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Jim Coley's 15 Lessons Learned In His Career

Upon his recent retirement, Jim Coley of S&P Global posted a list of 15 lessons learned in his career on LinkedIn. We interview Jim and cover the list in Episode 044 of "Career Sessions, Career Lessons, but for reference, here is his full list, edited lightly for clarity and grammar:

Jim Coley

15 Lessons Learned in My Career

  1. Treat people the way you want to be treated. Too many times I have worked for individuals who did not follow this philosophy, and the team’s performance suffered under that management structure.
  2. Invest in the personal lives of your team. This might be somewhat controversial in this day and age, but you never know what personal pressures your team is experiencing which might lead to their underperformance.
  3. Every person will experience spurious luck in the career.  But it takes skill to recognize luck, to seize it and effectively capitalize on it.
  4. Successful recruiting in a timely matter is the number one differentiator to meeting and exceeding business targets.  You cannot do it alone, and [quickly] recruit[ing] and integrat[ing] new talent into your team will be your best path forward to achieving your goals and objectives.
  5. When evaluating your team, learn to separate performance based on luck vs. skill.  Too many times people are rewarded for outperformance related to wind in their sails whereas those facing headwinds might actually be your best performers. Recognizing true talent takes talent.
  6. While everyone always talks about watching your team's mental health, equally important is their physical health.  Often a significant change in the physical health in one of your teammates will be the telltale to changes in their personal health. (see rule #2).
  7. Invest in your own personal well being also. No one wants to work for a burned out manager. While there will always be crunch times at work requiring above normal hours of work, learn too [that] you need downtimes to recharge.
  8. Everyone should try at least one business start-up in their lives. Being part of a start-up teaches you humility, multi-tasking and how to handle failure, since 99.999% of these start-ups will fail no matter how well you and your partners are prepared. Bouncing back from failure but with a new set of skills will set you [up] well for the rest of your career.
  9. Block times in your calendar daily for personal learning and reading. Spend time understanding the global markets affecting your company and your key clients to add relevance to your external interactions.
  10. Spend time practicing pitching your firm and its products and services so that you're prepared for that 30 second C-Suite pitch that will inevitably come multiple times over your career. Over time, modify that “elevator pitch” based on the feedback you receive, and incorporate this feedback into your future pitches to make them more relevant and impactful.  Finally, resist the temptation to use internal marketing lingo—often times, how a company views itself internally is totally irrelevant to external partners.  Script your pitch in your clients' view point, not your company’s marketing talking points.
  11. Invest in your network.  You will be amazed how often a key contact will move in and out of your orbit over a 40+ year career.  Also invest in your key contacts’ children.  You...will see those young individuals coming back to assist you (or vice versa) over your career.
  12. Constantly scenario plan succession plans for your teams. Evaluate talent top to bottom on your team often so that when the inevitable shock hits your team with an unscheduled departure, you are well prepared to respond quickly, reducing uncertainty in your teams.
  13. If you are a client-facing professional, travel often to make personal connections.  More importantly, make sure to travel with the more junior members of your team to mentor them and help them learn how to properly interact with clients.
  14. If possible financially, resist the urge to overwork when your children are 5-15 years old.  During these critical years, set more time away daily to be with them [at] school, sports, church or other activities beyond just weekends.  Trust me, the time you spend with them in these formable years will be invaluable, and you can always work longer later in your career to recover financially.
  15. Lastly, and probably the most controversial, lead from the front and never ask your team to do something you are not prepared to do yourself.  It’s easy to sit back and let your teams experiment or guess what needs to be done.  True leadership exhibits the conviction to pursue a path forward and lead their team.  Sure this philosophy is fraught to lead to occasional mistakes, but successfully mangers have built up political capital over time to weather those inevitable mistakes. Don’t be afraid to lead like General Patton.

Listen to Jim Coley's episode on the Pathwise podcast. For a full listing of PathWise podcasts, visit this link.

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