On a two-hour train ride to a client’s the other day, I started to think about all of the people I have met in business over the past 20 years. What did the good, effective coworkers have in common? I wrote down the names of the 23 people who have had the most influence on my career and developed a list that could be titled, “What Do Winners Have in Common?”
It’s by no means scientific, but see if you agree with the list:
- Winners trust other people. I’ve worked for some horrible micromanagers who spent most of their time making lists of what everyone should be doing without thinking about a better way to make a project run. Winners routinely assess a situation and figure out what they can add to the effort, rather than worry about who gets credit for it.
- Winners know their stuff. Ever run into someone in your industry who knows what the competition is up to and knows the latest technology? Everyone should. Winners spend some time every day online or with industry magazines finding out who is doing what and why. Our industry changes so fast that those who keep up will succeed.
- Winners have a sense of humor. Nothing irritates me more than stick-in-the-mud people. Everyone has stuff to deal with at home (financial troubles, relationship problems, etc.), but when winners get to work, they leave it at the door. I’ve worked with some first-class mopes who drag everyone down just by their hangdog faces. Think of the people you work with that you really enjoy. Chances are they’re the ones that keep you laughing. It’s a rare gift.
- Winners have a life. Rarely do winners work 20 hours per day. People who work those hours are usually martyrs or very poor time managers. As I’ve discussed in past articles, if you keep your bedroom slippers in the office, chances are you’re not a winner. Obviously, we all have periods of work where we’re cranking it out around the clock, and I love that adrenaline rush as much as anyone, but not every day. Winners serve on local school boards and charity boards; they umpire Little League games and teach adults to read.
- Winners motivate others. Eeyore is more than Winnie the Pooh’s friend — he’s a personality type. Most offices have an Eeyore. The Black Cloud of Doom follows them everywhere. These misery magnets attract bad news and bad vibes. Winners spot these people and steer clear. Especially in tough economic times, keeping Eeyores away is even more important.
- Winners are dreamers. The best part of life is asking, “What if?” Winners are constantly doodling new ideas on the walls, asking a lot of questions, and trying to figure out a better way of doing things. Winners recognize that the way we do our jobs is changing rapidly, and they are always on the lookout for great new stuff.
- Winners are connectors. Winners like to introduce people to one another. They don’t jealously guard good people from others to try and keep them from leaving. They take pleasure in helping people get new jobs, find freelance projects, or just make new friends.
- Winners like fast failures. Risk takers understand that we’ll all be dead someday, and they don’t want to be sitting in a rocking chair at the age of 80 saying, “I really should have tried that great idea 50 years ago.” Winners try it now. It might work, it might not, but at least they give it a shot.
- Winners are ethical. A person’s word is his bond. How many people can you trust without having to have your agreement signed, notarized, and lawyered to death? Probably not many. We all spend so much time protecting our ideas because there are people who are so unethical, they will steal your ideas without a second thought. Not one of these people is a winner. If you believe in karma, they’ve got a big karmic kick in the ass coming sometime. Hopefully soon.
- Winners are helpful. I had a good friend in college named Cliff. He is my standard for being helpful. The night before a big chemical-engineering final, he spent his evening helping his roommate who was being noisily sick from a big night of drinking. Rather than leaving him to pass out in some back alley of Boston, Cliff spent the night helping him at the expense of his own studying. He was the kind of guy that all the girls liked because he was like their brother. All the guys liked him because he would do anything to help.
If you’ve been fortunate enough to work with some winners, take a few minutes to thank them. By the way, Cliff did just fine on his final. Karma works both ways.