This past week has been over the top as the buzz and hype surrounding King (LeBron) James’ selection of the National Basketball Association (NBA) team that he would be playing for gained momentum. Then again, maybe I was being overly sensitive to the media coverage that King James’ was getting by everyone! Locally, the folks at the Phoenix Suns Headquarters were hoping he’d pick them – and the likelihood of that happening lasted for all of 30 seconds.
My saturation point with this tidbit of sports news happened as I was listening to hosts and analysts of several political shows catch King James’ fever. On Friday, July 11th, James announced his selection of the Cleveland Cavaliers (Cavs) as his choice via a written statement. CNN’s Donna Brazile and others were giving their on-air opinions about the deal with Cleveland and what it meant for LeBron, the city, the fans, the NBA, etc. LeBron’s selection of Cleveland, his former team, as his new home overshadowed an earlier announcement about the GOP selecting the City of Cleveland as the location for their 2016 Republican National Convention.
The question of where King James was going to land went viral and turned into a news story that made its way through all of the media outlets including Al Jazeerah America (ALJAM) which tends to focus less on athletes, entertainers, and the Hollywood crowd. Suffice it to say that the breaking news of LeBron reuniting with the Cavs was covered at the top of the hour by ALJAM’s Ali Veshi on his show, Real Money with Ali Velshi.
To date, LeBron James has written what appears to be a storybook career in professional basketball and the NBA. While I am both happy for LeBron and the City of Cleveland, what I am most happy about is LeBron’s ability to call the shots in this deal. Everyone is not afforded this luxury in life whether they play for the NBA, work for Microsoft or Intel, teach at the grade school level, or work at a call center.
That got me to thinking about a number of folks in professional fields, STEM included, that have shared with me their desire to have more freedom and flexibility in the work that they do or the job that they have. Some have considered starting a business, others want to do something entrepreneurial. Others would like to get promoted at work, or assume more responsibility and authority….perhaps better manage their career and their professional brand.
For starters, calling the shots and setting your schedule in the work place is a lot different than playing professional sports.
The first question I usually ask is whether or not the company or business lends itself to these flexible arrangements that one desires? If you work in manufacturing, it’s more difficult to call the shots from home when the action and production is on the factory floor that hums according to a regimented schedule.
Some of those professionals in the above group have shared with me that they don’t have a career plan with their current employer. I usually ask what they have done to rectify this problem? Usually, the answer is nothing. Very few have voiced their career concerns with their manager or management team. I also share with them that they should have their own personal career plan even if their company is lax in providing one. Don’t wait for the company to do for you what you can do for yourself.
After 11 years in the NBA, LeBron has distinguished himself as the best player in the league. At this point, he has called most of the shots for his new contract with the Cavs. Like LeBron, STEM professionals need a game plan. Here’s some advice that was given by a good friend and colleague, Alma Martinez Fallon, when asked how to be successful in the world of engineering?: First, gain credibility within your company or industry by mastering technical proficiencies. Next, learn how to lead others even if you are not a supervisor or manager. You need support from those you work with and you have to support them as well. Looking beyond that is capturing opportunities to transform your organization, the company, supply chain, etc. through innovation and creativity.
The majority of workers in the U.S., and I would even venture around the globe are unhappy with their jobs because they haven’t found their passion and don’t know where to look or what to do to get it. Unfortunately, your management team is probably not going to be able to produce this passion for you, but kudos to the one’s who can.
As Liz Ryan, a LinkedIn Influencer, comments in her Human Workplace Series [Ref 1]: Traditionally job-seekers have not been taught that they have a flame to grow. They’ve been taught the opposite – that they’re lucky to have a job at all. Why would we believe that?…Who would believe the lie that we’re meant to have a job, go home, turn on the TV, take a vacation once a year and then die? There must be more to this existence, and of course there is.
Since signing the new contract, it has been announced that LeBron will mentor the young players on the Cavs’ team. Mentoring others is one of the steps in the process of calling the shots. Another step is being mentored by sage advisers. LeBron formed a relationship with Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway back in 2007 to get some advice about how to manage his income and investments. To James’ credit, one of his goals is to take his net worth above the $1 billion level. He appears to be well on his way to accomplishing this goal.
You can earn the right to call some of the shots in your career, however, it may not necessarily be with the company you are with today. As professionals, we must seek advice from those who are wiser and more experienced than us. Take notice that LeBron didn’t seek out Warren Buffett for advice about how to improve his basketball game. Choose the people you ask for help carefully. Likewise, we must give of our time to mentor others. A well managed career begins with a well managed plan. Ask LeBron.
LeBron’s deal with the Cavs is for two years and $42.2 million. While many think that LeBron will finish his career with the Cavs, limiting his contract to two years was, once again, a business decision that he made. He can renegotiate or opt-out and become a free agent at the end of next season. It is reported that James had the option of an $88 million contract for a four-year deal, however, it didn’t give King James the freedom that he wanted. [Ref 2] Work your brand and your business King James. Work it!
In closing, one thing that I did learn from LeBron is that you can go home again! Guess what? That’s good to know.
1. Seven Signs You Are Wasting Your Talent, Liz Ryan, July 12, 2014, https://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140712050158-52594-seven-signs-you-re-wasting-your-talent?trk=mp-details-rr-rmpost
2. LeBron’s road to becoming a billionaire, by Chris Isidore @CNNMoney, July 11, 2014, http://cnnfn.cnn.com/2014/07/10/news/companies/lebron-billionaire/index.html
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