It is 5:53 AM and today I’m venturing across the bay for a customer visit. We’re still getting plenty of rain so I imagine the traffic is going to be pretty bad.
I’ve been continuing to think of changes to make here in the start of 2016 and one of them is to just relax as well as bring back the incredible confidence I used to have. It is not that I’m not confident now but the years of work as an Account Manager take its tool. Corporate America has a way of wearing people down and sometimes that confidence level needs a refresher.
When I think of confidence I think back to the sources of my own and the most confident times of my life. When I was a kid confidence wasn’t really that necessary as life was just fun. You have friends, you play and life is pretty easy. This changes in high school where cliques form and one has more competition for everything: sports, grades, girls and so on. My source of confidence in high school came from wrestling because even the biggest bully couldn’t mess with the wrestlers as bullies could be physically and easily beaten if they tried to start anything. Furthermore, you had a team, you had friends who had your back and this gave one great strength as well as confidence.
This type of confidence never goes away fully but does dim as high school ends and different challenges arise with the start of college. In college my source of confidence arose from learning languages and being pretty good at it. I felt smart and could do something that most others could not. This feeling persists to this day.
When college ends and one joins corporations it is a little bit similar to high school where the competition factor comes back into play. When I returned to the USA from five years in Asia I was pretty laid back and enjoyment of life came easy. I joined Japan Airlines and due to my time in Japan and Japanese language abilities I easily adapted to the environment which is one of being humble, especially before a customer. However, I left Japan Airlines during their bankruptcy period since things were looking pretty bleak. Unfortunately the culture I was used to there did not fit in all that well with corporate America. In corporate America everyone is out for themselves, especially when trying to advance and climb up that latter. This didn’t bother me too much with my second job in the USA but has started to creep in after four years with my third.
I’ve come to realize I need to be more assertive in order to climb further as I’ve already showed four years of great success at this position but have not heard anything from the VP except for a blurb here and there during yearly reviews. I’ve learned that she is one who talks bad about her own team in order to make herself look good and to be honest I was pretty shocked when I realized this is what she is doing. For the first time in my life I have an actual “frienemy.”
This realization took me back quite a bit because I had always thought we were on very good terms. She is one who is only out for herself and will employ high school methods of gossip and back stabbing to get herself ahead. Unsurprisingly, I would imagine she is on the hot-seat now because her main job is to keep her team together and my region has recently lost four people out of a total of six. She also hasn’t filled a few positions in Canada or in San Diego. I believe she is afraid of hiring the wrong person so lets the positions sit in the hopes she can be promoted and leave the bag to someone else.
As for me, I’m coming off of a stellar 2015 and was not shy about saying so in my self review I completed yesterday. This is where my thoughts about confidence come in. I need to refresh my confidence and let the higher ups now it as I’ve given them four years of service and it is their job to recognize this or they can set about finding another Account Manager.
When I start down this path there is a little voice in the back of my head telling me I should keep the head down – the nail that sticks up gets hammered down right? Well, being confident and taking ownership of the success I had makes me feel better, it makes me feel stronger and this is the path I’m going to pursue because of these feelings it creates.
I do understand what is going on in the upper levels. They fight like cats and dogs to keep their positions, gain higher positions and make more money. Although they continually preach that what they do is for the good of the company their true intentions are self-preservation and to advance sacrificing the right thing to do and their own consciousness and morals in the process.
So, in 2016 I’m going all out. I’ll continue to do a great job but I’ll let the higher ups know they’re going to need to look at giving me a promotion should I desire one. It is not that I’m looking to make more money or even be promoted as I like where I’m at now but the offers need to be there.
Confidence is also what helps shake off this persistent anxiety on my shoulders that lasted for most of 2015. I handle very large accounts and I have to ensure we never lose them. In four years at this position I’ve never lost an account and am the only one, perhaps in the entire 64 person national team – that can say so. When I think about anxiety I’m reminded of a movie by Ben Affleck called “The Company Men” where Ben is an Account Manager and says a line that stuck with me when he was working as a carpenter remembering what it was like at the corporation:
At my old job I was
scared all the time…
Quarterly cost reports,
young guys coming up.
Losing an account, or
who’s getting ahead of me
This quote is very true regarding the life of an Account Manager. You’re only as good as your last sale and god forbid if you lose any account. There is always one more report with your numbers where you’re ranked. Any report in the past where you’ve done well is forgotten the next day and your job is never safe depending on those numbers.
It is an environment like this that the confidence I’ve spoken of serves very well. In addition to confidence it is also important to slow down and relax once in a while. It is incredibly draining to always be on edge with one more renewal or to keep a pipeline filled. As the Pandaren Monk says in Warcraft, “Slow down, life is to be savored.” An Account Manager role or sales role in general is always about speeding up and numbers doing 10% better than previously. It is important to love life, look at your surroundings and the beauty of nature, appreciate family and friends; this is what life is about. Looking back on our lives sales numbers of a certain quarter are not going to matter and one never wishes they spent more time in the office, or say “if only I could have gotten that one sale back in 2008.
This is why I watch my sunrises and sunsets, I take pictures of birds and appreciate an excellent bottle of wine. Those at the higher positions and at all levels are in a continual rat race to make more money which they believe will buy them happiness and a better life. The value of life is in the experiences had and if job positions were ranked based on experiences it would be hard for anyone to knock me off of number one. I believe I just need to remember this, but more importantly remember to continue gaining wonderful experiences and put the rat race, the numbers and the continual corporate kool-aid they throw out on the back burner. The corporation wants us to believe numbers are most important and at the same time they care about their employees, so much so that we are actually family which has actually been trumpeted in the past. The bottom line is the corporation exists to make money and these artificial programs such as employee well being or talk of “family” will never trump that. Then there are the individuals whose sole purpose is to get ahead which further trample on anything they can say regarding well-being” or “family.” In fact, if the corporate employee family were a real family, they’ve recently fired and outsourced a good percentage of this so-called family. The father has been let go, cousins outsourced to those who know nothing about the family and my own core group decimated with aunts and uncles vying to turn themselves into patriarchs and patriarchs.
But for me, in 2016, I needn’t worry about this and have decided to take this year on with full confidence. I’ll have the confidence to continue to treat my colleagues with the utmost respect – they are simply people trying to make their way as well; I’ll have the confidence to be kind to everyone even if they do not deserve it; And I’ll have the confidence in myself to continue doing a great job but also let higher ups know this and that they do need to take action and in my case recognize the job I’m doing; otherwise they simply aren’t doing their job.