I used to have three basic rules for success that I mentioned in passing last year: the squeaky wheel gets the grease, quality before quantity, and make yourself indispensable. After a beer-soaked discussion last night with m.poulet, I feel inclined to perhaps qualify or modify these a bit. I think they did serve me well as an up-and-coming individual contributor trying to build a reputation and critical skill set that would serve me throughout my career. However, now that I am in management, my friend pointed out that they may no longer apply. A manager should not be as vocal and demanding of his superiors as an individual contributor. Well, I have probably always been a real PITA in this respect and perhaps it has actually disserved me on many occasions. Perhaps this should be limited to salary and performance discussions but not expanded to any old issue as I have a perhaps unideal tendency to do. As for quality, I think that this one can stay relatively intact because just throwing crap stuff out there probably reflects more poorly on oneself. That being said, it can also lead to frustration when the guys above are only looking for quantity, but I think that my value system is too rooted in this one to change now.
The last one, indispensability is the most problematic of the three according to my friend. He pointed out the self-centered nature of this one. It doesn’t really make one a team player. While it is true that I am very, very collaborative in my work, it is also true that I have rarely worked directly with a team of peers and that I have often (well, nearly always) been a bit of a lone wolf. That probably helped me through some rough career transitions but probably starts being detrimental when I arrive is a somewhat stable environment. It is probably also a fallacy because one of the tenants of the modern corporation is that everyone is dispensable so holding onto a myth is probably not a good idea. Lastly, it is probably not the right attitude for management. I am so glad to have talked about this last night because I had never really thought about it this way before. I am not sure what to replace this one with. Perhaps it would be better stated that if you are not doing something that you are passionate about (an infectiously happy passion), perhaps you should do something else. I think that the passion will push you to do your best and excel but that the positive and infectiousness aspect will incite people to want to work with you and share that enthusiasm.
Now, my friend gave me his principles too, but the beer-addled brain can only remember two of them. I’ll keep you in suspense until I can reach him and get reminded of the first one (I remember the 2nd and 3rd ones).
What are your guiding principles for success? And how effective are they?