Well, this blog post is about 4 months over-due. That’s when someone I respect asked me to blog about the worst advice I have ever gotten. In this case, I still get this advice almost every day – “Be careful”.
Now I am not suggesting any of you go out there and become dicks at work – that’s reckless. I am suggesting that careful is career-limiting in some cases.
Don’t go tell your bosses they are idiots and then come back and blame me if you find yourself on the street – that is not what this blog post is about.
So what is it about? It’s about risk and reward. It is about knowing where the line gets drawn in the sand. It is about knowing how and when to hold your company, your co-workers, and your contemporaries up to a simple standard. Simple Standard? Yeah – it is not so simple – it is different for everyone.
I have a few very basic standards that I will not tolerate us (and by “us” I mean anyone I work with or for) abusing:
- Never lie. Not to employees, and not to customers.
- Tell as much truth as you can as soon as you understand what the truth is.
- Admit failure. We all suffer from it. It only seriously hurts us when we try to hide from it. Or lie about it (see #1)
- Never put your company ahead of your customers. Unless you do not care about your company.
So the worst advice I still get is always about “being careful”. “That VP is powerful – you better not piss them off – be careful”. “Everyone loves this marketing campaign, don’t tell them why it sucks – you better be careful”. “You aren’t making any friends by admitting we handled that poorly – you better be careful”.
I find that keeping the customer’s best interests ahead of mine, and ahead of the company’s is the only way to honestly advocate what is right for the company. If I keep customers first and foremost, even when it causes short term pain for the company (and me), the company wins in the long term. And I build credibility within the company, and with customers.
You can’t effectively advocate for customers if you are more concerned with keeping your job.
And if you work for a company that expects you to be the customer voice, but tells you to “be careful” with your internal communications – well, you are in the wrong position, and at the wrong company.
I can be a total ass at work when I think we are doing customers wrong. And yes – that does not please everyone. But it pleases my customers – and that pleases me.
My job isn’t to make the company happy, after all. My job is to make customers happy.
And I am “careful” – I am careful to make sure we actually tell customers the truth. I am careful that customers trust me because I have earned their trust. I am careful that the arguments I am making internally actually matter to customers – that I am fighting the right fights.
But I am not careful to keep my job – that would render me ineffective at my job.