Want An Awesome Career? Buy A Pair Of Ataturk’s Binoculars
I just read a biography of great Turkish leader Ataturk, instrumental in the defeat of Australian forces at Gallipoli in World War 1. And it was at the most decisive moment of that battle that I learnt a lesson from Ataturk that is vital if we want robust, opportunity filled careers. Weird, but true. Here it is.
Ataturk was a mid-level commander at the time. He arrived at Gallipoli soon after Australian forces had landed, were streaming up this key hill, and with Turkish troops fleeing in panic. Within moments the Australians would have triumphed and history’s course changed forever. Ataturk ordered his men to stop, fix bayonets and drop to the ground. The approaching Australians saw this and, anticipating a Turkish charge, also dropped to the ground, and waited. In the ensuing lull, reserve Turkish troops arrived- many with big machine guns- , and the battle turned to a massive Australian defeat.
So where’s the lesson for our careers? Here’s the key sentence that provides the compass point:
“Ataturk fought Gallipoli’s first hours with binoculars, not a sword.”
Powerful. To be genuinely effective, Ataturk kept a constant view of the bigger picture so he could make the right decisions on each aspect of the hand to hand combat. It’s a big lesson for the way we manage client relationships, businesses and importantly, our own careers.
Simply put, for careers to thrive, we need to find time to sit calmly on higher ground, pick up the binoculars and take a measured view of the entire landscape of our roles, capabilities and opportunities.
How to do it? How about this:
1. Diarise a quarterly one hour meeting for yourself to go to your Third Place and to think about…. you. Just you. (A ‘Third Place’ is not home, or the office, but that other place you go to where you can be alone and comfortable- for me a coffee shop in North Sydney). Brand these hours in your diary as ‘Ataturks’.
2. In this one hour meeting, review Brand You- the four key pillars that make up your personal brand at work:
a) Delivering Outcomes: Are you being ruthlessly effective and efficient every day, getting more of the important things done consistently?
b) Expert in Something: Are you deepening your expertise and fame as an ‘expert in something’… the one thing your colleagues acknowledge you are really, really good at, and often come to for advice about?
c) Point of View: Are you regularly developing a point of view about the future, and then using that to build profile as someone who is thinking ahead, anticipating change and helping your company be ‘future proof’?
d) Collegial and Supportive Colleague: Are you doing enough on key relationships with colleagues, and being known to do the right thing?
3. Then point the binoculars at a mirror, and ask yourself the question Andrew Denton put to our leaders conference earlier this year: “I survived as a stand-up comic by following this golden rule: when in doubt, change the routine. Are you changing your routine enough?” Are you stale? Do you need to refresh? Do you need to ‘change the routine?’
4. Then lift the binoculars and look more broadly, and ask this question: “How do I skate to where the puck is going to be?” Iconic ice hockey star Wayne Gretzky, when asked why he was such a great player, replied: ”Because I skate to where the puck is going to be.” So how do our skill sets and capabilities, and relationships, need to evolve to ensure we are ‘the perfect fit’ for what will be most in demand in a year or two?
5. And finally, look hard at the terrain: How can I better stay connected with what is happening ‘in the street’… with trends, youth, habits, movements. Staying connected is critical if we are to give ourselves the best chance of robust and diverse, opportunities rich careers.
The key point here is this: make damned sure you are spending solid time, regularly, with binoculars in your hands, looking hard at every aspect of your career; the battle you’re engaged in today, how to make a better and sharper contribution to the ‘now’, what the future looks like, how you need to evolve to be perfect for that future, and ensuring you’re staying absolutely at the edge with every piece of equipment or nook and cranny you’ll need to navigate along the way. It’s an analogy which really works for me. Have you planned your next ‘Ataturk Hour’ yet?