The 2019 Test: Will You Pass?

“It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.”  Benjamin Franklin, American inventor 

I wasn’t a favorite of some teachers in grade school, because I got distracted easily (if there was someone passing notes in class, that was probably me) however I tested quite well. Though my report card generally had high grades, the comments section included things like “does not pay sufficient attention in class.” Arguably good grades were easier to achieve than good behavior. My adult hindsight hypothesizes that if I’d behaved better, the grades would have been better too.

Written and multiple choice tests aren’t the real tests. Here’s a “grown-up 2019 list” of the tests we should be passing with flying colors.

  1. The skill test. There is no substitute for salient, contemporary skills. Hyper-acceleration means persistent upskilling and reskilling. You own your career and never has it been more important to curate your knowledge and experience. And don’t be stingy with your skills. Coach and mentor others.
  2. The headline test. Words matter.  Whether spoken or written, would you want your words on the headline of a local, regional or national news outlet ? Published on LinkedIn or Twitter? We may have grammar and spell check available, but we don’t have inaccuracy and rudeness check (not yet, anyway). 2019tests
  3. The mirror test. When you look in the mirror, does an ethical person look back at you? There is no substitute for your reputation, and that means treating others with dignity and respect. We know where the gray areas begin and hard lines are drawn. If your gut and/or your company’s policy manual says it is wrong, then it is. We’ve all witnessed the falls from grace and the suddenly empty offices, whether public or quiet. Presumably nobody starts their career wanting to have their name spoken in horrified & hushed tones.
  4. The “company you keep” test. We can’t choose our parents, but we can choose our colleagues. We don’t have to like the people we work with, but mutual respect is important. This can be a challenging test – items 1-3 are largely within our own control. This one is more challenging; there is probably no sizable workplace that is going to get an A+ on this test.  The important thing is to be the company you’d like to keep, and making conscious choices about others’ company.
  5. The leadership test. Leading is not indicated by a title or a box on an organization chart. Leading is setting the example and paving the way by passing tests 1 – 4.

In these tests, it is up to us to set the passing grade; the bar by which we want to be measured and perceived.

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” Warren Buffett, American businessman 

Worth considering:

What are the reasons and cautionary tales around Apple’s falling stock? Though trade tensions with China are cited as a key root cause, critics say that Apple’s last true innovation was the iPhone, and has simply been iterating ever since. The Apple imbroglio is the latest tale of the acceleration of innovation & disruption. I’ve been an iPhone user since some colleagues had to pry my Blackberry out of my hands. The Blackberry was an innovation in the late 90s; it lost its market share to Apple’s iPhone. Now I suspect most millennials barely know what a Blackberry is or was. This story is one played over and over. Blockbuster & Netflix. Borders & Amazon. I’m rooting hard for AAPL but … will Apple & [insert your best guess here] be what we’re discussing in a few years?

A large but often ignored risk businesses face is not technology-driven disruption, but failing to address ineffective, aging processes that are barriers to healthy operations, never mind innovation. One change the C-suite can and should embark upon immediately if not already is stop annual and multi-year planning. As this Information Week article points out “… Trying to guess a five-year technology roadmap is kind of comical now. You want to have a vision with a high-fidelity six months and a lower fidelity 18 months.”

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