There's a reason why superheroes succeed at the box office these days. Who doesn't fantasize about having superpowers to lift them above the harsh reality of unemployment or of working at a downsized company where one worker does the job of many?
"Being Superman would be pretty cool. Just the fact of being able to fly, avoiding the hassle of airport security," says Mike Patterson. However, he adds, "Batman is a more relatable character. You can't be an effective leader with only one tool, just like Batman can't be an effective crime-fighter with only one tool. His Bat-belt is filled with a whole bunch of tools. He is a great one to use because he is a real person. Unlike the other superheroes who were either born with or developed special powers, he trained and worked hard."
For author Mike Patterson, working hard is especially key to Generation Y, or as he likes to call them, the "I need-it-now" generation. His insightful book, 'Promotions Are Not Served At The Deli Counter,' uses clever analogies to assist younger workers in setting themselves up for a meaningful career. Patterson elaborated on some of his Gen-Y career strategies, in an interview with AOL.
Q. Why did you write this book?
A. I have found, through my 11 years of training, coaching, and speaking with employees, most want to be successful and promotable at work. It seems many aren't really sure what they should do in order to put themselves in a position for promotion. Also, I have seen a growing sense of entitlement displayed by more and more employees. They want to be promoted just by showing up and giving minimum effort. I wanted to write a book which reaches out to both sets of employees.
Q. Why is it especially pertinent to the generation now entering the work force?
A. The tips in the book are really pertinent to employees of all generations -- but the generation graduating high school and college, Gen Y, has been labeled with so many nicknames for a reason. Technology like the internet, iPods, and DVRs has made everything instantaneous. Gen Y isn't accustomed to waiting for anything; they expect instant gratification. This mindset has toppled over to the business world as well. Plus there is the issue of rewarding this generation for just showing up.
Q. Your analogies are hilarious, starting with the title, 'Promotions are not Served at the Deli Counter' and chapters like, "If you want the Fair Way, look for the Golf Course," etc.; how do you come up with them and what do they mean?
A. Thanks. I love analogies ... a good analogy can bridge the gap between what the audience already knows and understands, and the message I am trying to get across. "If you want the fair way, look for the golf course" means it's not always fair at work. Your perception of what is fair usually will have more to do with whether you benefited from a decision, rather than the actual facts involved.
The "deli counter" story talks about the sense of entitlement some employees have. At the deli counter, you have a place in line. You know when it's your turn, and when it is, you place your order and get exactly what you want. That's great. Unfortunately, in the real world, there is no "next in line," and you need to work hard to get what you want. Nobody hands it to you by just asking.
Q. You talk in one chapter about how "most people want to be a champion, but few want to prepare to be a champion." Is that more true for today's generation?
A. I think it's a true statement that crosses generations. A colleague of mine, Al Walker, who is a tremendous speaker, recently gave me a quote to use: "We judge ourselves by our intentions; the world judges us by our results." That's pretty profound, and also pretty accurate.
You have to put in a lot of hard work to be successful. In the book I talk about sacrifices; the bigger the goal, often the bigger the sacrifice. Think about someone who wants to lose 20 pounds in time for spring. We all know losing weight requires burning off more calories than we consume. However, exercising enough to burn off those calories is hard; so is giving up the sweets and fatty foods that taste so good and are easy to eat.
That's why people spend billions on weight loss products. They are looking for the shortcut to the goal. They want the rewards without all the work.
Q. You also use the expression from author Zig Ziglar who said, "Some people brighten a room just by walking into it. Other people brighten a room just by walking out." What kind of people are you talking about?
A. A lot of individuals coming out of high school and college are interviewing for entry-level positions. These jobs require basic skills, so having a positive personality and being "likeable" are attributes that are going to help land you the job. If you are looking for a job interacting with the public, then those qualities are even more important.
On average, we spend more waking hours Monday through Friday with the people we work with, than the people we live with. It helps if you like and get along with your colleagues at work. We all know people at work we can't wait to get in and see. Also, we all know people who we hope called in sick today.
When I use Zig's quote in my presentations, most of the time everybody laughs. They know the people I am talking about, the "negaholics."Sometimes, I have one or two people in the audience who don't laugh. That's because those are the people we are talking about!
Q. Finally, you mention a book called, 'The Dog Poop Initiative.' How does it relate to a worker's life?
A. 'The Dog Poop Initiative' is a children's book by Kirk Weisler. I keep a copy at my desk at work. It tells a story about a guy who takes his son to a soccer game. When he gets there, everyone is talking about a pile of dog poop in the middle of the field. So the guy finds a box and a stick and he goes on the field and cleans it up. It's another analogy that I love so much.
In life, there are pointers and scoopers. The pointers are good at pointing out problems, complaining, and gossiping to others. The scoopers find solutions. When it comes time for promotions, managers look for the scoopers.
Of course, there is another analogy you can make about having to deal with crap at work, but you have to watch your audience before you tell that one.
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