As we have seen in the blog on excellence, strategy like driving, has to be constantly relearnt, and modified to keep it useful when the situation changes.
We cannot keep on performing well, if we follow the same old strategy of excelling which was useful in the earlier stage. Players know this principle of excellence well. No sooner a tennis player wins a first grand slam,he has to modify his excellence strategy, otherwise his win becomes a flash in the pan. Very few tennis players can do this. That is why we get very few Roger Federers and Nadals in tennis. The same is true for a cricket player. When a player plays for the first time for India, he has to modify his strategy of excelling. If he cannot do it quickly enough, he is out of reckoning. Few like Virat Kohli have done it, but many players cannot modify it quickly enough. By the time they have altered their strategy, the opportunity window may have closed. The player does not get place in the team, even though he may have modified his strategy of excelling. In other words, the excellence strategy has to be modified fairly quickly before the opportunity window is closed.
1. Excelling strategy has to be altered in the first job itself
No sooner you start working in a company in your first job, your strategy of excelling that have helped you perform well in college, are no more valid. You have to understand the tasks that you are supposed to do in your job - either as programmer, sales officer, or production engineer - and learn to perform them well. We have discussed some of the challenges of tasks of doer in earlier blog. Four primary strategies for excelling in a job that have to be learnt as a doer are perception management, learning communication skill to get across your point, boundary thinking and learning organisation protocols of meeting, disagreeing and sharing.Very very few professionals learn these four primary excelling strategy in their first job within the opportunity time window. And when they obviously fail, their only choice is to leave the company. That is why you see so many professionals changing 2/3 jobs in the first 5 years !
2. Excelling strategy has to be altered for every new role
Most of the professionals somehow manage to find their feet, at least in the second or third job. Their second challenge comes when they seek a role-change.
The role change can either be horizontal or vertical. Horizontal movement is possible in sectors like software, engineering consulting and free-lance segments like accounting and others. However, more than often, professionals avoid horizontal growth ( even if it suits them) because of the glamour of vertical growth that has been attached to managerial positions.
We have seen the different excelling strategies that a doer has to acquire to perform well in managerial position. In another blog, we have also discussed the complexities of managerial jobs and the difficulty in developing the strategy of excelling in negotiating them. We have discussed how a mentor is necessary to help you develop the excellence strategy required to negotiate these cognitive jobs.
3. Excellence strategy has to be altered to meet different life objectives
When we do not have money, we are just trying to focus on current performance and not seeing too much ahead. Sometimes, the focus is so much on current performance that one does not see the next challenge that is coming one's way. And when a professional does not alter the strategy of excelling in time, it completely derails his performance in the next role. He unknowingly invites 'poor performance'. For instance, in my coaching practice, I have seen many failures in the new role of department heads because performing the role of department head entails not only the 'deep understanding of that function '(be it sales, quality or even finance), but also how that 'function' integrates with other functions. Most of the department heads fail to alter their strategy of excelling and keep on protecting the 'narrow interests of their function' instead of 'protecting the performance of the larger company in which the function is just a part' !
Similarly, the transition from 'doing the job for money and reputation' to 'doing job for one's sake' is achieved by very few professionals because it requires one to acquire a very rare habit of excellence, the habit which Andy Murray acquired in his first Grand Slam win. As Andy Murray said, that he may have achieved many wins if he was in a different era than that of Federer or Nadal, but he would have been a poorer player. Andy Murray was speaking for all the real winners who win 'to excel because they want to better themselves'.One of the key winning strategy that has to be learnt to negotiate this transition is by finding meaning in life.
Excellence strategy has to change because the 'situational context' of the work, role or objective changes. The context determines what is important to perform the work. You may or may not have the requisite skill necessary to produce the work-performance initially. You have three choices: get ready before the skills are needed and/or colloborate with others who have the requisite skills and/or and manage perceptions of metasystems until the skills are developed.
Most of the professionals know only of the last choice: the choice of using perception management. And that is why, you will observe, that smart professionals who can talk well succeed in a corporate life. But what about those who cannot manage perceptions? Despite their talent, they lag behind. They become unknowing victims of the corporate life. And so they start complaining about the 'corporate politics'. But , not having learnt the other two skills, aren't they themselves to blame?