The Importance of A vs. The

I want to be A (insert job here) is way different than saying I want to be The (insert same job here).

The rules, standards, compensation and the story of A job are made by someone else. The value of The job or The work one will do is established by the person building it…because it’s specific, it’s unique. And it defines the standard.

Of course, being specific about your work and making a promise about how you do it, comes with a downside. You are on the hook for it…completely accountable. There’s no one else to blame when it doesn’t work. But it’s a risk worth taking if you’re building a legacy of meaningful change.

Why be just another one, when you can be the only one.

We deserve more The and less A. Please choose wisely.

The Interview is for

determining if we should do work together…and as a result work together. It’s a time to determine if working together as a team will result in our best work.

Conversely, if the work is already determined, and we’re merely finding a person to do it, we might overlook the opportunity to create something entirely new together…more meaningful work and an experience we haven’t imagined yet. That’s a journey reserved for groups of people who come together because they are aligned in purpose and core values…and that’s when the magic happens.

We (I) want to do work with you because…

A meaningful interview occurs when both sides answer this question with something they have to offer (other than pay, skills and solving an immediate problem)…and when both sides come prepared to walk away when they can’t.

The Job Interview and Culture

The perfect job interview, where everyone tells the truth, is a rarity. It only happens when both sides are completely secure, neither is going to “win”, and there’s no transaction at stake. At this level it’s not about a “job”. It’s about the alignment of goals and purpose and building trust. It’s less about the work, and more about the culture. Every job interview should be this way. But it’s not.

It’s not because a job is also about solving an immediate problem. Job seekers are solving the problem of paying bills, obtaining experience (so they can earn more to pay more bills) and relieving peer pressure to be successful. Companies need someone to answer the phone, serve a customer, bake cookies and solve math problems. The work is done for now, not later.

But later matters…a lot. Without later, now is irrelevant. Other than mere survival, the present is meaningless without a thought about later. Culture is later brought forward. It’s the version of the future we are working to create today. It’s what gives us and our work purpose. It creates challenge, tension and fear. But it also leads to excitement about the prospect of meaningful change. And it’s the toughest thing to talk about.

The job at hand is important. The work needs to be done. So there needs to be a discussion about that role. More importantly though is how the work is to be done…what’s the posture of everyone in the mix. And that’s defined by culture…so best talk about that first.

Forgettable Work

July, 1998...that's when I drew my line in the sand. That's when I (and my bosses) decided I wasn't going to do any more work that wasn't meaningful. It was then that I worked my last "job" (managing the hotel pictured above) where I was paid to show up and manage what someone else had concocted. I decided to start doing things that mattered, to help create stories that would outlive me.

Pretty much all the work I had done to that point was forgettable. Fifteen years of progressive hotel management...nice hotels, great locations and of course I met some wonderful people along the way.  But, by most accounts my work was pretty standard. I managed assets, processes and people. I didn't create much, I managed what someone else created. And, by traditional measurements I was successful. I received regular promotions, pay raises and more and more responsibility. With each occurence I was fulfilled...or so I thought. It wasn't until much later that I recognized I wasn't really making much of a difference. It wasn't until my last traditional hotel management assignment that I understood the path I was on...and it wasn't for me.

If you're anything like me (and you might be if you're reading this), your wired to do something other than follow a plan that someone else puts together. You're more likely to dream up your own plan, put together your own team and act it out. You're willing to live or die by it, knowing both the risks and the rewards.

If you're not like this, I encourage you to consider this seemingly risky and obscure path...just for a moment. Consider that when it comes to making a difference, enriching people's lives, giving your children and grandchildren a story to tell, forgettable work is not an option. Only legacy work counts. The other stuff is window dressing that eventually fades away.

Go out and create some legacy work...pretty please with sugar on top.