The fear of failing and being exposed for this reason is human. Given this, when it’s your turn to face new challenges, both doubts and insecurities appear and somehow pushes you to curse the moment you agreed to accept them. You even get to ask yourself something similar to “why I didn´t reject it and keep myself been doing what I did before…?. Back there…, huddled in my comfort zone and almost free of all evil…”.
Your unsteadiness seems drives you to think that it would have been better to keep yourself in a corner, the one you think is under your control, and let others come to the battlefield, let others to lead the discussion, share knowledge and take the initiative … In short, you are tempted to reject the challenge and its risks, to avoid having to go through the bad swallow of disappointment, to be in evidence, to suffer the sensation of ridicule…
But you do not…, you refuse to resign. You do not back down and decide to face all those fears. Not out of courage, or out of pride, or out of a desire to be a protagonist…, you do it out of coherence and responsibility, because you presented yourself in front of your people as a professional and because your responsibility as professional is to be coherent and not disappoint them.
You say to yourself that this coherence implies take advantage of any opportunity offered to you that could help to add value to the project in which you decided to commit. You know well that challenges not only mean a risk of failing in front others, it is also an opportunity to the contrary. It is your chance to contribute to the goal, to reinforce your own personal image, to increase respect and security in yourself.
If everything were as easy as that, surely it would not be necessary to talk about it. The truth is that there are no fixed rules to acquire security in oneself, nor magic recipes for success in personal improvement. Of course, I do not know exactly how we should act, but I do believe that the first step should be to open up to oneself and ask the right questions with honest answers. Questions like what is the real value of my contribution to the goal or what extent that value has a positive impact for the objective and results that I share with others. I should ask myself if that value represents everything I can really do or if I could do something additional to enrich it.
I suppose that the motivation has a lot to do with this, although certainly that motivation tends to be more limited as we go down the ladder of responsibilities within the structure of a company. However, there is no position in a well-structured company that does not have a reason to exist; from the position of the general manager to that of the last assistant. All of the have a necessary role to achieve the common goal and that task goes beyond the simple work associated with them, either in the management of an order, in the commissioning of a machine, in the maintenance of the plant or in the company’s own address. But all these positions also have the responsibility to detect areas of improvement in their environment, propose solutions to problems and even implement these solutions. We must do it…, since we are the best connoisseurs of the particularities of the work for which we are responsible and therefore, the first that should make proposals aimed to add value to our own work.The “Added Value”, that “extra” we can contribute individually is key, no doubt on that since it is the fuel that our company feeds to be competitive. The added value helps to differentiate our proposal and keep us away from mediocrity …, and from mediocrity we have to move away as from the plague.
I spoke before about the fear of failure, about the fear of making a fool of himself in the face of a wrong decision and about being exposed by it. Personally, I´m more afraid of mediocrity than of making a fool of myself and I´m sure that all professional must accept the risk of error as part of the play rules. However, unfortunately there are those who, out of fear of failure and ridicule, accept mediocrity as a way, and with it, they become a simple ornamental element perfectly dispensable.
In fact, mediocrity is a concession that we allow ourselves to justify that we do not want to do more to improve what we do, even when we are aware that we are capable of doing it, either because we believe it is useless, because we are not valued, because others do not or because we simply don´t want to do it.
We should be always moving our efforts as close as possible to our levels of incompetence, but never to settle beneath them; we must try to reach them and try to overcome them always. Excellence is not achieved by acting with the rhythm of minimum effort, mainly when we know that this rhythm is below our own capabilities.
Our path should always be oriented towards excellence in everything we do and practically make it almost a way of life. However, in reality, excellence is never achieved; excellence is only a horizon to which we decide to direct ourselves or not. And there is no instruction manual to take us there, what do exist are certain guidelines that can mark the way.
First of all, we must mark the GOAL. Our goal must be ambitious but realistic, not a chimera that we probably can never reach and that will lead us to failure and frustration, something that does not interest us.
Another guideline is the KNOWLEDGE. But not only the one that refers to our academic training or professional experience, but to the knowledge of our environment; that of our work team, that of their strengths or weaknesses and that of ours, that of our competitors, that of the needs of our clients, their priorities and expectations, the reality of the market … We need information to know and understand the scenario where we are.
We also need a PROCEDURE. We cannot make the way like chickens without heads. It is necessary to trace the route, establish control points and action protocols, it is necessary to know where we go and how we´ll walk the way.
We need RESOURCES, not only the technological ones, also the humans; those that have to do with the commitment and motivation of the people in front the objective and their contribution in teamwork…
And finally, the ATTITUDE. Attitude is the most important factor of all since although we can have knowledge, a well-developed procedure and sufficient resources, if we do not have a positive attitude we will certainly fail.
We are facing a change in the professional model that undoubtedly forces us to also change our perception of ourselves and our attitude. Attitude is a powerful medicine, something that we must cultivate to adapt our work to a changing environment of increasingly demanding market and technological revolution that is beginning to overcome our ability to understand and assimilate.
But there are more guidelines to take into account in the eternal search for excellence in what we do. Without a doubt, TALENT is one of them; the ability to learn and apply what we have learned, our ability to do relevant things based on the knowledge acquired through many years of effort. Also, our ability to INNOVATE, to create and renew what has been created and advance in what we are capable of building.
Being PROACTIVE…, take the initiative, be bold and ambitious in learning, improve and grow. We must be FLEXIBLE, because our scenario is changing, it is more and more active and complex. We have to adapt ourselves to an environment that request a continuously update. And of course, we must be PERSEVERING and firm in our conviction that we should not be content with the successes obtained.
In any case, beyond I´m fully sure that all these guidelines are fundamental to achieve success, the reality is that there are no achievable goals and challenges or individual and collective successes that we can face that do not require having PASSION for doing so. Personally, it is impossible for me to participate in a project that I’m not passionate about; It is like deceiving yourself and deceiving others. You feel PASSION for participating in something when you think you are contributing to its success. This is the reason because it is so important to be honest with ourselves and aware of the real value of our individual contribution, since if we understand that this personal contribution is not up to the task, we must start working immediately to improve it. But if we still find ourselves unable to do so because we understand that we have finally reached our particular level of incompetence, maybe it is time to change our professional compromises and try to find a new project to which we can contribute with value, keeping us growing in the desire to reach our horizon of excellence.
Miguel Angel Beltran