Fun fact before we get started: I very nearly called this piece “Why I want to punch through a f**king window some days”. The more you know, eh?
Yesterday I got an email from a corporate trainer who specialises in adding value by improving people’s communication. All good so far, right? Her idea was good – that if everyone was just a little better at emailing, a little more incisive on the phone, a little clearer when they issue instruction and a little more thorough when they receive them… well, we’d all be getting a lot less stressed and making a lot more money.
It’s strong enough as an idea. I am endlessly amazed by how terrible people are at the basics. Who else has sent an email with two or three questions in it, only to receive “Yes” as a reply? YES TO WHAT? Who else has commissioned a piece of work or asked for a meeting, only to get the vaguest reply about when it might happen?
But here’s where it all falls apart. In this unsolicited email – presumably sent to a fair number of people, telling all of us that she could improve our communication – she had spelt her name wrong. HER OWN GODDAMN NAME. It’s barely worth mentioning that the email also had no clear CTA or that her contact details were hidden away in a microscopic signature.
So, I won’t be giving her any work or any money. Because she’s fallen at the first hurdle – hard, and onto her face. She’s shit at her job.
And I wasn’t surprised. It wasn’t a surprise to me that she was bad enough at her job to spell her name wrong. Why? Because almost everyone is awful at what they do. Almost. Everyone.
So what’s the cause of this epidemic of inadequacy?
There are a few, honestly, but one that makes me furious – people think they’re good enough.
It’s the arrogance of someone content in post. The smug incapability of someone who has embedded themselves in a position and is content to ride out their time there.
Salespeople are the absolute worst. I’ve met young guys who think they’re Jordan f**king Belfort because they got handed a decent account and made quota last quarter. I’ve met guys who have been in the industry for 30 years and think that means there’s nothing left to learn – even while the world and the industry changes around them. Idiots.
Honestly, it drives me mad. I don’t even know who to be angry with. Maybe Alan Sugar and his annual moron parade for making the gullible think that to thrive in business you need an inflated ego, a cheap suit and a weapons-grade lack of ability. Maybe the old guard for building organisations where a lot of luck and little charm is sometimes enough. Maybe the petulant young guns that leadership keeps hiring, constantly mistaking bluster and bullshit for talent.
I don’t know, but what I do know is this: if there is a single quality that almost everyone is completely lacking, it’s humility. If there’s a single skill that almost everyone is completely lacking, it’s coachability.
All of us need to be better at self-assessing, better at knowing our weaknesses, and willing to improve. If I meet one more rock star rep who thinks he’s beyond training because he landed one decent deal and got to go for dinner at some hotel with his VP I might just lose it.
People need to start bringing more humility and more awareness to their work. Be open to training, eager to learn, aware that you can be better at what you do. Because, statistically at least, the chances are you’re nowhere near as good at your job as you think you are.
– Tom @WSL