Actions Before Words

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Make no mistake, in a perfect world, the ability to say it well and get it done with high degrees of skill are a beautiful combination. However, the world is far from perfect, and the ability to communicate always seems to be a trait perfected by a select few. The wisdom of Benjamin Franklin is still relevant to this day. His was a great mind for the ages, with timeless advice and recommendations.

Sometimes it can be easy to overcompensate, and cross the fine line between being assertive and boasting. Common perceptions for those who boast and talk are that they are fooling their listeners. They feel they are able to bluff their way, or to talk themselves up to gain recognition and acclaim. Talk about yourself with reservation and humility. Be accurate and factual. If you were only a minor part in the process, say so. Nothing can grow into a bad situation faster than when someone makes claims that are not entirely accurate. Your coworkers will often know better, and nothing will break down trust faster than a shameless self-promoter and/or liar.

I remember someone working in our area some years ago. She was nice on a personal level, but she got into trouble in a different department because her resume was discovered to be less than accurate. How she ended up in our IT department was something of a mystery to me, as it was clear that the other department was hoping to move a problem-child to some other area. Not a good organizational move, I thought, but I could only focus on my thoughts and to do the best I could do. She was tasked with some documentation relating to the new VOIP phone system as we were migrating from traditional land lines. As we concluded the project, she moved on to another position with a different company and that was the end of it.

A year or two later, I was on LinkedIn, and came across her profile. Out of curiosity I decided to open it up and see what she was up to. As I browsed through her recent experience, I began to read more closely. According to what she wrote, people would mistake her role in documenting aspects of the project, to one of actually leading it. Her role was very much non-technical, but the impression she gave out was that it was her project, completed with great success to the organization. From my direct involvement, I know she was misleading and elevating her role to something it was not. True, she helped out with the project, but was taking credit where it was not deserved. For those who see her profile, it looks quite impressive, but is mostly false.

Suppose she gets a job, and the organization expect her to be able to provide some VOIP technical solutions to the table. Perhaps the organization sees her experience and feels they can have her lead up the project to upgrade their phone systems. What will be the expected result from this? What’s worse, to not be considered for a position due to limited, albeit accurate experience, or getting a promotion or new position based on hopes and wishes? Sometimes you cannot fake it until you learn it. The organization will lose time and money on someone who talked well, but could not deliver with their actions. She will suffer because she will be tasked with things she has no experience with. The project may be on her shoulders, and she may have little knowledge on what to do, and no experience to fall back on. Pressure will be high, and the stress will be phenomenal.

As you enter the work force, and embark on a career, the ability to talk well is important, make no mistake. The ability to do well will quickly transition you into a valued and indispensable member of the team. The respect you will receive based on your performance will go so much farther than your ability to boast and promote yourself. Everything you do should be based on actions first and foremost. Listen to the words of Benjamin Franklin and learn from his timeless wisdom. Be realistic, and always learn when you can, but do not make false claims or boast. Be humble, and let your actions speak first. You will win friends and the respect of your colleagues.

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