You’ve probably proclaimed more than a time or two that your latest idea is a ‘game changer’. And when the stakes are high you put everyone on notice by declaring that you ‘play to win’. When you indeed win you celebrate the victory by touting ‘game over’. Sound familiar? Ok, question: You’re ‘changing the game’ and ‘playing to win’ but do you know what game you’re actually playing?
One of the first exercises a brand undergoes when trying to determine how to win in the marketplace is mining for the answer to this key question: “What business are we in?” The NFL is not in the sports business, they’re in the entertainment business. Ford is not an auto manufacturing company, they’re a technology company which happens to make cars. These brands and others like Nike, Apple, and Disney have defined their business not in terms of the actual product or service they deliver but in terms of the uniquely rewarding experience they create for their consumers.
To define a business in terms of product and services is about making a profit, whereas defining a business in terms of an experience is about creating value. Profit can be calculated, but arguably there’s no equation for value – the sky’s the limit! What does any of this have to do with career development? A critical step to getting where you want to be professionally is to first get real clear about what game you’re playing – and the answer is above and beyond your title and your job description. It is the value you create in the workplace. It is your north star to recognition, reward, and opportunities and here’s why:
1. When you understand the game you’re playing you will likely discover and be exposed to an entirely new playing field with entirely different players. If you are an HR manager and determine that the game you’re playing is all about creating a company culture then you’re now playing a different game than your colleagues in your department. So while the HR staff is busy trying to hire qualified candidates which is important to the head of HR, you are also busy trying to build a company culture which is important to senior executives including the CEO. New playing field. Different players.
2. You are better positioned for a raise or promotion when you clearly know what game you’re playing. In the case of the HR manager, compensation and career trajectory are quite defined for such a role. But how much does a company pay the person who architects their company culture? What does that career trajectory look like? Trust me, your boss doesn’t know either! When you understand the value you bring to an organization you are able to have less formulaic discussions about compensation, benefits, performance goals, etc.
3. Opportunities start to appear when you literally learn how to spit game. Begin to talk about the game you’re playing, the value you bring to the table every chance you get. When asked what you do for a living instead of saying “I’m an HR manager” instead say “I manage the development of my company’s culture. Use formal and informal communications at work to reset perceptions about you in your role. Slowly but surely you will begin to hear it repeated back to you and you will be seen not in terms of your job title but in terms of your value.
Only when you know the game you’re playing will you be able to truly play it, change it, and ultimately win at it.