Your Career: Thriving in the Age of Unreason(able)

Image representing Seth Godin as depicted in C...
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Seth Godin recently blogged that “unreasonable is the new reasonable” – the only person or business that succeeds are those that offer qualities or service that no one can ever approach.

I quibble with Godin’s assessment (I believe it’s more hype that actual performance). I don’t quibble with his take to the appearance of those qualities.

We are living in a time where people project that they have more experience, more skills, more to offer, more – as Seth would suggest – over-the-top qualities. We exist in a world of folks like Christine O’Donnell, Mark Kirk and any number of other people (Democrats and Republicans, the famous and the not so famous) who take up more than their fair share of mindshare, and where being fast and loose with facts has become common, if not the norm.

More skillful, more experienced, more, more and more than they likely are. The simple fact what people may say they are frequently is just not true.

Here are two easy examples (names changed) :

  • “Jane Doe is a leader in her industry. Her strategic thinking and ability to drive change have pushed her own company to the forefront of its field, earning ABC International, LLC a well-deserved reputation as one of the most effective and innovative companies in the business.”
  • John Doe the Managing Partner of ABC LLC, is a world renowned XYZ  expert. He is the international bestselling author of A Book About Something 2.0.

When someone has substance, their bio looks more like this piece regarding Mike Horton of a company called Crossbow Technology:

  • Mike Horton co-founded Crossbow Technology and has served as its President & CEO, and a Board Member, since inception. Horton has led Crossbow from its founding product line of digital MEMS accelerometers and tilt sensors to its current market leading position in smart sensor technology. Horton has closed $25 Million in venture financing for the company, including investments from Cisco Systems and Intel Corporation. He has co-authored four issued patents, and he has co-authored another four pending patents. Horton was named one of the Top 100 Innovators in the MIT Technology Review and was named one of The Top 50 Movers and Shakers in high technology by Electronic Business Magazine. He graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.S. and M.S. in Electrical Engineering.

The difference is facts – not assertions. Achievements that you can can chronicle – not aspirations that are hard to quantify or verify.

So what does this mean for you?

First, it means you have to have a better nose for verifiable facts than alluded suggestions when dealing with people, companies, products and services. Sort of like a never ending game of Clue (“It was Colonel Mustard in the ballroom with the candlestick”), it’s a “trust but verify” world, as Ronald Reagan might suggest.

Second, be assertive with your own accomplishments in order to be reasonably effective much of the time. As noted here in a piece called “Cheat Your Way to the Top,” there are three abilities you need to own; be accurate with skills and accomplishments (rather than understated), remind people occasionally what you’ve done lately, and avoid being always out of sight (and hence out of mind).

Last, it means you need to avoid in the team, company, or division you lead the cynicism that comes with perpetual shades-of-truth spin, misstatement and overstatement. Frank, accurate, candid and honest conversations full of truths, not distortions are what keeps places healthy. Cynicism breads a special form of workplace cancer – and, as Lockerz’s CEO Kathy Savitt recently noted , it’s “cancer that can topple even the greatest companies.”

So that’s it; three things you can do to help your reasonable career along during a time of unreason(able).

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.

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