There once was a great and powerful man. He had earned more riches than most from buying and selling the things that people wanted and needed to seem fulfilled in life. On the day of his death, gasping for the last ounces of life, he learned that his only brother, who had died years before, bore a son in his younger years. Since the rich man was married to his job, he had no time to meet a wife or have children of his own. Ultimately, he would have no one to leave his massive fortune to. On that somber Sunday, just before his life was to be no more, he ordered the executor of his will to leave it all, every single penny, to his nephew; a man whom he had never met.
The unsuspecting nephew was well-respected and, over the years, had earned his job as an operator in the shipyard. The news of his impending inheritance came to him on the following Monday afternoon. Being a man of modest means and high integrity he woke up on Tuesday and worked through the day with a heavy mind. He loved his job but the reality was that he was only a few years away from retiring anyway. On Wednesday morning he finally made up his mind to use his long lost uncle’s money to launch him into retirement. That morning he went to his supervisor and made his intentions known. Refusing to leave without honorably working out a 2-Week notice, the next 14 days set the stage for everyone on the shipyard to solicit for his soon to be vacated position.
The shipyard supervisor was an experienced manager. He had hired and fired hundreds of employees throughout his career. However, he had never filled the position of a retired millionaire operator! Unexpected circumstances, whether due to tragedy or opportunity, had prompted him into filling quickly vacated position before. This one still seemed different. No one could have imagined that the millionaire nephew would be so fortunate. No one had their eyes set on his job just yet because he should have worked for another five years. No one thought that being impressive mattered right now. The shipyard supervisor was sad to be losing a valued and hardworking employee, but he was even more saddened at the fact that none of his remaining employees had cared to perform as though someone’s rich dead uncle would be able to give them a shot at a better tomorrow.
I made up this fable like story to prove a point---
Work hard each and every day, leaving nothing about your work ethic unanswered to those you answer to because you never know when someone’s rich uncle is going to die!
Organizations of all sizes pit us against each other when it comes to promotion and opportunity. The dangers of competing for positions in any organizations are that they typically only occur with conventional attrition in mind. For example, if you know that someone is retiring in two years you may subconsciously think to yourself that the time to shine for your supervisors is next year. Or if you know that a co-worker in a higher ranking position than yourself is on a slippery slope and is at a high risk to lose their job you may step up a little to show off for you superiors. But what if the person decides to retire early or the slippery slope takes the poorly performing employees sooner than anticipated? Where do you stand then?
Bear Bryant, the beloved and famed college football coach, taught his players a similar lesson after a loss in the 1965 Orange Bowl. A call from one of the officials was overturned by the head referee on a quarterback sneak into the end zone. As time expired, Alabama star Joe Namath was pulled from the bottom of the pile only to see the head official signaling for a Texas first down. The team was devastated. Walking off the field somebody from the crowd yelled to Bryant, “Coach, we scored!” Bryant was not much for splitting hairs on matters like this and sternly responded, “If Joe walks in, there would have been no question about it.” The wisdom in Coach Bryant’s response can teach us all something about making ourselves the clear choice for those around us during situations of self-promotion.
Sitting back, idly by, convincing yourself that now isn’t the time to put forth the effort that “might” get you recognized or “could” get you promoted are signs that any supervisor will be wary of. When transporting extremely wanted criminals from place to place a device called a Sally Port is used. The operation of a Sally Port is simple, two synchronized gates trap the prisoner transport vehicle in a corral to hinder any type of break out or escape. Sitting in the Sally Port can take seconds or hours depending on the extent of the vehicle inspection. As the rear gate closes the car is trapped, but it is only when this gate is closed that the other gate can open for the vehicle to proceed out of the secure facility. We aren’t prisoners, and my intent is to build a connection with the Sally Port’s operation and not its intended use. However, being the best employee everyday while leaving no room for anyone to question your ability and commitment is like sitting in the Sally Port waiting on the exit gate to slide open. To the contrary, some employees will miss out on opportunities because they think opportunity is just one open door away, when in reality the first door opens the moment you decide to make yourself the best employee you can be.
Working hard is hard work. Years can go by sitting in the confines of the Sally Port. But remember, the best opportunities often present themselves to those who prepare. Don’t leave any score to be contested and try your best to walk into the end zone with everything you do because you never know when someone’s rich uncle is gonna die!
Poor Dead Uncle,