Happy New Year! Although we're into the 3rd week of 2013 now, I still give and receive that greeting with clients and friends I see for the first time this year. And yesterday I was at a meeting where New Years' resolutions were still discussed. I attended a business referral group session, which I regularly take part in as a representative of Stewart Title. Our speaker was fellow-member Dennis Deveja, of the Talent Development Group. Since Dennis' topic was promoting strengths, before the meeting started some of us discussed how we were doing on overcoming weaknesses- specifically, how we were coming along with our New Years' resolutions.
Last year I opined we should let others make resolutions for us, since we don't ever seem to keep our own (and indeed, I have not yet started the exercise regimen I contemplated on January 1st). Dennis' speech, however, put me in a more optimistic frame of mind. He suggested that we focus on becoming even better at what we're good at, rather than try to develop skills we may just not have. Although I still would like to drop a waist-size, from a business perspective Dennis' suggestion makes a lot of sense. For example, more than one person has told me that since I am in a business development role, I must learn how to play golf. If I was going to adopt a New Years' resolution based on shortcomings, I would try to convince myself to take golf lessons this year, even though I can't stand to play. However, I am good at networking and writing. I love meeting people, going to events, talking face-to-face with prospects, corresponding, and writing blog posts. Given a choice between the driving range or turning into an even better networker, I am much more enthused about the latter.
I do have an amusing caveat, though, and it is one I learned at my very first job. Like 1 in 8 of my statistical fellow Americans, I have worked at a McDonald's. The day I got my driver's license at age 16, I applied to the McD's on Naper Blvd., down the road from my home in Naperville, Illinois. The policy may have changed in the intervening years, but when I was a teenager, new recruits were shunted into one of two job paths: cook or cashier. Since I was a somewhat scrawny, dermatologically-challenged young lad, it was no surprise I was assigned to work in back as a cook.
I thought I was ready for my first day. I had met with the manager, I had toured the restaurant and I had watched all of the requisite training videos. As with its other procedures, McDonald's has a "tried and true" training program which it has refined to an amazingly systematic approach. Like the Army, McDonald's does not deviate from its systematic training approach. New cooks, therefore, are assigned to the Filet o' Fish station. This makes sense, as the fryer is generally easier to maintain than the burger grill, and because less people order Filet o' Fish than other sandwiches. Unless, however, it is a day like my first day: On a Friday. During Lent season. In a town with a high Catholic population. On such a day, Filet o' Fish is the most popular item on the menu...
I was a pretty tough kid, but I wanted to cry. The Filet o' Fish machine was capable of making four filets at a time. Families were ordering them by the dozens. I was sweating, frantic and harried. The manager would buzz in on the intercom at my station like a Bizarro world Captain Kirk demanding, "More fish!" Like a poor man's Scotty I would reply (albeit without a Scottish accent): "I'm making them as fast as I can! If I put any more in, the fryer's going to blow!" That first shift was one of the worst 4 hour blocks of my life.
So, relating back to strengths: McDonald's is great at systematized procedures- They are one of the company's major assets. But even a strength must be utilized in context. So, for 2013, I will focus on utilizing my talents... except when I shouldn't!