Turns Out, Success and Talent Aren't the Same.

by Jordan Danger

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I'm teaching a new cohort of freshmen at Algonquin right now in the Interactive Media and Design program. Meeting a new batch of students always gets me thinking about people's futures, and how people attain 'success'.

Over the years I have watched friends, peers, and students who had incredible talent, but somehow didn't cross their respective finish lines. And I've seen people who were only moderately skilled in their fields who ended up in leadership roles or receiving kudos and recognition for their successes.

What I’ve come to observe is that, in the long run, success is an endurance race. It doesn’t matter how talented you are if you drop out halfway through the game. You quite literally don’t have to be the most promising student, the smartest kid, or the highest-performing worker; you really just need to show up every day without fail. Consistency; endurance; staying power; these are the qualities that build a strong career arc--far more than simple raw talent.

Your Content Gimmicks Ruin Everything

With the evolution of each and every social media channel over time, we witness the advent of content gimmicks. 

What are content gimmicks?

Content gimmicks are things like

  Prime example of the vertically-stack sentence gimmick.

Prime example of the vertically-stack sentence gimmick.

  • posting a link in the comments of your own post versus including it in the original post itself;
  • changing and dramaticizing the headline of your articles over time to see if you can attract a different wave of viewers;
  • using fear-mongering headlines to attract clicks (eg "10 Things You're Doing Right Now That Will Ruin Your Entire Life")
  • And now: writing clickbait-style LinkedIn posts in vertically stacked sentences. 

 

The idea is that you'll have to click 'see more' to read the whole post. Why does this matter? Because LinkedIn now offers metrics, which means writers can see how many people interacted with their posts, and in which ways.

Why do people start using gimmicks?

No matter how a social media channel starts out, there is always a point where the channel becomes monetized, or used for some form of financial gain. Influencers are big talk right now--people on channels who have clout with the community. As LinkedIn starts to enter its next phase of evolution, people are beginning to see the potential payoff of being seen as a LI influencer. So now they're all clamoring for engagement. 

The thing is, this type of shallow, meaningless engagement doesn't benefit anyone in the long run--and usually, really harms the social media channel itself.

How do content gimmicks hurt you--and all of us?

  Is this post going to be worth it? Could it have been said in fewer words? Would a summary with a link to an article have been more effective? Yes.

Is this post going to be worth it? Could it have been said in fewer words? Would a summary with a link to an article have been more effective? Yes.

Gimmicks often abuse the intended format of the channel. For instance, LinkedIn provides a whole separate 'article' space for writing long posts, but when users write these vertically-stacked mono-sentence anecdote posts in their status bar, they warp the usage of the status area and dilute the value all all status updates. People start thinking, "Do I want to scroll through LI right now? Ugh, no, I'm not interested in reading a bunch of self-aggrandizing tales today." 

Additionally, there's a very good chance that your gimmick will be an affront to the person you're most trying to impress. When I see something like a stack-of-sentences LinkedIn post, I conclude one or all of the following:

  • You're an unskilled writer
  • You think you're clever 'beating the system' but you're not
  • You put your own priorities (metrics) over the welfare of the entire platform
  • You think my time is yours to waste--you want me to spend my precious few social moments scrolling through a poorly-written vertical post, trying to divine the value of it.

If you've jumped on a particular gimmick bandwagon early enough, yes you will get clicks and engagement; but in a very short time, you'll lose the eye of the people you most wanted to attract--the savvy users, the A-type entrepreneurs, the (often successful pro's) who easily recognize gimmicks and avoid those who use them.

How to avoid being a gimmick user:

  Prime example of a clickbait-y post. You're better than this, LinkedIn community!

Prime example of a clickbait-y post. You're better than this, LinkedIn community!

The easiest way to keep yourself from falling into gimmicky behaviour is to remind yourself what the purpose is of this particular channel. As you click to open your app, close your eyes for a second and think, "Ahh, twitter: microblog site." Not, "Ahh, twitter: somewhere to post endless links to off-site articles." Or, "Ahh, instagram: pictorial storytelling app." Not, "Ahh, instagram: place to post flyers about sales." 

And of course: "Ahh, LinkedIn: Business networking and news site." That's it. Stop there. Stop. Right now. I mean it. You want to share a self-congratulatory anecdote, in paragraph fragments? Awesome; go build a blog where you can abuse the English language and your readers' patience at will. But let's please stop abusing our social media channels with gimmicks that only serve to water down the value of the channels overall.

 

7 Things Leaders Can Do to Lose All Their Star Players

Unhappy employee

Advice writers love to give advice on how to be a leader--and usually the ideal they present is completely unrealistic. Instead of trying to envision ourselves as leaders with Buddha-like patience and Stephen Covey-like planning skills, let's take a look at some easy pitfalls that even a new or less-skilled manager can avoid.

7 Ways to Lose Your Key Players:

1. Promote All the Wrong People.

Maybe your star player is the person everyone trusts to find solutions, or maybe they're the person that everyone knows will pick up the slack on any given project, or maybe they're the best at bringing the team together. Whatever the case may be, your team will notice if and when you promote someone else above their defacto chosen leader, and the end result can be a loss of more than one disenfranchised team member.

2. Don't Give a Flip About What Your Stars Care About.

Yep, it may seem silly to go to the CEO because your star player really wants new office chairs, or to reprint an entire project because one of the chapters just doesn't meet your star's personal standards; but there's a sound reason to get on board with their frustrations. Showing them that you care on the things that really irk them can be a great way to build a genuine sympatico, a great sense of loyalty, and it can help bank you some credit for the next time you need your star's backing on an issue of your own.

3. Fail to Compensate or Reward. 

After all the candy bars and pinball machines have lost their shine, there's really just two ways that a company shows its appreciation for productivity: compensation, and title. Providing your star with the title they've earned shows that you're willing to publicly declare your satisfaction with their work; compensating accordingly shows you're not just talking the talk. 

4. Actually believe that Executive-Level Dilemmas Are Relevant to Their Daily Lives. 

There's very little decision-making at the top of the food chain that ultimately affects the daily activities or pain points of your staff. Represent your team with the execs as they talk about mission statements and five year visions; but make sure you spend more of your time listening to the things that actually help or hinder daily production. 

5. Refuse to Praise.

When the heat is on and crisis hits your company, all the monetary compensation and grandiose titles won't stop your star player from checking out...but your enthusiastic accolades may make it feel like all the sweat was worth it because the efforts were truly appreciated.

6. Work Less (or Less Seriously) Than They Do.

If your star is sending you weekend emails trying to iron out that last-minute client request but you're just not getting back to them, you'll likely end up with a star that loses momentum. And lost momentum usually means a loss of focus, and a wandering eye...over to your competitor, perhaps. You've basically got two choices here: either adapt their workload so they, too, can take weekends off; or up your own game and jump into some of the overtime--it'll go faster with two heads, anyway.

7. Be Reactive Instead of Proactive When Problems Arise.

Your star is likely highly attuned to the ebb and flow of the workplace. If he can see how important a problem is but you seem to keep putting off a solution for another time, you may lose his confidence. Not only will he get tired of watching problems spiral out of control, he'll also start to worry about his name being associated with your reactionary errors. That's a surefire way to see him heading for the door.

In all, it's Easier to Avoid Sins Than to Be a Saint.

Maintaining your star team members may not make you a 'perfect leader', but it's a helluva good place to start. In the end, you may not be the best meeting facilitator or the next Dale Carnegie, but with some minor effort you can at least avoid scaring off your best players. Your team is what makes you look good, so take good care of your achievers and they'll keep making you shine.