My Super Power

I’m listening to the Standford eCorner Entrepreneurial Thought Leader podcast Find Your Super Power, Launch Your Career and it has made me ask the question: what is my super power?

Sometimes finding your super power isn’t as easy as you think. Earlier in my career I have felt that I have been powerless in the areas that I really want to have super-power. I want to influence people, but when I share ideas they turn the other way. I want to be helpful and offer what I know, but then they turn to people who have the ‘right’ formal education to solve the problem. I want to act on customer service or user experience, but the system structure and development needs take precedent. All of the areas that I want to be known as a super-power I am shut down in. I wanted to be a front-of-room leader that had a large group of people executing everything I said. I wasn’t giving as much as I wanted to.

My Super Power

But in the last few years the sun has started to rise on my super-power. My super power isn’t that I am the worlds most prolific group-think leader (essentially what I had been aspiring to.) My super power is that I help others to execute. Wait, what? That’s a lame super power. Plus – how do you measure that?

I agree that it does sound like I am saying that I should get the credit when someone else executes on something. There is no credit-grab here. Let me explain how my super power works.

I know that everyone is uniquely gifted to make their own contribution. And with this knowledge, I can also see that everyone has gaps or barriers to making their contribution. Sometimes it is because they don’t know how to do something. Sometimes it is because they don’t see the whole picture. Sometimes it is because they don’t have the energy to deliver. Three key components to my super-power are:

  • The ability to bring a calming influence into what someone is working on.
  • The ability to describe the next possible steps, and the end-goal at the same time.
  • The ability to connect people to the other right people, [places, things, actions, entities], that can help them complete their job.

The fourth, generally unstated component to my super power is that I know that I am successful when someone else delivers or executes on something that they were stuck on before.

I don’t have to help people execute on things that are working well for them. I actually have no interest in being part of a currently successful working group. But if you put me on a struggling group, or a project that isn’t doing well, then I am happiest and I know I can make my biggest contribution.**

Measure of My Success

Regarding the question of how I measure success when I am using my super power. I don’t have a perfect metric yet. I know that I am successful when I work on a project for a long time and at the end of the project I hear team members say, “This is what I did. This is how I executed.” That’s when I know that the team member has taken responsibility, and control, of the tasks that they have executed on, and my work is done. There is no way to measure whether they really needed me there. – Maybe I should work on that.

I’ll might never be recognized at the worlds best coder, or have enough education to satisfy everyone. But I am pretty happy about my super power because it means that if I use it right, people will be getting better, and delivering better results.

 

**Post-Script

What I learned about myself today:

My super power sounds kind of flaky (to me) and could be career limiting if:

  1. I always end up on failing projects. (“Hey, why is it that every project John is on struggles? Why doesn’t he just control what other people do?”) It’s not my super power to control people, it is my super power to help them execute.
  2. I should find a way to measure my contribution of my super power. (“Aren’t you just taking credit for something that people are doing themselves?”)

I don’t think my super power has limited my career at all. But I’ve learned something about what I need to do next with it.