Manage your career like a professional athlete: 4 strategic lessons
[The old rules at work have been rewritten. Company loyalty is vanishing and competition has never been tougher. New rules call for a revised way of thinking, and Stephen M. Pollan and Mark Levine in Die Broke suggest a new role model:
Look to professional athletes. They do their best and are part of the team, but they’re primarily focused on getting the best financial deal they can. They know that their tenure with any one team is temporary—in their case for as long as their contract runs. And even with that contract, they accept they could be traded tomorrow to another team, or they could be cut from the squad or placed on waivers.
Having a good career is about responding to the current work environment and being one step ahead of your opponent.
What does that mean? Luckily we can look before we leap. We have the advantage of learning from star athletes and seeing how they navigate their career. The press reports many facets of the negotiations. Most importantly, we get details about the final contract they get to see if the plan was successful. Perhaps that means sports news can be good for your career
1. Thinking ahead One of the basic ideas in strategy is to think ahead and take actions now. It is not merely what we do now that matters, but how those actions will be viewed in the future. Actions that seem strange or inconsistent may make sense when properly analyzed.
Using a risky threat Threats can be a useful negotiating device. Usually you have to demonstrate credibility to be taken seriously, like a mobster who makes examples out of squealers. But in some cases, it is possible to make a threat believable without much effort. I call this idea a “risky threat,” a threat that poses little harm to you but could be a great harm to your opponent. Others will have little choice but to take the threat seriously.
A historical example can illustrate the idea. During the Cold War, the United States used the risky threat of nuclear retaliation as part of its foreign policy. It was a dangerous policy, but it was fairly successful. The reason was that other countries had to take the threat as a serious one. It would have been too risky to act otherwise.
When games are repeated, past actions are remembered and used to determine whether a player is trustworthy. Employees that constantly threaten to leave may earn the label of being disloyal. While this is somewhat unfair, there is some logic to it. Employers are hesitant about hiring job hoppers, worrying such employees might leave them abruptly. Reputation has an important connection with threats and must be considered. Managing reputation
Appearing unpredictable In some cases, the best move is to act randomly . If Cleveland knew LeBron was staying for sure, it could offer him less money. If other teams knew LeBron was leaving, they could also reduce bids knowing there is one less buyer. The best action is therefore to conceal the real motives and stay uncommitted.
In general, surprise can be a powerful idea and I suggest you consider it too. In the workplace, the translation is to keep your job search a secret and stay uncommitted to any one employer. Do not be afraid to have your company a little surprised when you leave. It is in your strategic advantage to do so.