While on a flight for a business trip, I watched a sports documentary about an LA-based community college men’s basketball team. The Netflix program, Last Chance U, provides an interesting perspective regarding the challenges faced by players who are aspiring to reach a higher level in collegiate sports.
During a practice session, the fiery 46-year-old coach is upset that some of the players are putting on a show by trying to look good instead of focusing on the fundamentals of basketball.
The coach quickly halts practice and yells: “Stop putting on a show … Just win the game!”
Instead of trying to look good by doing too much, the coach is stressing the importance of teamwork, execution, and patience.
Stick to the Basics
The coach’s message to the players resonated with me. When I was first hired at Shell Oil Company in Houston, I was ready to make my mark. I was committed to being the best, and I wanted to “show-off” to my manager.
After just a few months in my position as a Revenue Accountant, I realized that my manager simply wanted me to be good at my job. She wanted a reliable person who learned fast and who was willing to accept additional challenges.
I had a totally different mindset. I made it a habit to arrive at work by 7 a.m., and I often left the office after 6 p.m. I was working the longest hours of anyone in my department, but it was getting me nowhere. At the 6-month mark, several of my team members who were onboarded at the same time as me, received public recognition.
I did not. I was trying to be flashy, and no one cared.
Within 8 months, I was part of the 10% of people who were selected for a package. This meant that I was given 3-months-pay and shown the exit sign.
A New Start
The Shell experience was a tough one for me. This was my first job out of college, and I had failed miserably.
In retrospect, this lesson was just what a 23-year-old aspiring CEO needed. As I ponder my time at Shell, I realize today that the timing was bad for me. I was not ready for corporate work. More importantly, I had the wrong mentality regarding how to make a positive impression.
More than three decades have passed since that time. I now have a much better mindset about how to succeed in business.
Here are my recommendations:
- Make sure you are a good fit for the company you select.
- Ensure you are a good listener and understand the work expectations.
- Even when you do not agree with your manager and co-workers, do what you can to look at the situation from their angle.
- Be comfortable with yourself, and be the first one to admit when you are wrong.
However, even when we do things right, setbacks will happen. This is just part of the game.
In the Last Chance U program, the coach shared advice with a stressed player.
He said, “You are bothered by the unknown, and you are looking for peace. Reach out to God, and He will give you that peace.”
By embracing this peace, there is no need to show off but to simply put forth your best effort in the job that lies ahead.