A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of listening to Max Long, President of Microsoft Canada as he addressed a group of MBA students and business executives at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of business. He offered some very valuable advice that I would like to share with the readers of this blog. With so many young people struggling to find work, or at least find work that is aligned with their career aspirations, Mr. Long shared some insights that resonated strongly with me.
Don’t Pay Attention to the Limitations that other people place on your Career Aspirations
Mr. Long’s first message was to not let other people define you and your career. If you believe that you have the skills and desire to achieve success in a particular area of interest, go for it. If you believe this is your true calling, don’t be deterred by the feedback of other people who might tell you that you will never be successful in sales or operations or law or wherever you seek to go in life.
Don’t work for a company that you are not passionate about
Mr. Long provided several good insights on this topic. One of his key points is that there is a need to differentiate between the boss and the company. If a person has a passion for the company but does not like the boss, stick it out. Bosses come and go. In mid to large-size companies, bosses get transferred and promoted.
If you don’t have a passion for the company, that is another story. A lack of passion will likely manifest itself in job performance. While most of us need to learn a living and cannot recklessly leave a job without having another one to go to, a lack of passion should be a trigger point to look elsewhere. Stay if you don’t like the boss but like the company; look elsewhere if you don’t like the company.
Seek Global Experience
Mr. Long, who is British and has worked for Microsoft (and other companies) in various parts of the world, highlighted the importance of working in various parts of the world. Obtaining global experience provides one with a breadth of perspectives and makes one a more effective and upwardly mobile resource. While travel may be more difficult as one gets older and has school age children and family obligations, it is particularly desirable early in one’s career.
Seek out and accept feedback from others
As a young person seeks to broaden one’s skill set, feedback is a critical component. Mr. Long encourages young people to seek out comments on how to handle themselves in different situations. The Microsoft President noted that as one advances in an organization, the amount of feedback one receives over time tends to diminish. Obtaining insights and criticisms at an early stage can speed up one’s learning curve. Mr. Long mentioned that he meets with his direct reports on a monthly basis and provides them with feedback during each session.
As one advances through an organization, one may gain the responsibility for the management of others. Mr. Long also advised the audience to become equally proficient at giving feedback to others. He emphasized the importance of learning how to do this effectively.
Seek Diversity in your Leadership Team
There is a danger for newly appointed managers to seek out people like themselves. The Microsoft President indicated that this is a mistake he made himself. Mr. Long emphasized the importance of recruiting people for your management or leadership team who bring different perspectives and skill sets. This will make the leader and the team more effective.
These are excellent lessons that I wish I had learned when I was a young MBA student. Kudos should go the Max Long for sharing these valuable insights and to the Rotman School of Business for running this valuable series of lectures.
To learn more valuable lessons from other industry leaders, come to the 2013 Surface Transportation Summit (www.surfacetransportationsummit.com ) on October 16. This year several CEOs will share their insights and lessons in the View from the Top track.
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