Any significant/greatest/second-to-none professional achievement can be hard to quantify, let alone track it in an excel sheet. It’s very subjective and way different from the ‘powerful’ statements we write in our glorified resumes. And let’s not forget how our overall performance is impacted by the people involved, risks taken and the outcomes delivered. If you’re the bold type, you may also factor in the ‘legacy to be created.’
So, when a former colleague (more like an acquaintance since we have massive individual differences and he wanted to have coffee with me) boasted about his greatest accomplishment, I was dumbstruck. He mentioned about a colleague of ours (who still works with him, a couple of levels junior to him) whom he helped turn around performance. We’re talking about ‘reversal of fortunes’ kind of story. And he was telling the truth.
One minor detail he’d left out though — I did play a part in the story. I was our colleague’s coach. It was a chance intervention but one that was to be done (this was before I trained to be an executive coach) because he was hell bent on firing her. The worst part — everyone know how he’d felt. It’s funny how years later the case is hailed as the greatest professional achievement of this person’s career.
This was a recent conversation and I gave it a long, hard thought (ethics, confidentiality etc., but I wasn’t formally coaching and nor was intervention labelled as such) before deciding to share it here. And, yes, I do have a couple of thoughts about this weird conversation:
- Raise your standards. As a leader your responsibility is to turnaround performances and ensure that your people are treated, supported and compensated well. And if you do that, you’re doing what’s required off of you. Going above and beyond is what’s expected from any competent leader worth a grain of salt.
- Don’t ever forget you had help. If you do, you’re way too in love with yourself then you should be (like Borat?). And most narcissists can’t do anything done without exerting their power and authority. The worst part is that they end up taking all the credit for the great work someone else has done… only to blurt it out to the same person directly, accidentally. Awkward!
I believe your greatest professional achievement can’t specifically about people, profits or how much you made during the course of your career. It’s got to be something beyond all of that. And in all likelihood, it’s to do with the impact you had on the culture and the people around you.
But first, you need to accept that you’re not a one-man-island.