Recently, my friend Brett Trapp presented a keynote about leading with "outrageous care." He kicked off the talk with a true, incredibly detailed, and quite fascinating tale about a gentleman by the name of Oscar Elsas - an old mill owner from Atlanta dubbed "the worst boss ever" by Brett himself (though I think his mill workers would have agreed). You can see the talk HERE.
Oscar was the young, impudent son of an old, wealthy business man by the name of Jacob Elsas. Likely because of his posh upbringing, Oscar's bossiness was on another level. He schemed against his workers and plotted new ways to convince outsiders (even the US government) that he was running an efficient and humane workplace for his employees. He lied and cheated and outsmarted - all for a larger paycheck and luxurious lifestyle. The neighborhood now known as Cabbagetown to my fellow Atlantans, once reeked of poor, nasty, downtrodden mill workers desperate to keep their families from going hungry...all because of Oscar Elsas.
Oscar was a wretched man.
But what I loved about Brett's speech was his comparison of Mr. Elsas, the worst boss ever, to his personal experience with whom he reveres as 'the best boss ever.' What person acquired such a title? His name is Chris Carneal and Brett was his 3rd employee hired for his company, Boosterthon.
Booster now boasts over 500 employees in almost 50 states and Brett himself can be attributed to much of its success. And while his title has changed many times over his eleven years of service to the company, he ended his time there as Executive Vice President of Client Experience.
"Working for the man is not bad if the man is good."
Brett made this statement toward the end of his keynote and it struck me as profound; mainly because the idea of entrepreneurship and self-employment has become such a prominent desire for Millennials...myself included.
However, there is much to be said about buying into someone else's vision. Especially if that vision was birthed by someone who leads well and happens to make the world around them better than when they found it.
Michael Wear, author and former White House staffer under President Obama, recently said "There is, perhaps, nothing more counter-cultural today than commitment."
I think Michael is right. Millennials have an opportunity to overthrow the stereotypes of inconsistency and change the negative perception of working for "the man" while still being able to utilize creativity and entrepreneurship in their day-to-day jobs; regardless of who owns the company and signs the paycheck.
1) Ask really great questions.
Asking the right question is the new having the right answer. As you sit in meetings, ask leading questions that provoke conversations. Allow others to witness you thinking critically through potential scenarios and solutions that exist to major problems. And when the time is right, offer up valuable solutions with humility and grace.
2) Work as if the fate of the company lies on you doing a good job.
Somebody a lot smarter than me once said "a team is only as good as the sum of its parts." And it's true. If the majority of your brain power and creativity and focus is spent on something that is NOT the work you're paid to do from your employer, the healthiness of the company is at stake...especially if you're in a leadership role. Turn your attention to the details and give your guts to the mission of the organization. The more you give yourself to the mission and vision behind the work you do, the more likely you are to find passion to do it for someone else.
3) Seek out meaningful relationships.
Relationships formed with superiors is obviously beneficial to you, but the way you interact with and lead your peers can be even more impactful to your personal and professional growth. If you seek out the relationships with no ulterior motives, you could find yourself in really exciting and meaningful experiences. The key here is learning when and to whom to say yes and no. Choose wisely.
4) Be consistently creative.
Being creative is one thing, but being consistently creative by scheduling, prioritizing, and maintaining your creativity is critical. If you want to ensure you don't get burnt out at work, discover and schedule ways to be informed, inspired, and educated outside of your day job.
5) Do a great job.
With countless stories of people going viral and endless 'get rich quick' schemes available, many Millennials seem to think success comes overnight and with a loud parade in tow. While that is nice to believe in theory, the fact of the matter is that becoming successful (no matter how you measure it) takes a lot of work. So if you have to work hard to make a living (you do), you might as well make it your absolute best work possible. When you choose to make great work, people will notice and opportunity will soon be knocking.
My friend Brett worked on someone else's dream for almost 12 years. And if you asked him what made it worth it, he'd likely tell you the reward of community and consistency played a vital role in making it all the way to the end of his tenure there with dignity and respect from his superiors and peers.
And how he got there matters.
It is healthy to allow yourself the time to learn under the vision of someone else. The productive steps you take now in buying into and doing work to build something that is not your own will pay off immensely when (and if) the time comes to build something designed and dreamed up by you.