Thoughts On “Six Secrets To Success At Work”

Written by Mike Shapiro | | June 3, 2015

Jack and Suzy Welch got a great discussion going about things we should all focus on in their article Six Secrets To Success At Work.  Here are the six Secrets they describe and some of my own thoughts about them:

1.  Find where your passion and skills intersect.  This reminds me of the exercises in “What Color Is Your Parachute?”  Just reading the words makes me start to sweat.  I know very few people who really know what their unique skills are.  And, when asked, many people will say their “real passion” lies outside work.  It’s better for your company, your career and your well-being to spend your time and energy seeing what needs to be done — for your company and for your clients and customers — right here, right this minute.  In doing so, you may find something you love doing and that you’re pretty good at, too.  It’ll be better than using company time for a personal quest to find some golden place where the uniqueness of your skills matches the uniqueness of your passions.

2.  Make your boss smarter.  How about this version:  Make everyone around you smarter.  Focusing on making just your boss look good takes your eye off everyone else in your organization — all your other colleagues trying to bring great products and services to customers.  It certainly makes sense to know what’s keeping your boss up at night, and trying to find ways to help address those challenges.  But singling out your boss as the sole object of your “helping” energy makes you a kiss-up.  Ministering to your peers, your boss’s peers and the people who report to you, in addition to helping your boss, will make you more valuable to all of them.

3.  Know when to leave a bad boss.  What exactly is so “bad” about him or her?  Are there some things he or she is really good at?  Can you help him or her use those skills to get better at the others where he or she is falling short? We just said “Make Your Boss Smarter.”  I’d add to that “Help Make Your Boss A Better Boss.”  Leaving a job because of the person you’re reporting to should be kept as a last resort, and only after you’ve tried hard to make things better.

4.  Give yourself a deadline.    Having some milestones and checkpoints in mind is always a good idea.  But you shouldn’t spend that time just waiting for others to make things better.  Give yourself some assignments to be completed on that Workplace Improvement Timeline too.

5.  Don’t fear failure.  Let’s not get crazy with this one.  Everyone talks about how important it is to take risks.  But we all know the cost of failure is pretty steep in the corporate environment.  Fear isn’t such a bad thing.  It doesn’t mean don’t do something.  It means be smart about it.  When you take risks, it’s really important to describe to your superiors and everyone else around you the kinds of risks you are taking and what success and failure might look like, and what the consequences might be.  Get lots of input before setting out on a risky course.  Be smart and manage the communication around your risk-taking.

6.  Never stop reinventing yourself.  You are you, plain and simple. Hopefully, you are learning and changing with everything you do.  But the concept of reinvention implies a dissatisfaction with what’s there.  Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to become somebody new just because there’s a reorganization or you’ve got some new responsibilities or a new boss.  Experiment, learn, repeat and keep growing.

A word about equating “success” and good results with “happiness:”  Don’t spend too much time striving to be happy at work.  As someone said “The pursuit of happiness is the source of all unhappiness.” (It’s actually from the Lululemon Manifesto!)  Instead, focus on being energized, enthusiastic, helpful and passionate and hopefully you’ll find some fulfillment at work, and even a little bit 0f happiness once in awhile.   If you find yourself worrying too much about being happy too much of the time, you may not be spending enough time focusing on the thorny challenges at hand, waiting for your attention!

Thanks to Jack and Suzy for teeing up this important discussion.