„If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later“ by Richard Branson.
It is this quote of Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson, the founder of Virgin Group I had in mind when I temporarily, for three months, accepted the offer of a leader I still hold today. I will never forget the reaction of my leader the moment I said „I think I am not ready for this post, I would be ready next year, but it is early yet“. I still do not know If her astonishment was greater when I said this, or the next moment when I took the pen and signed the offer. “Wait until tomorow, think about it, you do not have to sign anything right now“, she commented. “I had thought about it, but let’s see what are the expectations, and what are we supposed to do in the next three months“ I replied. We found each other in the same room three months later, when she told me that externally opened job offer, for the position I temporarily held, had been closed. “Great, when will I be able to meet the new colleague and do the handover“, I said. The answer that followed was “You have known him all your life, you have been chosen“ 😁.
One of many things I learned from this leader was transparency. Every time she would interview some of the external candidates, she would share her impressions and findings with me, as well as the ideas proposed during those interviews, and would always ask for my opinion.
I had on my mind the very same quote of Sir Richard, when I undertook the adventure of writing this blog. I could not imagine what impact will the blog have on my colleagues and that so many of them will hold me in the corridors asking impatiently when the next one will be published, and that so many people will join, willing to be regularly updated.
I could not even dream how many people would buy the book of Simon Sinek after they read the first blog, what multitude of comments will I receive, nor after all, that my colleague would meet me in the corridor, together with her leader, saying that she had read my blog and quoting me.
However, there is one anonymous comment I received and originally opted not to publish – that I eventually decided to share with all of you in it’s original. It came from the reader called Barba:
„Mr.Mitić, I would like to know how the leaders are selected in your surroundings“? By their skills, leadership quality, knowledge…The best leaders have always been godfathers, best men from the wedding and friends, have they not?
I quote: “I am going to have a hardtalk with my superior, something you call feedback“ (with the accent spoken in the area of Niš)
It is Barba who inspired me to adress the dilema of all leaders: What to do with friends, aquaintances, friends of your friends, for whom you believe that by skills – fit for certain positions?
Before I answer this question, I have to start by stating some facts. The first one is that there are some higly socially positioned and influential organizatios in the world to which you can access only if recommended by one or even several members. In some of them, people who recommend new candidates guarantee for them, i.e. take over the responsibility for both to some extent, their actions as well as of those who they recommended. The other fact is that there are very successful family firms, who have a constant need for a large number of people of various profiles and such firms would not throw away quality staff, regardless to the fact that they are friends or acquaintances of their existing employees. I assume you should do the same if you were the owner of such a firm. So the main question is: How to employ the best possible staff, including the people with recommendations, but to give all potential employees the equal opportunity? The answer is very simple and can actually be exspressed in one word: TRANSPARENCY. If you have been transparent from the beginning both with your HR partner and your leader, you will automatically solve half of the challenge related to the recommendations. This sometimes includes additional selection process, includes your mentor in it and sometimes might mean even your exclusion until the completion. Very often, such transparency will bring you more problems than benefits in your work, but is that not anyway the role of a leader by Sinek: “Leaders should put their own interests aside in order to protect and lead into the future”.
If you are the one hired by somebody’s reccomendation, you have to be ready for the hard way and treatment, which is all, but not fair. I have personally walked this path several times and started over and over again, still not being able to see its’ end.
Prepare yourself for constant questioning of yor results, for the fact that different rules will be applied for you, and for the fact that you will have to work more than all the others in order to be a role model, where at the same time, your mistakes will weigh twice as much in comparison to the others. However, if you are professional and if you have good results and skills, there is a probability that you will advance in your careeer very fast, and probably change many leaders during the process. I personally have had ten leaders up until now. Even the fact that you have been selected by the people you did not know until then, will not be of much help speaking about the constant questioning of your work. You are mistaking if you think – the fact that you have passed several selecting circles, have been selected by foreigners who were later your leaders – will be of any help!
Naturally, the question rises – where is the satisfaction in all this? You will find the answer in the mere process of becoming a leader. Remember the quote from the last blog: “ It is not the chierarchy level that makes a man a leader – leadership is the service to people with or without formal position“. This means that one comes to a certain position by choice, but you become a leader during time, i.e if you are holding a certain position but you are not a true leader –you will probably not stay there for long, but if you are a true leader much more people will give you that, then those who will question you and your work. Throughout my career I have seen many good people as well as many less good who shined at some point in their careers and held highly ranked positions, but none of them was a true leader, and none of them is in the company any more. The biggest satisfaction you can get is the recognition by people who until yesterday questioned your work, either from ignorance or any other reason.
In order not to leave my reader Barba without an answer – I will say that I was lucky in my career that in most cases, I inherited the teams I used to lead and did not make them from the the beginning. This was the privilege that enabled me to surround myself with people totally different than I am, which is also the case with my current team. The curiosity about the team is that none of the members was born in Belgrade and that half of them was not even born in Serbia, as well as that there are no secrets for each of us in the field of sales – since we all started this difficult journey from the entry position – as salesmen. Many people say that the differences in character as well as the cultural ones – make my team one of the strongest within the company!
The biggest mistake that a leader can make is to surround himself with people who are similar to him. Uniformed way of thinking and exeration have never brought anything good. This means that, as a good leader, you will adjust to each of your team members individually, instead of all of them adjusting to you.
In the end, just to mention the Niš area accent and the sense of humour. Somewhere, I came across the saying: “Before you judge someone because of his dialect, just think how hard it is to learn a completely new language“
Speaking about my origin, I am very proud of it, as well as of all my fellow citizens. I am also very proud of Niš, my homemtown where I was born and grew up, and I come back there, full of joy, every weekend. I will use this blog to better inform my readers about my hometown. The old wisdom says – one gets used to anything, exept a person from Niš to cases. This language specificum is not the only thing that makes my town stand out, there is its’ history as well, there is „merak“ (joy ), its’ „agressive“ southern hospitality, sense of humour, a specific mixture of old and new, as well as the crossroads where our ancestors build their home, and always moaned about it later. The legend says that Niš was built by fairies, moreover, it was named after one of them. By some, Celtic fairy called Naisa, guards our city even today…
If you come to Niš, my warm reccomendation is not to start discussion about the cases, because you will immediately get a pile of counter-arguments like the one that says: “If the perfection of language is in its simplicity, not complexity, why the language without cases had not been chosen for the official one“…? You will also find out that Vuk Karadžić had set his foot southern from the town of Ćuprija and you will receive a comment like: If you say “I was with Dragan“, were you with a male or a female. 😁
People from Niš are also famous for their sense of humour and reality, which inspired Stevan Sremac, who was our fellow citizen from 1879-1892, to write some of most read ever realistic novels. It is the definition of realism: „ the literary and artistic genre, which tends to picture the reality as is, without passion, objectively and shapelessly“ that explains the quote of Barba, one of my readers, although not fully conveyed and originally interpreted with the accent from Niš area, but the one from the area of Vranje, which I always use when I want to caricature and joke with my colleagues. On the other hand, based on the reaction of the listeners, this cartoon enables me to clearly distinguish those who respect the differences, even only the lingual ones, from those who distaste them, which probably implies their attitude towards other issues.
My dear leaders, and those who wish to become so, I hope that from this blog, you have learned a lesson of all lessons , which I have not mentioned but which is evident – a true leader will never put challenges, problems and compalints under the carpet – but adresses them in a proper way.
Dear Barba, I want to thank you once agin for you comment, which inspired me to write my second blog, and please leave me your address so I can send you the book „Start with why“ by Simon Sinek.