I was in Detroit this week. On the way to a client’s office I drove past a Marathon Oil Company refinery. Many years ago, when I worked for Marathon, I used to visit that refinery to conduct leadership training. Driving past the refinery reminded me of something that happened on one of my trips there. I haven’t thought about this incident in over 30 years, but it was as clear in my mind as if it had happened yesterday when I saw the refinery. On one trip to conduct some training, I was with a colleague who was and HR generalist rotating through the Training and Development Department where I worked. What happened has some very interesting career success implications.
He and I had traveled to Detroit the night before. We agreed to meet in the hotel lobby at 7:30 the next morning. He wasn’t there. I called his room at 7:40 and woke him up. He didn’t get to the lobby until 8:15. We were scheduled to begin the training at 8:30. I was pretty upset with him. I told him that if he ever did that again I would leave the hotel without him and let him find his way to the refinery.
He said, “What’s the big deal Bud? You’re the show. They’ll wait for you.” Right then, I made up my mind to avoid traveling and working with him in the future. Even if I was “the show” it was inappropriate for me to keep people waiting. And, I wasn’t “the show.” I was the person who was leading the workshop. With good facilitation on my part, people would be learning as much from one another as they would from me.
Strong, lasting, mutually beneficial relationships are one of the keys to career success that I discuss in my career advice book, Climbing the Corporate Ladder. You can’t build strong relationships if you think you’re “the show” or in any way better than anyone else.
Tweet 124 in one of my other career advice books, Success Tweets says, “Everyone has something to offer. Never dismiss anyone out of hand. Take the initiative. Actively build relationships.” Demonstrating respect for other people as human beings is the best way I know to begin the relationship building process.
Successful people have a deep respect for the dignity of each individual. It doesn’t matter if the person in front of you is the President of the United States, your boss, a co-worker, a taxi driver, a security guard or the housekeeper at your hotel.
Cathy, my wife, is the best example of someone who values every person she meets. She is friends with everyone – the pharmacy techs where we get our prescriptions, the couple who own the dry cleaners where we do business, the supermarket checkout people and baggers, the servers at the restaurants we frequent, and on and on and on.
Cathy is genuinely interested in these people. She knows their names, their spouses’ names and their kids’ names. She inquires about their lives. She knows about their vacations, what grades their kids are in school and lots of other things about them – all because she values them as individuals and takes the time to get to know them. She is one of the least judgmental people I know.
If you want to create the life and career success you deserve, take a lesson from Cathy. Pay attention to the people around you. You will learn a lot and your life will be richer for it. Don’t judge people by what they do. Get to know others as individuals. You’ll be surprised at what you learn. It’s hard to do this, if you think you’re “the show.”
I have had some very interesting conversations with taxi drivers in New York City. These days, most of them are immigrants. They love this country and are well-informed about it. When I get into a taxi, most often the driver is listening to NPR or an all-news station. I have had some great conversations about local and national politics, the state of the US economy, and sports with taxi drivers.
In Denver, I occasionally use a car service to go to and from the airport. This service is a cooperative. The members of the coop are all immigrants from Ethiopia. They were all political refugees. They love this country and are willing to discuss it in depth. I love my rides to and from the airport with them.
And, I learned something very interesting. Ethiopia was a Catholic country until the schism in 1066. The Ethiopian Church sided with the Eastern Church in Constantinople and broke with Rome. I was raised Catholic, but my father’s parents were Orthodox Christian, or Russian Orthodox as we called them. In that tradition they celebrate Christmas on January 7 because they use a different calendar.
I remember having two Christmases when I was young. I always got a small present on January 7. Imagine my surprise when a guy from Africa told me that he couldn’t drive me to the airport on January 7 because he chose to stay at home and celebrate Christmas with his family. This led to a very interesting discussion on how Ethiopia participated in the schism. When the Ethiopian community in Denver was building a new church, Cathy and I were some of the donors.
See what I mean about treating everyone as if he or she has something to offer? I never would have learned some valuable information about how similar the life experiences of a black guy from Ethiopia were to my own growing up had I not taken the time to engage this person in conversation.
The career success coach point here is simple common sense. Follow the career advice in Tweet 124 in Success Tweets. “Everyone has something to offer. Never dismiss anyone out of hand. Take the initiative. Actively build relationships.” Following this career advice will help you create the life and career success you want and deserve. More important, it will lead to a richer and fuller life. When you engage people, when you expect to find them to be interesting, you will open yourself up to a world of ideas that will not only help your career success, but will also help you succeed as a person.
That’s the career advice that comes from a long ago trip to Detroit. What do you think? Please take a minute to share your thoughts with us in a comment. As always, thanks for reading my daily musings on life and career success. I appreciate you for taking the time to read what I write.
If you haven’t already done so, I suggest that you check out my career advice book Success Tweets and its companion piece Success Tweets Explained. The first gives you 140 bits of career success advice tweet style — in 140 characters or less. The second is a whopping 390 + pages of career advice explaining each of the common sense tweets in Success Tweets in detail. Go to http://budurl.com/STExp to claim your free copy. You’ll also start receiving my daily life and career success quotes.
PPS: Have you seen my membership site, My Corporate Climb? It’s devoted to helping people just like you create career success inside large corporations. You can find out about it by going to http://www.mycorporateclimb.