Guy Kawasaki’s Real World

I’m still catching up with blogs after ignoring them for a week while I was at the annual meeting. There was a good post by Guy Kawasaki I want to point out, though.

Since it’s back to school time, he wrote a list of things college students need to understand before hitting the “real world” of working in organizations. He makes some good points about how what we learn in school is diametrically opposed to what happens in the real world. Here are two of my favorites from his 12-point list (I counted this time):

5. How to negotiate. Don’t believe what you see in reality television shows about negotiation and teamwork. They’re all bull shiitake. The only method that works in the real world involves five steps: (1) Prepare for the negotiation by knowing your facts; (2) Figure out what you really want; (3) Figure out what you don’t care about; (4) Figure out what the other party really wants (per Kai); and (5) Create a win-win outcome to ensure that everyone is happy. You’ll be a negotiating maven if you do this.

This is easier said than done, of course! Particularly the part about figuring out what the other party really wants. THAT is the essence of the negotiation, in my opinion.

10. How to get along with co-workers. Success in school is mostly determined by individual accomplishments: grades, test scores, projects, whatever. Few activities are group efforts. Then you go out in the real world the higher you rise in an organization, the less important your individual accomplishments are. What becomes more and more important is the ability to work with/through/besides and sometimes around others. The most important lesson to learn: Share the credit with others because a rising tide floats all boats.

What about freeloaders? (Those scum of the earth that don’t do anything for the group.) In school you can let them know how you truly feel. You can’t in the real world because bozos have a way of rising to the top of many organizations, and bozos seek revenge. The best solution is to bite your tongue, tolerate them, and try to never have them on the team again, but there’s little upside in criticizing them.

I think this is good advice, but I would push back a little about the “criticizing” part. I suppose it will depend on the situation, but I think there is room for giving “freeloaders” feedback, if done well (hint: the word “freeloader” should not be in the feedback). If you can focus on the specific behavior (or lack thereof) and the impact it had on the team project, then I think it is good. It might not change the freeloader’s behavior (and then you tolerate them and try not to have them on the team), but it’s a good habit to get into. Biting your tongue and tolerating could be the beginning of a very destructive pattern of conflict avoidance.