You’re REALLY GOOD at something. You may be good at several things. You’re not good at everything.

Back in the ‘90s I learned to code. It started with basic SQL query language because that was my only way to extract spend data from Intel’s mainframe system. Yes, that system was green text on a black screen and extremely intimidating. It seemed like there was 25 steps to write the query, run the query, extract the query, import the file into XLS (that took several steps) and finally have quality spend data. But, I needed the data, so I mastered SQL.

A year later, I took a role as the procurement liaison to the Intel Architecture Labs. They were creating ridiculous ways to use computers. Today we think about IOT (internet of things), in the 90s, those engineers were imagining those applications and ensuring Intel silicon could/would support the proliferation. They gave me a server, internet server software and instructed me to create a procurement website. The rest of my job was pretty boring, so this gave me the opportunity to learn something new. That’s where I learned how to code websites. In those early days I started coding any procurement application I could think about. ReqCheck = what’s the status of my purchasing requisition? POCheck = status of my PO. Procurement savings database, and many others.

Because I was an expert at procurement operations and knowing what my business owners wanted (I kept track of the questions they asked me when they called numerous times per day), I was super good at figuring out what to build that would make work more automated and efficient.

So, as corporations do, Intel moved me from Procurement to IT. While I had a few of the more popular ‘intranet’ sites in the company, it didn’t take long to see that the IT developers were creating code entirely different than my approach.  Their code was more organized. Their code had good notes within the code in the right places. They created methods to test their code as they developed. It was clearly time for me to stop coding and let the professionals take over.

I have no doubt that I could have taken a career pivot and become a great developer. I’m really good at designing, building and solving problems. I often wish I had stayed on that path. But I didn’t. I spend the next 20 years focused on the business side and working hard to improve our people, process and systems.

Back at the project: As this week came to an end, I looked across our new little company and the solution we’re building. It was one of those moments of immense pride. Everyone is working exceptionally hard. Everyone is using their key strengths. And, the results are AMAZING! What we’ve accomplished this year is mind-blowing. Our app is off the charts cool. Our prospects and customers LOVE what we’ve built and the vision we’re created. Six years ago, I had this idea… but I got nowhere on my own. Bit by bit, the right team came together. And now we’re creating magic!

I remember the feeling of my shift from individual contributor to manager. Like many of you, I held onto that stupid belief that I could do the work better than anyone else. I managed other people because there was more work than I could do alone. By managing people, I could get much more done than by simply trying to do it myself.  AND, during that first shift from worker to manager, there’s likely some truth to that argument. After all, you (I was) were selected as the manager because you were very good at that individual contributor work.

But without doubt, over a few years (managing and not doing the technical work), began to fall behind the growing technical strength of my team. You can choose to accept and embrace this reality and realize you now must be good at something else, or, you can be endlessly trapped making sure you only hire and promote people who aren’t as good as you. That spells disaster.

‘A’ level people hire ‘A’ level people.  ‘B’ level people hire ‘C’ and ‘D’ level people.

Over the last 10 years, and now more than ever, I recognize and embrace the reality that each of my team members are wildly more capable than I am at what they do. Because of my beginner coding background, I sometimes poke around asking questions with the developers. As I listen to the simple, but elaborate code and solutions, I am blown away. I’ve always fancied myself as pretty good with UX and process, but our product team leaves me in the dust. I’ve always been pretty good at PowerPoint, but the materials from our creative designer… WOW.

I could NEVER do alone, what we’re doing together.

TOGETHER, we are better!  Diversity, and diversity of strength matters.

‘A’ level people hire ‘A’ level people who are different than they are!

So, what?

Embrace your strengths.

You are REALLY GOOD at something. You might be good at several things. Nobody is good at everything.

While it’s becoming more popular to focus on strengths, it’s still super tempting to focus on the weaknesses of team members. Stop trying to fix people’s weaknesses and use them where they are REALLY GOOD. If they aren’t really good at something you need. Well then, you’ve got the wrong person and they need to be invite-told to leave the team. If you keep having this experience, you likely have someone making hiring decisions who isn’t really good (that might be you), and another person or process is needed.

If you’re 10+ years into your career… you should already know your strengths.  Hopefully you enjoy working with those strengths. Really using your strengths on the right team is a winning formula. The team wins, and you win with the team.

If you’re just getting started into your career. STOP STRESSING! Figure out what you enjoy. I’m not talking about laying on the beach looking beautiful and getting a tan.  Everybody enjoys that. Yes, there’s a few Insta-superstars that get paid to do that… Think instead about what you enjoy building, creating, fixing, solving. Again, STOP STRESSING! Pick something and try it. If you like it and are good at it, then keep working at it. If not, then pivot and try again. You’ll quickly find something you enjoy and soon you’ll also be an expert.

Life is a bit like floating in a big river. Sometimes it might make sense to swim upstream. But unless you are a very strong swimmer, when swimming upstream you’ll exert tons of energy with minimal results. Instead of fighting the river, spend a bit of time observing and leverage the flow of the river as you move around. The river (life) will bring you opportunities. Using the strength of the currents and the opportunities it brings you will help you experience more, learn more, and grow until your strengths (and desires) are abundantly clear.

As you go, just make sure you are adding value and helping people along the way.

It’s not surprise, many of the people I helped are now helping me!