The Three Roles We Play at Work

In coaching or counseling colleagues, friends and people I meet going through a career transition, I often find myself having to explain the three roles we play at work. I noticed recently that these three roles don’t seem to be obvious to many, while simultaneously most folks seem to have some similar notion of them at a subconscious level. This series of posts is meant to document the Three Roles. My aim is to help people be more deliberate in how they show up at work, and how they think about the way they mature their craft.

The Three Roles are:

  • The Pair of Hands (PoH)
  • The Subject Matter Expert (SME)
  • The Trusted Advisor (TA)

While I find most people are always acting in some blended form of these roles, it is useful in processing the social contract between yourself and your colleagues above you, peers, and those more inexperienced. It is also a useful meta-model for helping others be successful in their role as it helps them have a clear understanding of what is being asked of them, and what successfully fulfilling that ask looks like… not just “getting the work done”.

In Part Two, I’ll discuss the role of The Pair of Hands. In Parts Three and Four I’ll discuss The Subject Matter Expert (SME) and the Trusted Adviser (TA), respectively. Finally, in Part Five, I’ll close with an anecdote that shows fluidly working in all three roles.

As my some of my friends say, “Stay Frosty.”

Buy me Stuff and Love Languages

Here is a link to my personal wish list. I’m posting this here because I’m always having relatives and friends who are trying to figure out what kinds of gifts to give me. Continue reading Buy me Stuff and Love Languages

List of Reading Lists

People ask me all the time where I keep my reading list. Well… my reading list is dynamic so posting a static version would be silly. So… by way of Internet Magic, I post links to the various reading lists I have.

READERS NOTE: I neither endorse nor disagree with any of the books in my list. They are just books and meant to be a compendium of ideas. To use the phrase coined in Nassim Taleb’s The Black Swan, it is but a portion of my antilibrary [1].

1. Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. The Black Swan: Second Edition: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (Incerto) (p. 1). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

“A Musician Must Make Music…”

 “A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself.” — Abraham Maslow

I had the rich pleasure to hear the William Peace University Peace Singers and Florida College Saturday night. That evening the Florida College students were spread amongst many volunteers hosts for lodging. Music has always been a part of my life. Music is largely why I love anything or anyone. In our home I have several percussive instruments, a piano, an electronic keyboard, a synthesizer, and a violin. We made sure that our guests understood just how important is in our lives as we drove from the theater to home. This morning, we had the distinct pleasure of hearing our guests playing our piano and fiddling around with various pieces of music in Jennifer’s deep locker of sheet music.

What struck me is that the guests were nervous staying with complete strangers. The way that they coped with the stress of being on the road and staying in the homes of complete strangers was by doing what comes natural… making music. The words of Maslow never became so real to me than at that point.

Turning to work, I realized if business leaders would let people do what gives them peace, then those leaders will always be rewarded with the sweet sounds of people at their best.

The implications are inescapable. Business leaders have to find people who’s passion is the work they are to perform. You must place people in positions that play to their strengths, not just making up for weaknesses. You must place people in cultures that encourages them to do that which they love to do. You must place people in physical environments that support the kind of work they love. And the work has to be the kind of work that creates intrinsic reward, the kind that fuels that passion within them. But it’s more than that, you have to create situations that let people make mistakes that they can learn and recover from.

Are you trying to make sure you create an environment where people can just be the best at what they do? Have you hired people that actually want to be best at what you need done? If you haven’t done these two things, I suggest you make a plan to course correct. You are missing out on the best parts of work life: watching people become fascinated with being the best. Fuel the passion!

Introducing the Skills Canvas for Defining Roles

Recently a old friend of mine from India, CEO Navin Kumar of iPRIMED, approached me about helping him bring his company’s services to the U.S. from India. iPRIMED is led by people from the IT industry and academia who are focused on enhancing workplace skills of graduates / entry / junior level professionals (for the IT and ITeS industry) by driving intrinsic transformation.

What he has done is nothing short of genius. If your company wants to offer up a way for your employees to grow some serious professional skills, Navin has what you need.

Inspired by his taxonomy of different skill sets, I came up with this canvas as a means for discussing a person’s growth areas. I share it with you: Navin gets the credit.

Download the Skills Canvas.

Key Skills for Leaders of Transformations

Here is my list of Key Skills for Managers and Leaders that I’ve been cataloging for a couple years now.

Content Skills Core Skills
Direct Skills
  • Transdisciplinarity
  • New-Media Literacy
  • Computational Thinking
  • Visioning
Explicit Skills
  • Three Horizons Thinking
  • Building Community
  • Story Crafting
  • Mentoring
  • Virtual Collaboration
  • Social Intelligence
  • Design Thinking
Process Skills
  • Lean Product Development
  • Change Management Skills
  • Limiting Initiative WIP
Simple Tacit
  • Lean Thinking
  • Differentiate Between Agile Adoption &
    Agile Transformation
  • Divergent Thinking over Convergent Thinking
  • Principle Focus over Practice Focus Over
    Process Focus
  • Awareness
  • Action Inquiry
  • Stewardship
Domain Skills
  • Organic Innovation vs. Disruptive Innovation
Complex Tacit

Is it your job or your craft?

US Unemployment Figures
US Unemployment Figures

There is a lot of talk about the number of unemployed people. Over the course of this recession the United States has lost some 10 Million jobs. These jobs simply went away. They weren’t outsourced to another country. They didn’t transition to another type of role. They simply went away and it will take 10 years to get them back.

So who are these unemployed people?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is now detailing the fact the largest preponderance of people that are unemployed fall into two categories:
1. Those who’s skills are not in demand
2. Those who do not have the education level needed to acquire good paying jobs

As an organizational therapist, I have started my own non-scientific studies and have come to a single conclusion. The two factors highlighted by the BLS, wrong skills and not enough education, don’t really tell the whole story. I find people the for a while didn’t have skills that were in demand who are still able to find people to demand their skills. I find people that don’t have the “requisite education level” or “necessary certifications” that are still able to find employers who cherish their labor.

So what truly divides those that are able to find employment even after being down-sized, and those that living on Government unemployment payrolls trying to hold on to their homes and lifestyle?

I can only conclude one thing: it is the way each of the groups fundamentally approach their labor. The gainfully employed see their labor as their legacy and their craft. Whether they are street cleaners, brick layers, front-desk receptionists, or software engineers, they all have this singular attitude about serving their employer and obsessing about creating work that any person is ecstatic to purchase… often at above market rates. In contrast, the people that were laid-off and then struggle to find new employment seem to treat the “job” only as a means of paying the bills.

I can’t deny… I’ve taken positions just to make sure I am fulfilling my duty to my wife, kids and community. It is my contract with society. One element that has remained true, though… I always have treated my work as my legacy. I fret over my work just as a painter does, never satisfied until I have perfected each body of work in such a way that generations from now someone will say, “Wow!”

Are you frustrated at work? It is because your job is taking up too much of your time, or because you aren’t allowed to practice your craft? If it is former, you may find out the hard way that you are making yourself outmoded. If it is the later, you will find peace in learning to be creative in being the best you can be within the constraints you are under. Make the best of every situation and only do excellent work. There will be no end of demand for your craft.

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New blog for learning how to live again

The concept of this blog has its roots in my own personal journey through life. This blog is meant to capture observations and facts on searching for employment, securing a job, being the best employee you can, understanding what makes up a career, learning about the definition of a vocation, and how you can create a living legacy through the course of your life.

My personal journey started like most high-school students fresh out of college. I wanted to escape the confines of small-town America. I wanted fortune. I wanted to be recognized for my contributions to society. The problem was, I had no guide, no mentor, and no clue what it would take to achieve any or all of my goals. It should be no surprise that two quarters later I was failing at Auburn University. One tour in the Alabama Army National Guard, great mentors at The University of Alabama at Birmingham, and one semester sitting at the feet of an unassuming Nobel Laureate, I finally started fulfilling the most miserable decade of going from job to job. From 1996 through 2001 I burned through some 30 or so clients at five different employers. At the end of 2001, after watching watching planes take down the Twin Towers and seeing the ashes of the north side of the Pentagon, I realized that we were entering a new era, one that we have never seen before. This new era is one of transition from the service economy of the 1990’s to the global economy of the 21st century.

For my generation and those that follow after us, we will have to compete on the Global Stage for jobs. Our success won’t be defined by the assets we amass, but rather by the level in which we are able to manage the resources of the Global Economy in such a way as to reduce global hunger and poverty so as to reduce the probability that extremist ideologues will destroy all that our ancestors fought so hard for us.

As I’ve matured and gained enough wisdom to start sharing, I thought it best to take time out periodically to share what I have learned. Call this sharing something like virtual mentoring. Inspired by reading Dan Miller‘s 48 Days To The Work You Love, John Maxwell‘s Mentoring 101, and the late Coach John Wooden‘s A Game Plan for Life: The Power of Mentoring, I decided to start capturing all of the nuggets I have learned from the School of Hard Knocks in the hopes I will be able to prevent others from having to earn their degree there.

Though not as effective as real mentoring, I should be able to share enough information to teach people how to find a job in a very crowded marketplace during the worst economic down-turn since the Great Depression and possible gain some peace at the same time.

Feel free to contact me as you see or don’t see topics of interest. I welcome your feedback and hope to hear from as many of you as possible.

Kind Regards,