter Mac Arthur, is his book, “Dreams, Visions and Seers”, says that every successful enterprise requires three men: a dreamer, a businessman and a Son of a ***** . And that is the reality of the matter.
From a business perspective, you need the person who will make the tough calls, based on facts, and leaving any trait of character outside the equation. Someone who will think inside, outside, over, or under the box if they have to. When you are trying to figure out how to get something done, while keeping your customer happy, and concerned how you come across doing the right thing for the business, there is another person, usually above you, who will be able to make the call, very often the right one, how to get the end result without losing time or energy trying to satisfy different conditions. For me, that is the definition of leadership in shipping stripped bare.
Have I suffered under difficult bosses? Hell yeah. Have I not said to myself over and over again, “I can do this better” why am I not getting noticed? A thousand times. But as I get more mature in our business, I try to learn from my shortcomings, and from the people who got there before me. How they make decisions, will ultimately remain a mystery, until you learn to leave emotions aside, and make decisions solely on facts.
It is true that in shipping the more cycles one has seen the wiser they are (or should be, in theory). But what we perceive as experience moving forward, has less to do with years and time served, and more to do with how we develop as professionals. How fast have we learned to make decisions based on facts, and how often has our judgement been impaired by factors less to do with business and more to do with relationships? This is what explains why some people make it sooner than others and some never do.
We like to say that shipping is not a job but “a way of life”. It is, but looking at the most successful of our generation, and drawing from my own failures, success is manifesting to those who manage to separate life from business and emotions from facts. Facts and values are firm foundations to grow upon. Emotions, while nourishing for our ego, are not always good for business.
Panagiotis Panos Patsadas (PPP)