One time, when I was working for some global company, there was a gentleman from Nigeria who was well known and highly respected in our field and function within the global group.
For purposes of this article, we will call him Femi. In many teleconferences and video conferences, his name was mentioned in one way or another. And yet, very interestingly, this gentleman was born, raised and educated in Nigeria and at the time, he was a manager in his home country. Given the kind of ‘corporate stature’ that he had built for himself, Femi was promoted and moved to the global headquarters within a few years.
The frequency at which his name got mentioned increased even further, with his proximity. One time, in a teleconference, one lady switched the phone to ‘mute’ state and asked: “Team, who is this Femi? I keep hearing about him – he sounds like a person whose presence is everywhere.” This question endorsed what I had also previously observed and this in turn triggered the curiosity in me to find out more about this interesting observation and trend.
Being a fellow African in a function of a couple of hundreds of people gave me the opportunity to know him well and better. At the next team building workshop, I was able to ask him why ‘his name was everywhere – what was the secret?” He smiled and said that he didn’t know why!
This column seeks to answer the question “How can one become a Femi – a towering figure and source of authority in one’s field, respected by all that know the person?” The answers will be based on both my close observation of Femi when we worked together and also the further observations and experiences that I have encountered in the four years since Femi and I parted.
First, make sure that you rapidly master your stuff. Continuously work on relating the theory that you know about your job and the practical side. Each side of the equation is not adequate on its own to make you expert and respected. You need both if you are to become a commanding authority in your field.
The best way of getting a unified combination of the two is by advancing both channels of knowledge simultaneously. Many of us at work forget about and don’t want anything to do with the theory that we learnt in school or college. Yet the best experts are those who periodically go back to the theory they had learnt, occasionally consult new books and sometimes sign up for new and advanced courses, including the on-line ones these days.
Second is the obvious one—hard and smart work. Work fiercely hard. Be a fan and lover of hard work. If you master your stuff and combine it with hard work, you will inevitably become the best towering figure in your field and in your function. Ensure that you combine hard and smart working lifestyles. This way, your output will be of biggest quantity and best quality.
Third is impact on others. You may know the best and work the hardest but if you cannot impact on other people, you will not be recognised and won’t go far. You can impact others while remaining humble. Some of the good ways of exerting impact include teaching and coaching new and junior members of your function.
You can also have impact by solving the toughest problems that your boss or team faces. You can achieve impact by supporting those who are struggling with their work and projects. You can exhibit impact by having a ‘real open door policy’ for those who need to seek your help on matters that you are the master of.
If you master your stuff, work extremely hard and smart and if you impact others, you are likely to become another ‘Femi’. You will have built a towering corporate stature for yourself. Good luck as you rise and shine!