Start Me Up

Habits become us.

I’ve just taken the next step in my career. Throughout my worklife I’ve been very fortunate working with incredibly intelligent and creative people. Starting with P&G, then Dell, Apple and The Home Depot, I found people with passion and conviction and determination. Most of them turned out to be nice as well.

And now I proudly work for VMware, the world leader in virtualization. I’m not sure I could have had a better career arc. I’m a lucky man.

Some habits have served me well as I migrated from role to role in these august companies. I share them with you in the hope they may spark some thoughts for your own path.

Every morning I think three things as I idle my way to the office: positive, open and respectful. Its almost a mantra with me, and yes, I use it when I’m stressed or feeling off my game during the day to stay centered. Staying centered in a busy work a day world is a big deal.

  • Be Positive – the work world is full of creative people, yet we also see strange behavior and unuscrupled practice. Don’t become this. Modern media holds that being dark, cynical and snarky is not only okay but in fact good. Its not. After thirty years of managing human resources I can tell you this is the tip of a very bad iceberg: left untended this behavior will sink you, not ships. There is so much to be positive about, so much yet to be discovered, tried, modified, changed, invented. The world needs positivity and so do your workmates. Truly being positive will change not only how you see the opportunities and challenges in front of you – it will change how others see you.
  • Be Open – in the first few days at a new firm we are open to everything because we have no framework: we don’t know who is whom. Yesterday I said hi to a stranger in the break room: an hour later he was fixing a sticky telephone problem for me. With a smile. I opened the door for another man in the am, and moments later met a VP of sales who gave me some tips on getting off to a good start. That’s synchronicity. That’s being open to meeting others where they are. Being open can fade if we let it – we find our routines much as we find our standard path to the office. Challenge this, fight this. Be open to meeting and working with people wherever they are, and watch your network and influence grow not through power but through likability.
  • Be Respectful – you don’t know anyone else’s journey. Nothing turns us off faster than the new hire who says, well, when I was in Kansas… We don’t give a damn about the past: we’re here and now. Respect that, respect that we are in a new dynamic and we need all hands on deck. From the chance parking lot encounters to the conference calls with voices from around the world respect your new work mates. Their journey and yours have come together in the present moment. Dealing with people in a professional yet respectful manner will do more to build your knowledge and resources than anything else. And you don’t have to diminish yourself to respect others. Respect counts on your first day all the way through to your last.

You can just as easily acquire and practice good habits as bad. As you make your own path through the career jungle then why not find some habits that well serve you well on your journey?

The difference between an average and extraordinary career just might come down to a few simple habits.


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