Let’s say you’re a shortstop. And let’s further say that you play Major League Baseball.
So that means you’re pretty good at what you do. In fact, you probably make a couple million dollars a year playing baseball.
And yet you have zero job security.
Yep, after all those Little League games, and all those hours in the batting cages, and weeks upon weeks of games – keeping your job is not a sure thing.
Because any player can be traded to any other team at any time.
One day you’re playing with the Oakland A’s and it’s your bobblehead day – then you’re called into the office only to be told you’re going to be a Toronto Blue Jay tomorrow. No bobblehead.
One day you’re here, and the next day you’re there.
How does a baseball player do that? How does he go from playing his heart out on a team Tuesday, and playing his heart out for another team on Wednesday?
I was thinking about that. Maybe he doesn’t.
Maybe a ball player focuses less on what team he’s on and more on the skills he has.
Maybe he thinks more like a shortstop than as a Yankee.
That’s not to say he doesn’t high-five everyone in the dugout after a grand slam. Or he doesn’t work on swing mechanics with the rookie. Or doesn’t care about the pennant.
I bet he does.
But he cares about being a great shortstop more.
What can we learn from the attitude of baseball players? What can we make of this emphasis on skills over team?
Over the years, I’ve coached so many people who stay stuck in work that they’ve outgrown, or roles that no longer inspire them. Why? Because they identify – maybe over-identify – with their team. They “get” their co-workers. They know all the rules. They like their golf shirt with the company name neatly embroidered over their heart.
In their quiet moments, they ask themselves, “What if this is as good as it gets?”
And, of course, employers love to talk about team and belonging to the larger organization as one big family. Which is awesome until you’ve been there for fourteen years and get reorganized right out of your position.
You know it happens. A lot.
So, what if we threw a change-up? What if, instead of saying “I work at Google”(or “I am Google!”), we say, “I am a marketing expert and I currently work at Google”?
What if the belongingness so many of us crave was found in our professions rather than in organizations?
[I hear HR VPs around the world grinding their teeth, don’t you?]
If we owned our skill set as a constant and let our employer be a variable , then it would be easier to have fluidity in our careers. We could always be on the lookout for the best possible place to use the best of what we’ve got. To seek out opportunities to play precisely the game we want to play.
I imagine we’d feel a lot more freedom and a whole lot less “I have to do what I hate or I’m going to get fired.”
You never say that when it doesn’t matter what team’s name is on your jersey. You don’t worry about it when the only thing that matters is how you field the ball.
Own your skills. Lead with your strengths. And keep your eye on the ball as you homer it over the left field fence.