Avoiding Confusion

 -  4/30/08

If there is a single piece of advice that will lead you to success, it is simply this: Learn to be one thing extremely well.

Like me, you probably receive more magazines, free and paid for, than you can possibly read. If you took the time to do so, you would either not have time to do any work or you would end up so overwhelmed by numerous, often conflicting prescriptions you would be paralyzed. If you are not confused by all this data, you probably are not even reading the rags.

Add to that pile all the unsolicited conference programs, e-mail ads and Web letters, Facebook and LinkedIn contacts, and there is likely no way you are not snowed under by information. Good golly Miss Molly, what can you do to draw some value from this heap of alleged erudition?

Just as Odysseus had to tie himself to the mast to avoid the call of the sirens, so too must we HR and talent management professionals fight the allure of songs from so-called gurus. Peter Drucker said the reason journalists call people gurus is because they don’t know how to spell charlatan.


If there is a single piece of advice that will lead you to success, it is simply this: Learn to be one thing extremely well. Let me clarify the word “be.” There is a fundamental difference between doing and being. Doing is your activity. Doing is your job description. Doing is your title. All these things are exterior to you as a person. Being is your purpose --— in this case, your career purpose. It is the guide behind how you do what you do. There are many things you have to do every day, and some of them may not be directly related to your purpose. You have to decide which of those activities take you off the path to your career purpose and how you are going to minimize them.

What is your purpose? Is it to manage a function, be an expert or lead others? You can be a very competent manager of a human resources department if you have the aptitude and perseverance. You can be one of the most knowledgeable persons on a given topic to the point that everyone seeks you out. Or you can be a charismatic individual who inspires people to great effort and superlative accomplishments. It is not likely you can do all three of these.

Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, met with Drucker a few years ago. During their conversation, Drucker asked Collins what he wanted to do: be an expert researcher and writer or manage a consultancy. His point was it is difficult to be the best at both. Besides, being one gives more satisfaction than trying to do both.

Article Keywords:   measurement   technology  

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