Whose List Are You On?
And who do you have on your list?
Last week, at my Dad's funeral, I spoke with my cousin, John Petrie, about my boys heading off to college this fall. In a serendipitous moment, both Drew and Mitch joined the conversation, and John began to ask them both about their aspirations. It was beautiful to watch my two boys speak with my cousin like men right before my eyes – part of that whole "bittersweet" thing of growing up.
Before I go any further, let me give you a little background on my cousin. After his 20-year career in the U.S. Marines, John received his MBA in information systems and joined the private sector – an area where he's become kind of a big deal. He's currently the Deputy to the Global Chief Information Systems Officer for Nippon Telegraph & Telephone, which is number 65 on the Fortune Global 500 list. It's not easy for an American to land – let alone keep – a high-profile job like that for a Japanese company. Like I said, kind of a big deal.
After my sons left us, he shared that he was looking to retire in the next few years when his contract at NTT expires – even though he's already been asked to extend it. As John is adamant in his decision, NTT has requested John find and train his successor. I wondered how he would go about finding the right person to succeed him and what he said arrested me:
"Oh, I have a list."
As he does in his book, he explained that everyone is on someone's list - which can be positive or negative. For his purposes, he has kept a mental list of people as he has encountered them that he would like to work with if given the opportunity. Conversely, he also has a list of people he has no desire to work with or hire. Immediately I comprehended what he was saying because we all do the same thing: we compile mental lists as we go through our professional lives:
Who we want to work for
Who we would never work for
Who we would love to hire
Here's the kicker: not only do we all mentally curate these lists, but we are also on the lists of others. As John mentioned to me concerning Drew and Mitch, "they need to make sure they are on someone's list." I might augment that to say everyone needs to be on the right someone's list.
So, while it's fun to think about the list you've created, it may be more important to realize the lists people have you on. If you don't know, it's time to make sure you're on the right someone's list. Then, go and prove you belonged on that list in the first place.