Sunday, March 9, 2008

A Question

One of my favorite questions to ponder comes from Ram Charan, one of the great business thinkers of our time . It sounds like an innocent, throw-away question on one level, as if the questioner just wants you to assert your self-confidence, to re-sell the expertise that got you where you are. But, I think it is really a profound question because of the reflective work one most do to give this question an honest answer.

The question is: Would they hire you for your job today?

Here's how I parse this question. First, they -- you must really understand to whom you are accountable. When you are at the top leading an organization, sometimes to whom you are accountable is not an ever-present consideration. Instead, you dwell more often in the mental space that says I am the boss and everyone answers to me. But, even the Boss answers to someone, be it the board or the shareholders or the customers or the marketplace. We all act differently when we are closely attuned to exactly what others expect of us. Being beholden to the people that hire you and their expectations is a great beacon.

The second big part of this question is your job today. So often, once we get a job and start doing it, we lose touch with how the goals of the job are constantly changing because the target moves. Once we learn the routine and the job speak, we do it and keep doing it, and we take our eye off the big picture, which is the relationship of your job to the whole. We focus on the day-to-day when the needs of the future (the target) are being re-defined as each day passes. In doing our job, we can become protectors of the status quo instead of dynamic responders to the needs of the economic environment in which we work.

The third component of this question is you -- or, do I have what it takes to do the job at hand? If you are out of touch with what the job at hand is, then you don't really ever ask the part about you. Thus, another elusive layer to this question. But, suppose you are able to render a frank and honest assessment of the job at hand, what power in asking yourself do I have what it takes to deliver! And, if you ask this of yourself all the time, what motivation to keep current, to grab every opportunity to learn and refine your skills, to risk your mettle on that reach project or assignment -- because it makes you the most competitively and comparatively qualified for the job! If you do not ask yourself this question often, what risks are you inviting?

Can you give a thoughtful, honest answer to this question, whether it is yes or no?

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