Shirts or Skins?

June 17th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

In business one of the most important decisions you make is who you choose to be on your team. The only decision that is really more important is who picks you to be on their team. That is something I’ve heard Roy Williams say many times over the years.

www.zigzagprinciple.comLast week I was able to go to dinner with my dear friend Takahiro in Japan. Takahiro was my colleague very early in my career, when I was working for Novell. As I was finishing my MBA, we took an Asian trip as part of the final class. The trip included some time in Japan.

When Mitsubishi signed up to be a strategic account of Novell, no one else really had any Japanese experience, so I was assigned the job.

I was picked to be on that team.

That experience has opened many doors throughout my entire career. The experiences I had and the things I learned during that period of time are really what launched my career.

Last week, as I sat with my dear friend Takahiro, we exchanged fun stories about the zeal of youth and the wild business decisions that we made. Early on, we simply didn’t know better, so we went out and did some really cool, crazy things together. These actions have served Takahiro and I well.

I appreciate the types of deep relationships that you can form while working with the right team. Although Takahiro and I haven’t seen each other in person for thirteen years, the connection is still very strong and we greatly enjoyed reminiscing and catching up on the wonderful things that have happened in our lives.

I (virtually) observed Takahiro get married, and I actually delivered the congratulatory address, remotely. Takahiro has watched my young children grow via email and phone calls. We’ve also shared in the simultaneous and exciting launch periods of our careers.

My advice to everyone is:

1. Behave competently early on in your career.
2. Make sure that you perform.

As David Owens used to say, (and as I quoted several weeks ago) “You work for yourself.” Your competence and incompetence will always show its head, so be competent and in those early stages, irrespective of where you are at in your career…perform. Make a difference and really contribute. It will be something you take with you your whole life. It will allow you the opportunity to, someday, reflect back with your first dear colleagues. It will let you think back on your early days in fondness.

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