While I like to think my personality is both delightful and charming, occasionally it seems people think I’m just being a rebel. Sightings happen both in my personal and professional life and although I am not always consistent with my demeanor I certainly don’t try to be difficult - at least all the time. So here are my tips on how you can be a rebel just like me.
#1 Be right. One could soften this and simply striving to be only opinionated but I don’t think that completely nails it; you must confidently and consistently be right. I normally (there are exceptions) mull things over privately for a long time. I play devil’s advocate with myself, try to see things impartially, view a situation from many different angles, reflect on what I’ve observed thus far and anticipate what might happen. Then I take a position. And once I’ve taken a stand I require solid reasoned argument to refute it. There are many times I can recall of admitting my error but I can also recount many far many more times where I stood alone and to this day know I was dead right.
#2 Ask people to pick. I’ve noticed this issue most frequently with managers I’ve worked for in my professional life. Very often in business you are faced with competing priorities and limited resources. My strategy for these situations has been to reassess goals and choose the objectives which can be achieved while deliberately choosing to not work those which are not achievable. More often than not, you have to pick, and it seems people don’t always like to have to do that. And worse, some have the habit of reminding me of the things not accomplished to which I remind them we made a conscience choice to not do them.
#3 Work for the company, not your boss. While we are on the topic of work, one of my favorite pieces of advice given to me during a performance review was, “Mike, remember you work your boss, not the company.” He was right but I have never been able to fully digest this concept. I always go back to “what would the shareholders think?” Being a manager is no assurance of right-minded thinking, clairvoyant nature nor sound decision-making abilities; I know, I’ve been one. I’ve only worked for a few command and control type managers and thankfully for all parties affected it was short.
#4 Challenge conventional wisdom. In part due to the pace of modern life, to stay ahead of the pack it is an imperative to challenge conventional wisdom. I’d like to believe one of the reasons I have found a home in the technology industry is that the soul of this industry is about proving people wrong. The conventional wisdom is “it can’t be done” and all I can think is “like hell, watch this.” Go to nearly any meeting in corporate America and you can see the effectiveness of conventional thinking in action. Too often organizations do something based on the momentum of the group but I like to challenge commonly held beliefs.
#5 Playing the contrarian. It is not in my genes to be a lemming so instinctively I take to the opposite position of most groups. When there is optimism I can often be found to be pessimistic; where there is despair I’m the first to find hope. I don’t know why I’m like this, I just am. There is a method to my madness. I’d like to believe having protagonists in a group makes the group better.
So there’s my list. Do people think you’re a rebel too?