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Home > Audio, Podcast, Show > Archive – Keep your head in the game

Archive – Keep your head in the game

September 16th, 2012

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Spring is here, and I am finding myself at the ball field each weekend for Little League practices and games. In fact, as I write, my son Joe is catching for his team. Watching a group of 7-9-year-olds struggle with the fundamentals of a game can be very enlightening. You quickly begin to see parallels between new ball players and new high-tech careerists. Using sports metaphors in business is a bit cliché, especially for someone as un-athletic as myself, but writers continue to use them because, sometimes, they are most appropriate.

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One message I try to reinforce repeatedly with my son is the need to “keep your head in the game,” even when he is in the dugout. There is much to be learned from observing the game – probably equal to actually playing the game. If you don’t know the situation of game when you come up to bat, or you have lost track while playing right field, you are more likely to be surprised or make errors of judgment. The same is also true for business. It doesn’t matter how junior a position you might hold in your company, you need to be paying attention to all levels of your business. You should be aware of the actions of your co-workers, your supervisor’s relationships with their managers, your manager’s relationships with executives and even the actions, goals and plans of your CEO.

On the baseball field this might translate into knowing how many outs there are, where the next play is and who is next at bat. Just like in business, though, many distractions can leave you wondering just what is going on. It is up to you to actively re-focus on the game whenever you feel yourself wandering. There are a number of ways to do this.

Do you read news stories about your company? How about memos from upper management? Are you aware how your supervisors and managers interact with one-another? Which relationships work? Which have rough edges that cause day-to-day problems? You might think that paying such close attention might distract you from your work, but, instead, it can help you to be more effective. The more information you have about your company and the strategies being promoted, the more you can independently support those strategies in your daily work.

In the worst case scenario, where you are only interacting with your co-workers and immediate supervisors, your lack of knowledge about the state of business outside your department can threaten your career. Imagine a situation where, for whatever reason, your supervisor is unclear about their role or actively trying to thwart policies from upper management. If you don’t keep your head in the game, you might not realize there is a problem until your supervisor, and your entire department is fired. If you are aware of what is happening outside your department, you can try to insure that your work is meeting the overall corporate needs, even if your immediate supervisor is unaware or uncaring.

If you stay engaged in the “game”, not only can you protect your position, you can also learn a lot. You might be a manager yourself some day. Why not learn all you can now? How does your manager deal with their staff? How do they deal with upper management? Would you do the same? What would you change? We can learn from both good and bad examples. Just because you might be an entry-level support technician, it doesn’t mean that you can’t start to imagine what you career might be like in a few years. In fact, the future success of your career depends on it.

If you are not paying attention on the baseball field, you can easily get smacked with a hot line drive that you never saw coming. You don’t want to be blindsided in business, either. Being engaged in your work and your company is the best way to avoid this. So, at the risk of overloading this column with too many baseball metaphors – keep your head in the game, know how many outs there are and who might be the next player ”put on waivers.” If you can stay focused, even with all the distractions that day-to-day business brings, your career “game” is sure to benefit.


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