According to wikipedia, greatness is being superior, majestic, transcendent, or divine. There are so many things that are great, described as being great (especially by me!) or have the epithet fairly or unfairly applied.

As ever, I’m intending to talk about ‘great’ as it applies to our work, our jobs, or even may be our career. There are great men and women out there, far beyond anything we are talking about here, so please dear reader keep that in mind over the next few paragraphs!

Firstly, why be great anyway? Why bother? Is there any point? Well, as the old saying goes, if you have to ask the question I suppose the answer doesn’t matter to you anyway. But in the case of everyone else, there are usually two reasons I can think of.

The first is that you need to be great to improve your position at work, get promoted, get a pay rise and things like that. In the second case, and in the case of most of the ‘great’ people I have worked with, you are great because you can’t help it! There’s nothing for it but for you to excel. To be the best may be, or more likely, to just do more of whatever it is you love, and do it better than everyone else.

The latter drive is very interesting isn’t it? Sometimes it’s not even a conscious thing. Plenty of people I would consider ‘great’ would be appalled if I described them as such in their hearing. And generally, the expertise they have is such a part of their personality it’s impossible to separate the ‘great’ from their normal day-to-day behaviour.

Reason one is where I think we can pay some attention in this post. How do we, us, become great, in order to advance at work and in our careers. For me there are three routes to greatness:

1) Do the thing YOU are good at, to the extreme. Focus on the specific part of the job you enjoy the most, or you have the most natural aptitude for. Try and influence every other part of what you do, through this ‘talent’. Develop it, and nurture it. Recognise it for what it is. Don’t be embarrassed about it! Tell people you have it, and maximise on it.

For me, for instance, taking the client’s brief was the best part of the job. I’m good at it, and when done correctly, taking a great brief can prise open the most cautious of advertisers budgets. The client appreciates the process more (in my opinion) and in terms of advertising, it makes for more successful campaigns.

In radio terms (or any media sales) you might also be driven by the ‘brief take’. I concentrated on my activity levels by looking for more brief takes. New business activity was simply about finding people to take briefs from that I had never spoken to before. See what I mean?

2) Learn. FAST! Study, learn and practice at every opportunity. Read around your subject. In Radio sales? You need to be the best informed radio seller in your market. You need to be a marketing expert when everyone else is just hawking spots. You need to offer your client a unique expertise, unavailable to them anywhere else in your market place.

As a young account manager, I put myself through a degree level qualification in marketing and a post-graduate level qualification. This might be the best route for you too. If I am going to advise people on what to do with their hard-earned marketing budget, I am going to make sure that I am qualified to do it.

3) Copy someone who is great. They are around us, everywhere we look. A peer maybe, a person that has recently moved on from your organisation, maybe its the person that is your current manager, and they did your job before being promoted themselves. Copy someone from history, someone from literature, even someone from a non related discipline. What do they do? How do they do it? How do they talk? How do they act? What type of client do they see? What techniques do they employ? Where do they get help?

After a few minutes of thinking this way, there will be a whole load of questions you can come up with yourself. Questions for this paragon of sales virtue. Or questions for someone who is virtuous in whatever fashion you may aspire to. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and as an added benefit, you’ll grow in your job, and as a person too.

There must be other ways to consider that will help you to be great, but for me, these three simple and easy to understand ideas have always been at the forefront of my thinking as regards my personal development and career progression. Hopefully they will help you too!

  1. John
    John says:

    A great blog Tony. People who are great at something tend to care about that something very much. It might be a natural move on their part, but we are all become what we are, often by watching people who are not so great. I have lost count of the times I have said in my youth that if I ever made it into management, I would never treat people like so…

    We are all a mixture of the people we meet, the experiences we have and the values we hold dear. I have never met anyone who set out to be great, but I have met many who become great because they care about people first. There is no point being wonderful if you cannot share the talent you have with other people

  2. damiandowling
    damiandowling says:

    Thanks John, great points.
    I think I’ve also learned from people that I hoped I’d never become! Especially as a manager, and I love the sentiment that we can become great because you care about people first!
    Thanks, as always, for taking the time to contribute