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Pretty much everyone has heard the term “bulletproof”. If you haven’t, email me and I’ll set you straight. That said, I’m not sure if you have heard the expression in the context of leadership risk.
I’ve been lucky enough to have three mentors in the same organization explain it to me over my 25 year career therein. Each time the term came up I was told I was the luckiest man on earth right now because I was the new guy and therefore I was “bulletproof”. There was no mistake too big to recover from and absolutely nobody with any common sense would fail to understand if success didn’t come on my first try at any task or project.
The first time I was “bulletproof”, I was too scared of embarrassment to take a real risk and try anything I may fail at and had a mediocre 7 years stint as a result. The other two times I made the sky the limit. The outcomes were amazing! On my first run, I surpassed the sales goal by 300% within one year and then by 700% on my second year in that field.
The next time I believed I was bulletproof, I had just entered an acquisition environment as a project manager. In reward for building a simple PowerPoint presentation on how to do something everyone was saying couldn’t be done…I was given Carte Blanche to lead the local team in development of an electronic systems infrastructure test bed. Six months later, I was leading an international team toward global deployment of a remarkable new technology. Yea for us!
The interesting part here isn’t what I did. It is what I didn’t do. It should be obvious (above) that I missed the bus the first time I was the new guy and drove the buss the two times I realized what “being the new really guy” meant. Further, each time I had a run of accomplishment, I got off the “new guy bus” and stopped believing I was bulletproof. Nothing had changed. Even more interesting is the reality that over the entire career nothing had really changed (except my attitude toward risk).
Sure as time passed, I gained some knowledge of the organization, some education from colleges, and some experience along the way. But those things stayed with me and successes came and went. My simple and sound belief that there was no failure too large to recover from was what changed over time. When I had the simple belief/realization the best target to shoot for is a target others are afraid to miss, is when I was truly “bulletproof”. If I missed, they were right (it was a hard target and I could shoot again & again until I hit). If they were wrong, I was a golden child that everyone wanted leading their projects!!!!
Be the new guy every day of your life!
First written and posted by Seth J Haigh at: www.managetogrow.com