… a master of people?
You all know how the old quote goes, “a jack of all trades is a master of none.” Seeing as I am now only a few short months away from graduating this wonderful experience that has been the Darden MBA, I figure it is about time I address this nagging question about why I would choose the basis of this quote as my blogging namesake. I guess the short answer is that not only is it a great play on my name—even though most know that I actually go by middle name—but it also describes one of my favorite things about life: the opportunity to explore and enjoy many different things.
Who knew that I could actually enjoy living in China AND Latin America (along with the U.S. of course), or that I could enjoy playing a wide variety of sports (golf, soccer, football, and hockey, in my case) on a competitive level, or that I could enjoy multiple artistic hobbies. Some would look (actually some have) at this “lack of focus” as a negative thing… “look at the budding talent you have in each one of these areas, if you would have just picked one thing to specialize in you could have been excellent!”
For a while I didn’t have any answer for those people, but now I do: it’s all about the journey, the ride. In the above cases it just wasn’t my goal of being a top competitor or becoming “an expert” or “the best”. I started with the feeling of, “wow, I really like this.” That capriciousness would then turn into a passion, a passion that would feed right into my competitive DNA and bring out that extra drive for continuous improvement in my athletic skills or language/cultural immersion.
While that competitive nature still leaks out sometimes when playing sports (since the passion is still there), I have realized that outside of the athletic world the only person I am competing against is myself. What then is the goal, the finish line? For me it takes the form of two questions: 1) how can I work each day to make myself a better and more capable individual?, and 2) how can I help others accomplish the same for themselves? The funny thing that I’ve discovered is that both questions are interconnected in a sort of feedback loop. The funny part though is that it seems as though the second question is always what feeds into the first one.
I have long been very passionate about people. I absolutely love to meet and get to know all types of people. I like to watch how they respond to all types of situations, but even more important I want to get to know them—I enjoy hearing about their goals and dreams, their challenges and successes, their viewpoints and ideas, and how their past has shaped all of the above into who they are now and who they want to become in the future. As I get to know more and more people, getting to know their worldview changes a bit how I see the world. I’ve discovered the plain and simple fact that I can learn something from practically everyone I meet—essentially, I can take keep the good and ignore the bad. The more I get to know people for who they really are and strive to help them achieve their goals and dreams, the more I myself am benefited.
While I am far from being an expert on people, it is the one area for me that I will always strive the hardest to be the best I possibly can. I also think that it is extremely relevant for my aspirations to run a global business. A general manager is ultimately responsible for various different parts of a business. While he usually has a specialty or a passion for one of the multiple areas he is responsible for, he ultimately has to know enough about each part of the business to be able to stay informed, but of equal importance is his ability to provide a vision to his specialists in each part of the business that report to him. Since he relies so much on his direct reports, he essentially is a jack of all trades. He is not a “master of none” though, his core competency is people. I truly believe that success in business (and in life itself) is dependent on how well one can leverage the strengths and passion of those around him via a vision that directs them a to common good. Managers that can inspire those around them with a sense of purpose will never lack the necessary talent to overcome any size of obstacle.
Though I still have a ways to go—I’m sure my wife will second that—hopefully this jack of trades will become a master of people.