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observing Opportunity…

by | Oct 29, 2020 | observe, Opportunity, Van Halen

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The company I joined was headquartered in Maryland, but I led teams from an acquisition located in Beaverton Oregon, which in turn had bought a company in the UK. Being in DC was actually helpful as I could bridge the time differences, but also meant I had long trips to places where my teams were located.  Long flights were normal, and I was young enough it was still fun, and means I have been managing “remote” teams for 20 years.  I learned so much from the role that is still paying dividends – not just stories, but actual best practices like “Distinctive Competence” – a term I now use with folks that are in the interview process looking for their own next Opportunity…. 

Products need to be good at what they do – Competence.  They also have to stand out compared to competitors, and if you are trying to penetrate a new market, that difference has to be 10 to 1 better – Distinctive.  Anything less, the customers will wait for their incumbents to get slightly better over time. When you apply that to Resumes, it is the thing that will get you noticed – what is something that you can say that literally, no one else can say? Working with many leaders over the year, this is rarely understood – most people think that everyone is good at it.  For example, I used to think that anyone could talk with anyone about anything for as long as you wanted to… the trick of course is I am not talking… I am LISTENING.. that is my Distinctive Competence – and God is a comedian that I get paid to listen… 

One reason I added the second week is I haven’t filled in the other members of the band. Michael Anthony’s Distinctive Competence is he could play the low notes while singing REALLY high.  Those harmonies are nearly impossible to get to, and blend into the background until you realize that Ed and Michael are doing all that to add to Dave/Sammy. Without them, it doesn’t sound like Van Halen/Hagar. He met Alex and Dave at Pasadena Community College where they were all studying Music Theory – before they realized that doing it was WAY more fun and rewarding. He ended up playing the bass as I did because no one else was doing it, and if you wanted to be in a band, they need them 😉 

And as I have said before, playing Bass is hard. If you notice, that is not really helpful… and if you don’t have it, you really notice.  It is a weird confluence of supporting what others are doing, and can be overlooked as just “there” – which is the best compliment you can pay a bass player honestly. What you really notice if you dive in is his singing – harmony is hard… HIGH harmony is REALLY hard, particularly while playing other notes – the other major player to do that – Paul McCartney.  And he provides another piece of life wisdom:  if you are in a small business and don’t share the owner’s last name, you may want to make plans long term 😉 He would eventually be replaced by Ed’s son Wolfie, and on the later appearances, Wolfie is actually a better “player” but the singing.. not as much.  

In my rush to get out of Fannie, I missed the significant travel that would be required – the classic “50% Travel in the Job Description.  Sure – 50% EACH direction 😉  It prepared me for larger global roles to come, and also the exhaustion from trying to “follow the sun” with work around the globe. It also added 2 phases to my Job Search practice – both AFTER the offer.  Phase 3 allows you ask harder questions that will make sure it is a good job – for YOU.  And then Phase 4 which is negotiating based on what you now have observed the real Opportunity is.  What do you need to do to tighten up your own Distinctive Competence to be ready for the new Opportunities coming.. so you don’t get the… Runaround. 

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