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It's What You Learn After You Know It All

Our breadth of work as we go about our days is always limited by our knowledge and our abilities. Much like growing up as a kid playing sports, our playing time was based upon and on our ability, the coach thought we had to help win the game. Sports has a unique way of typically bringing to light the level of competence and ability to “fill the role” expected of the person in a certain position. And when push comes to shove, 80% or more of coaches put a product on the field or court in which they think those selected people can “do the job” and win the game. But in certain instances, as player development continues, we see others step in, step up, rise to the challenge, and compete or even take a starting spot. But they “got the shot” based on the coaches believing based on what they have been seeing, that this kid may be able to rise to the challenge or occurs as the player in front of them “goes down” with an injury. We see others fall back as they may not have the heart or desire, or may not have the talent to compete at that level.

In business, we do the exact same thing. People are often promoted up to “The A-Team” given their success at their current position, and given a chance to play at a higher level. Some survive and thrive while others may fail miserably. And in 1960, Peter and Raymond Hall introduced a thought process they coined The Peter Principle. The Peter principle is a concept in management developed by Laurence J. Peter, which observes that people in a hierarchy tend to rise to their "level of incompetence". In other words, an employee is promoted based on their success in previous jobs until they reach a level at which they are no longer competent, as skills in one job do not necessarily translate to another. We see this all too often in corporate America, Academia, and Government.

We also see this in the small business world and in entrepreneurship. Businesses come and businesses go based on the founder's ability to make them survive, thrive, and grow of which is this is 100% based on the competence of the individual or the team. Tangible competence in finances, marketing, operations, communication, tactics, and leadership, and intangible competence in sense of purpose or knowing your “why”, telling your story, long vision of time, establishing the right culture, self-awareness, amongst other things.

You see, on November 24, 2006, I had reached the level of my competence on a day when we needed two people to stay after 12 pm, which was after closing that day, to finish up some lab sample testing work. And our awesome people couldn’t decide how that would work, along with a little drama, and I exploded in anger saying some things to them, that a leader who had reached his level of competence and abilities, should not have been said. My ability to properly communicate to them the needs of the organization and inspire them to put in a little extra work was over my ability and level of talent, and I failed.

The key being, I understood I had reached the limit of my capabilities, and that was a turning point of understanding I had to learn more on almost every aspect of leading a business and people. I had to “stretch my rubber band”. Because if I didn’t, I knew I would fail, and in failing, would fail “my people” and fail a business that had mouths to feed. The key is learners create the world for the learned. The key is it’s what you learn after you know it all, as John Maxwell says. We will advance to our maximum level in life and leadership to the level of our competence and ability. Keep raising your level. Keep raising your bar to your highest level of excellence possible so you can be put in the game of life and leadership to help your team win!

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