What can you do better than anyone else–in your department, in your organization or in the country? I ask that question in corporate trainings, presentations, and job interviews. The answers I receive are wide-ranging, but topping the list of frequency are, “I’m great with people,” I’m
an advocate for others,” or my all-time favorite, “I’m really, really nice!”
BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ [Wrong Answer!]
Those answers are not distinguishing attributes or skills; everyone thinks they have those traits. More than likely, you may not be significantly better than anyone else, and as an employer and leader, I’m looking for new talents that complement and augment our team. “Next candidate, please”
Reflect on Allende’s thought for a moment. What makes you legendary? Can you identify something you do–a skill that you perform three times better than any of your colleagues? Do you have a talent or gift that clearly sets you apart? If the answer is no, then what is to stop someone from replacing you? What makes you a “Linchpin” for your organization? What is it that makes you irrefutably indispensible?
When you are identifying your Super Power, consider that it makes little sense to do what everyone else does. You need to stand out–and not by just a little bit. Being marginally better goes unnoticed. Why? Because it is an implicit work expectation that you make adjustments, tweaks and improvements every day. If you produce a little faster, submit reports a little earlier, dress a little sharper, stay after work a little later, you may be seen as “better,” but those efforts are largely reproducible by everyone. If you want to be indispensible, “different” beats out “better” every time.
It’s not your boss or professor’s job to carve out your destiny–it is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY. In a world of bright lights and information overload, your niche and talent need to be brilliant to stand out. If you are satisfied with being
like everyone else and portray yourself as average, then that is all you will ever be. Don’t settle. Everyone has the capacity and potential to be amazing at something. It may take tremendous practice, effort and desire, but greatness is attainable by all.
Your ultimate goal should be to break away from the status quo. If you have not yet identified your unique talent and are unsure where to focus your efforts, consider these suggestions.
- Speak with your colleagues, friends, and supervisor and ask them to identify what you do better than anyone. I’ve asked my staff to describe my super power and have been amazed at the insightful (and, at times, hilarious) responses I’ve received. I even tried a Social Media Experiment and asked for feedback on facebook. See the results HERE.
- Pretend you are on Jeopardy and can pick any category for the final round. What would you choose? Middle Eastern Dance, Star Wars, Digital Culture, Shakespeare, Video Games, Famous Spanish Painters, Fitness and Nutrition? Your answer may help you explore, strengthen and leverage an existing passion that can be applied to your work.
- If you had only an hour to write a 5-page essay or develop a 10-minute speech on any topic without drawing on any resource other than your immensely capable brain, what would you write about?
Back to the interview question, “what do you do better than anyone else?” Here are some of the best answers I’ve heard with evidence and stories to support the claims:
Designing fabulous print materials
Creating promotional videos
Business and creative writing
Foreign language literacy
Developing and tweaking a spreadsheet
Using survey and assessment tools
Selling and promoting
*Tweet and share with your friends and share in our comments section what they think your Super Power is
Here’s one last question to consider. If you work for an organization that accepts and cultivates mediocrity and expects lock-step conformity from its staff, why are you staying? What legacy could you possibly create? Stagnant environments won’t excite or challenge you. Your skills will not develop and grow, and your value in the marketplace of jobs will decrease over time. If you find yourself in that position, I hope you’ll make the difficult, but imperative, decision to move on. You, and those you serve, deserve the benefits of your true untapped potential.
How well do you think our colleges and leadership programs support the notion of distinction and what consideration do you give it during the interview process?