Taking Steps Toward Leadership–Keep your head down

Keep your head down!  That has various and sundry connotations.  (Whoohoo!  used all my Toastmasters words in one sentence!)  In the military, it means don’t pop your head up or you’ll make a cute little round target out of it.  The other meaning in the military is that if you pop your head up, you will be volunteered for something unpleasant.  Stay close to the ground and protect yourself.  It has the same meaning in corporate situations.  If you blend in and don’t stick out, you won’t be bopped on the head by someone who thinks you’re trying to steal his or her job.  You also won’t be in charge of all the birthday celebrations in the office.  But in the real world, popping your head up is the best way to get recognized as a person of merit and may lead to promotions and raises.  Just pop it up on important things!

What’s another meaning of “keep your head down?”  Don’t be distracted, keep plowing  away not moving to right or left, not looking back not looking up until you’ve given all you have and have nothing left.  How many of my dear readers have ever seen their manager do this?  Do you see them coming in before everyone else and staying late after everyone else has gone home?  Do you see them on the phone, running to appointments trying to secure business for the business?  Do you see them mentoring and training their managers in a way that assures continuity should he be promoted or retire?  Does he keep his head down until the job is done?  Do you?

If you’re going to lead people, it doesn’t matter what YOUR manager does; it matters what YOU do.  Your main goal in any organisation (corporate, entrepreneurial, or recreational) is to make yourself obsolete.  This is the opposite of what you’re told in school.  There, you learn that you must make yourself indispensable so they cannot fire you.  What kind of approach is that?  It’s purely defensive.  The problem you have with that is there are some that would resent your uniqueness.  You’d be hoarding experience and information because it would serve Your best interests and may not be in the best interest of the company or club or the people involved in these organisations.  If that person is in a top leadership position, and does his specialty alone, he may not be able to attend to many other tasks that are essential for the smooth running of the company or club.  If he does delegate some of his duties, because he feels himself indispensable, he’d tend to micromanage the person he has assigned.  BAD idea.

When I worked as a broker, I held the record for the most accounts processed in a day.  I was told I had to spread the work around to 12 other brokers so they could get their numbers up.  It sped up the process by 2 min.  I had to physically walk around to all the brokers to hand them the work sheets, and they did not all start on them right away.  I could do the whole job in about 1 hour, together, all 12 or 13 of us could get it done in about 58 min.

I also developed a spreadsheet application that allowed the broker to do currency conversion and transactional calculations with just 2 pieces of information.  I was the only one with that spreadsheet.  The other brokers shifted all their foreign trades to me, and those clients that liked foreign trades always asked for me by name.  The information could be processed using a calculator, but while it took nearly a minute to do that way, I did it in seconds.  I was sooooo good.  It was amazing then that after they fired me the company didn’t go down in flames.  Turns out that keeping information to yourself doesn’t protect you from being fired if they have to make their bottom line.

You have to Give up to Go up.  You cannot be the best guy on the line AND the foreman.  You cannot be the best alto and the conductor.  You cannot be the only one in your business that does any business and run the business.

I was at a seminar this weekend that exemplified that concept.  The main speaker personally did most of the business when he was starting out, but then he found someone that wanted to do it with him.  Instead of saying, “I’ll do this and you do that and we’ll split the results,” he trained his partner to replace him.  Then he found some more people that wanted to do the business with him, and he trained those people to replace him.  And his buddy did the same thing.  Each iteration, the goal was to train people well enough to replace himself, and each new person in the business was training people for the same reason.  After he’d been doing this  for 10 years, he had developed over 1000 people that could replace him.  Did he mind that he was replacing himself with his “students?”  No, because now he could develop new materials for the business; he could go on training tours and teach whole offices.  In other words, he franchised himself and opened another 50 offices.  Did he make more money after he moved to this level and replaced himself, or less?  It was more…by a factor of 100 in his 16th year of the business.

So Pop your head up and volunteer.  It gets you exposure, experience, and connections.  Then keep your head down and work without distractions until the job is done.

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