While Jennifer and I have never met, we are connected through a philanthropic organization that we were both involved in this year, Multiplying Good. You might remember another Multiplying Good interviewee, Andy Wolfe, from earlier last month, showing that although we are spread out throughout the state of South Carolina, we can still come together through service. Jennifer’s article is all about paying it forward by helping YOU, the YoPro, by offering ten pieces of advice after 10 years of working. I even found that I learned a few things – and know you will too!
Lately I have been doing a lot of reflecting, particularly in my professional life. It could be because I work in healthcare administration, which has been a wild ride over the last few years. On the rollercoaster that is the healthcare industry, I saw hospital systems buying up independent medical practices, those practices separating from said systems, legislation requiring providers to utilize electronic health records (and physicians retiring over it), and so much more. Now, a pandemic is changing the way we do everything. When I graduated with my MBA, I had no idea the learning and growing that would take place over the next decade. In my effort to pay it forward, here are the top ten things I have learned in ten years of working.
1. Change is the only constant.
Although the Greek philosopher Heraclitus coined the phrase 'change' thousands of years ago, humans still have trouble with it. During business school, I took an elective course that examined the topic “Change in Organizations.” At the time, I thought that this seemed like an easy way to get my credit requirements satisfied. Little did I know how much reading, critical thinking, analysis, and debating it would entail. We explored everything from organizational psychology to strategic transformation to change management tactics in operations. This course helped lay the foundation for my career in healthcare, which is an industry that could easily compete for fastest changing corporation. Accepting that change is both unavoidable and inevitable. Plus, it helps you adapt more quickly and ultimately perform better. It also saves you a lot of time and frustration.
2. It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it.
I hired (and fired) numerous people in various positions over the years. Through doing so, I have learned that resumes do not tell you the whole story. A resume will tell you all about what the candidate does, but not how they do it. There are plenty of people that do everything right on paper, but the way they accomplish their duties seems disingenuous, disengaged, arrogant, or just plain rude. You can be the smartest, most talented person in the room, but none of that matters if you cannot build rapport or communicate well. Asking the right questions in interviews will help identify those candidates that will not just do the work but will do it in a way that brings value to the organization. As a co-worker or a manager, putting this into practice yourself can set a good example and positively influence the cultural standard in your organization.
3. People are just as (or more) important than the work itself.
If you work with toxic or negative people, no amount of money nor recognition can make up for their attitudes. When interviewing with a new company, ask questions that will expose the culture of the organization. Take those answers into careful consideration when choosing an employer.
4. Your career doesn’t define you.
You will have huge triumphs and colossal failures over the span of your career, but those events do not define you as a person. Your personal interests, the relationships in your life, both personal and professional, and how you handle those triumphs and failures ultimately define you and shape your lifestyle in and out of the workplace.
5. Owning your mistakes is the best way to recover from them.
When (not if) you make a mistake, do not point fingers. Own up to your mistake, then figure out how to make it right. Making it right may include humbling yourself and apologizing. I had to do this numerous times...it is painful and difficult. But this makes you a much better employee and person.
6. Neither your job title nor position make you more or less important.
Whether you are the CEO, middle management, entry level employee, or the janitor, your title does not measure your value. Remember this when interacting with other departments or other staff. It is the small things that make a difference. Be kind to the janitor, the courier, and even those that might be hard to treat kindly -- they are people, too! Your title does not make you more important nor does it give you permission to treat others like they owe you something.
7. There is more than one way to get things done.
As I was coming up in management, there were several seasoned leaders I watched. I saw how they navigated various professional challenges, and some I even tried to mimic. Sometimes emulating other successful people may not translate to success for you because you are a totally different person with unique strengths and weaknesses. And that is okay! I had a co-manager that was very extroverted. This permeated the way she managed personnel issues and interacted with upper management. I attempted to mirror that, but I usually came across disingenuous and it was exhausting for me, which hindered my ability to lead. It’s great to try things on, but it might not always be the right fit. You do not have to be exactly like other successful people to be successful yourself. On the flip side, just because someone does not do something exactly like you do, does not mean they are wrong. There is truly more than one way to get things done, but it's just a matter of finding which way fits you the best.
8. The best leaders are highly self-aware.
Being self-aware means being able to look internally with as much objectivity as possible. When you “try on” different managerial styles or negotiation tactics (or whatever may apply to your job), take notes afterward. Notice what worked well or what needed improvement. How did you come across to your colleagues? To your staff? To your clients? When you become really good at that, try doing it in the moment. Being able to see yourself clearly makes you more confident and cultivates more effective communication, ultimately making you a better leader.
9. Ask questions and don’t make assumptions.
I cannot tell you how many times I have walked into a professional situation in which I thought I knew all the facts. I thought I knew what went wrong, whose fault it was, and how to fix it. As the truth revealed itself, I discovered that I could not have been more wrong. Particularly in personnel-related instances, I always ask the employee to tell me what happened from their perspective, even if I think I already know. Almost every single time there are pieces of information that I totally missed because I only got one side. You can make better decisions as a leader when you ask questions and actually listen to the answers before jumping to conclusions.
10. You’re going to get a lot of bad advice along the way.
You will get a lot of opinions from people about what job you should or should not take, how to approach c-suite executives, how to conduct yourself in the boardroom, or how to treat your employees. Some of it will be very bad advice. I had a colleague tell me that I needed to constantly communicate what I did in administration all day to the physicians because they had no idea. They may or may not know exactly what I do, but I thought that made her come across as insecure in her role. I knew my work spoke for itself. If you practice self-awareness and know what your values are, you will be able to recognize the bad advice that comes your way.
I certainly do not have it all figured out and I still have a lot of learning to do, but I hope this encourages you to reflect about your own career path, what kind of professional you want to be, and where you want to go. As life continues to throw change our way, be prepared for it and be ready to learn.
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