The Race To The Top

It’s rare when you see a company doing difficult and important work.

Most companies are racing to the bottom, a term the Financial Times defines: The situation in which companies and countries try to compete with each other by cutting wages and living standards for workers, and the production of goods is moved to the place where the wages are lowest, and the workers have the fewest rights.

Why would a company “race to the bottom?” To be the obvious choice over the competition.

The problem with the strategy is that you are: suffocating innovation, sacrificing employee safety and forfeiting quality for market share.

What if you “raced to the top?” Author Seth Godin pens:

The race to the top makes more sense to me. The race to the top is focused on design and respect and dignity and guts and innovation and sustainability and yes, generosity when it might be easier to be selfish. It's also risky, filled with difficult technical and emotional hurdles, and requires patience and effort and insight. The race to the top is the long-term path with the desirable outcome.

Godin notes:

Changing things for the better is rarely applauded by Wall Street, but Wall Street might not be the point of your work. It might simply be to do work you’re proud of, to contribute, and to leave things a little better than you found them. Profitable, difficult, or important—each is an option. A choice we get to make every day. ‘None of the above’ is also available, but I’m confident we can seek to do better than that.

Forget the “race to the bottom,” it is a never-ending street fight. Instead, focus on the hard work of changing things for the better.

What Are You Grateful For?

I am grateful for: my failures, my pain, my fears, my delays, my miscalculations, my transgressions, my emotional valleys, my poor decisions, my lack of action, my lack of courage but more importantly I am grateful for being wrong.

Denis E. Waitley, motivational speaker, pens:

Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.

The romantic narrative of success is a fairy tale. Embracing failure is a necessity because it’s your guide on the puzzling journey to success.

Improving Through Analysis

Those who started working with you have been promoted over you. You’re smart, driven and talented so what do they have over you? Perhaps it’s not a question of attributes? Maybe, it’s a question about feedback?

Let these questions simmer:

  • What if you knew your weaknesses?
  • What if you knew your strengths?
  • What if you analyzed your decisions?

Peter Drucker, the author of Managing Oneself writes:

The only way to discover your strengths is through feedback analysis. Whenever you make a key decision or take a key action, write down what you expect will happen. Nine or 12 months later, compare the actual results with your expectations.

Drucker notes:

Successful careers are not planned. They develop when people are prepared for opportunities because they know their strengths, their method of work, and their values. Knowing where one belongs can transform an ordinary person — hardworking and competent but otherwise mediocre — into an outstanding performer.

The “feedback analysis” is a tool that will develop you into the person who is prepared for opportunities. Here are a few questions that can help:

  1. What are your strengths? Once you have identified your strengths, place yourself in situations where your strengths will produce results.
  2. How will you improve your strengths? The feedback analysis will help you identify where you need to develop skills or acquire new ones.
  3. Where are you intellectually arrogant? Build a latticework of mental models so you can understand how the world works.

What has worked for me is setting a timer on my iPhone: Time For Feedback. When the timer goes off I:

  • Review my decisions up to that point.
  • I ask, “What value I added?”
  • I ask, “Did I operate from my strengths?”
  • I ask, “Where did I struggle?

Document your answers and during your weekly review—review your responses. The analysis allows you to understand what you’ve done and how you’ve performed. More importantly, the review helps you understand your strengths and weaknesses. Go through the exercise for the next 30 days. The results will impress you.