… You’ve Got to Be Worth More0
By Frank J. Rich
It is easier to look good in the workplace when things are going well around us, when the market is up. When the ardor in work increases, our buoyancy depends more on the depth of our “skills.” It is then that we take stock of them, and the measure of our contribution is more at issue. There’s a saying in business, “If you want to be paid more, you’ve got to be worth more.” Yet, our behavioral attachment to an antipodal view is what “turns our heads” more easily—namely, the practice of “trading excuses for results.” In this moment of truth we need to be more aware of the math that proves our value to the organization.
The idea is not meant to increase your anxiety level in this time of economic stress. Rather, the self-assessment necessary to performance improvement is what motivates the discussion. No less than the model of our physical bodies, in their daily effort to regenerate by the manufacturing of billions of cells, the voluntary performance mechanisms of each life hold an even greater promise for success. Were this not the case we would hear nothing about the things we could do to improve our health and wealth.
As the “boys of summer” review their annual charge, the example in their patterning is instructive. To the point, a baseball team relies on a few simple but powerful principles of operation for its success—skills, attitude, teamwork, and leadership. Let’s examine the model.
Those that make it to the “Big Show,” as popularized by the archetype film Bull Durham, do so largely on the strength of their demonstrated skills. If they contribute to winning ways in the minors, the behavior is likely to recommend them in the “Bigs,” as the practice suggests. But even if their minor league team doesn’t do especially well, extraordinary performance is apparent nonetheless. So too, in the more typical workplace, the school you and I attend daily.
In that workplace we scour resumes for indications of achievement, for the skills that help empower us to it. Largely by our penchant for hyperbole in the curriculum vitae, little else is usually evident in the document to recommend us. As it turns out, in the workplace as in baseball, skills are not enough to build a sustainable model of success. Clear examples of the remaining elements in the behavioral model are harder to find in the resume than occasional indications of them.
Attitude, that intangible drive that tilts us forward toward initiatives, people, and personal performance, is a little harder to measure, but evident by its effect on others. A desire to team up, as in baseball, delivers a willing attitude, not just for things we agree with, but for all others—things we agree to. Without a sense of “team,” baseball would be a different game. It’s little different in the workplace, where we must multiply the ideas of a few by the efforts of many—in an organized and structured environment. Attitude identifies those who say, “I can” and those who say, “I can’t”—both right.
Teamwork, in baseball, relies heavily on a positive view of everyday fortunes. It reaches deep in us for a selflessness that sees the opportunity and giftedness in others. It forms the will to help empower others to greater performance. Great players on the field bring out the best in others. Each position on the field of play may require “specialized skill,” but fielding and hitting are common to all. When necessary, players fill in for and back up teammates. It’s no different in other organizational models, like the game of business. To realize our goals we must come together, ever encouraging each other to greater performance. It’s the qui non proficit, deficit of life—he who does not advance, loses ground.
Not least, leadership is at issue in all things. It begins with a sense of self (self-leadership) and extends to others to encourage their best. Success is simply defined as the ability to achieve a planned goal. Similarly, leadership is the innate sense that gives impetus to achievement. Less mind than marrow, leadership explores, encourages, aids, invests, waits on, and points to achievement. It is by example, and by sheer force of presence that one finds leadership—in oneself and in others. It is apparent despite its quixotic characteristics, often difficult to describe.
When the Cardinals’ Ozzie Smith had played his final game, it was no surprise that the tally of his “double-plays” had set an all-time record at 1554. The testament to his defensive skill, winning attitude, team ethic, and leadership was greater than the number that comes to mind when considering his worth to his organization. He wasn’t much at the plate, but his influence at achieving planned outcomes was extraordinary.
Others are notable for the opposite effect on their teams and the game—their names come quickly to mind, and the travel from place to place that marked their careers. Sadly, too many of us are counted among this group, those who would trade achievement for self-aggrandizement and personal gain. If we are to follow the model of our bodies, where growth is most natural to us, we do well to orient our lives—the voluntary performance mechanisms—to the self-same growth. The decision to advance ought to turn us from an easy crowd where we won’t grow. Instead, go where the expectations and the opportunity to perform are high—where your true value takes wing.