Striving for #1

by Emily Jasper on April 26, 2011

When I decided to come back to school full-time, I didn’t think I would spend the next two years focusing on the job search. Yes, if I pause and think about the concept of taking myself out of the workforce, it follows that I would need to spend time finding my way back into the workforce. Since I suddenly have all this time to think about it, I’ve started thinking about what I really want in a career.

For example, I want to work on a team that wants to be the best. In our Organizational Behavior class, we had a preview into one of Jack Welch‘s GE programs in which he demanded each line of business needed to be either #1 or #2 in its industry or global market. If the line wasn’t going rise to the top (and especially if it wasn’t going to even try), Welch cut the business and moved on.

I know it’s not always possible to always be #1. It’s a pretty tough road to get there, and it’s even harder to maintain position once you’re the leader. However, what I admire most about Welch’s program was that he demanded the desire for excellence. If you didn’t want it, you had no business being at GE.

Everyone has different priorities. You could be on a team, all working for the same company and the same goal, and yet we know communication can break down because of priorities. Someone in the Finance department will want to find a different solution than the one proposed from the Operations manager or the Marketing director. While I have experienced friction because a cross-functional team couldn’t even speak the same business language, I have also found motivation plays a huge role in whether or not the team succeeds.

A way to overcome issues with conflicting priorities is pinpointing the driving motivation of the team. If you want to be #1 or #2, you will overcome conflicting priorities pretty fast. You don’t have time to argue among yourselves if a competitor is moving in quickly. You’ll work towards synchronization, increasing the amount of trust the team members have with each other and the ability to anticipate needs and changes. The team’s cohesion will also lead towards agility, being able to adapt quickly when markets require the shift.

If you want to be the best, you don’t let other things get in the way. However, if you’re happy with “good” or “meh,” then you’ll never get to that well-oiled machine phase. You’ll slog through projects, deal with people who are trying to out-position you, and have to put in a ton of mental energy just to maintain some balance. It might seem like a lot of work to be the best, but I imagine it’s even more work when the team isn’t motivated.

There are other things I want out of my future employment after graduation next year, but I don’t want to be in a position in which I’m the only one demanding excellence. I want an organization that will not only demand it of me, but inspire me to exceed those expectations.

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