Luck and Hard Work Are Not Mutually Exclusive

“Those who are valued, drive value.” Nilofer Merchant

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the University of Nevada’s annual TEDx conference. It was filled with a diverse lineup of speakers discussing a variety of topics. For me, the most profound take away of the day came from Nilofer Merchant when she said, “those who are valued, drive value.” When it comes to driving value and achieving success, people seem to think there is only one path.   Many believe that driving value just takes hard work or intelligence and another group believes that someone needs to give them the opportunity to drive value. I contend that both of these beliefs are true because in life, two things can be true at once.

On the popular podcast, How I Built This, Guy Raz, the talented host, concludes each episode by asking his entrepreneurial guests, “how much of your success is because of your hard work or intelligence and how much is because you just got lucky?” A majority of his guests reveal that both hard work and luck played a role in building their businesses. Raz always digs deeper by questioning exactly how luck factored into their success. Time and time again these business icons share that someone took a chance on them and their idea. In other words, someone saw value in another person due to a vision and hard work and then gave that individual the opportunity to drive value for others.

Does this mean as leaders we have to take a chance on everyone? Absolutely not. But we do need to take a chance on those that are working hard, are well intentioned, and those that might need a little bit of encouragement.  

As leaders, we have the incredible opportunity to change the trajectory of someone’s life by just taking the simple action of recognizing potential and hard work, empowering the individual to do the job they were hired to do, and validating their efforts along the way. While this all sounds so simple, many managers and leaders fail to execute these simple actions and that is a huge missed opportunity for the team and the organization. Below are some ways managers and leaders can discover the value and then unleash the potential of others.

  1. Recognize that people are trainable and they learn by doing. Give employees stretch assignments so they grow their skills.
  2. Introduce employees to other people throughout the company and within the community. Your introduction gives them credibility and opportunity to grow their network.
  3. Invite your employees to sit in on meetings and Cc them on emails so they can be exposed to other key players and experiences.
  4. Inform key stakeholders about your employee’s successes. Your endorsement lets your peers know the value of your employee and this recognition will also continue to motivate your employee to drive value.
  5. Ensure your employees know the company’s vision and strategies. This knowledge will allow them to align their actions and priorities with the interest of the company.

The best leaders drive value by recognizing the value in others. Look within your organization to find those that have the skills and the work ethic and then lift them up by giving them a chance.

Leave a comment below about how are you recognizing the value in others.

Beyond the Cliche’

Icons, titans, and the luminaries of business are an inspiration to so many. Business professionals and aspiring leaders follow their actions and try to dissect what makes them successful. I have a fascination with those at the top of their careers, and I’m constantly reading books, listing to podcasts and watching TED Talks that discuss and outline traits and characteristics that make business leaders successful.

Three years ago, I was fortunate to receive unique career advice from Barry Caldwell, former senior vice president of corporate affairs and chief people officer for Waste Management. It is the north star that guides me. On one of my last days at Waste Management, Mr. Caldwell called me to wish me well in my future and to impart his wisdom, “the key to success, no matter where you are or what you are doing is twofold. First you need to know and understand the strategy, and second, you must be relentless in driving value for the company.”

Sounds easy enough, right? The truth is that the words strategy and value have become buzz words in recent years. Throughout this blog, we’ll look beyond the clichés by embracing our curiosity, diving into the details, analyzing the trends, learning from best practices, and getting fired up about delivering incredible results. Specifically, I’ll discuss driving value through the lens of marketing, strategic planning and leadership and how to bring these three disciplines together. I’m hoping to deliver some aha moments that will make your life easier.

As a tenured marketing and strategy professional with leadership experience, and a professed lifelong learner, I am continually looking for ways to grow my knowledge. I’m excited to share with you what I’ve learned and what I’m learning. I hope my blog provides you with unique content that helps you gain new perspectives and tips as you strive to reach your marketing, strategy and leadership goals.

Along the way, I would love to hear from you. So reach out, say hello and let me know what you think about the content within this blog. Thank you for joining me along this journey!