I was watching CyberChase a PBS Kids program (with my 5 year old). In one of the skits (CyberChase for Real) they do at the end of each episode, Harry (played by Mathew Wilson) was looking for a job. He wonders,
I can play didgeridoo while riding a unicycle but I do not see anyone hiring for that.
Later he tries out for the job of handing out menus for a sandwich shop while wearing one of those larger than life tomato costumes. Finding low conversion rate (or high bounce rate) he starts by analyzing the menu. Harry concludes that the sparse menu, listing just four sandwiches, was the reason for low conversion rate. He spruces it up by enumerating all possible sandwiches based on meats, toppings and bread types. As he hands out the new menu with 60 different sandwiches, the conversion rate goes through the roof. Harry’s boss was happy with all the business.
If we stopped the story here one could be absolved for treating this as a case study of applying, data, analytics and experimentation to add business value and the employee getting rewarded for it.
Alas, that was not the case. The sandwich shop owner walks out and says,
You did a good job driving lot of customers to the store but we want lot more marketing than someone just standing with tomato costume and handing out flyers. We hired a guy who can wear the tomato costume and play didgeridoo while riding a unicycle. Please hand-in your costume.
That is sad but not totally unrealistic ending to the story.
To start with Harry did not tell his manager about what he is capable of and how all his different skills can add value to the business. Next, when he saw a problem with menu design he went ahead and fixed it. He did not tell his boss about his methods or results. The hope (we can only surmise) was that “Great work will speak for itself”, which as Harry and we found out later was not the case.
This is the number one myth listed in the book, “Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It“. In this very well written book, author Peggy Klaus, makes a convincing case for the importance of letting the world know what you are made of, your accomplishments and how having you in a team is valuable to that team.
You can assign blame on the boss for not taking the time to know her employees, what they are capable of, how to effectively engage them and finally reward them for their accomplishments. That is leadership failure. In the long term such lack of leadership will affect any organization and hopefully such bad bosses would be cast aside. But in the short term, it is you who suffer from your failure (or reluctance) to make your value proposition and your failure to position yourself in the minds of your “customers”.
If you do not position yourself someone else will and to your detriment.
If you can play didgeridoo while riding a unicycle and crunch multivariate regression at the same time – Go Brag! Let the world know.
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