Thought for the day : What makes you good at what you do ?

Posted on May 5, 2013

This morning I received a message from one of our Graduates In Training (GIT’s) : “Hi Justin, quick question. What would you say is the one thing that makes you good at what you do. The key ingredient?”

Now that isn’t quite as easy to answer as it first seems. The challenge is keeping it down to one, when there are a number of things that one is or one does that makes you who you are, but which of those makes you GOOD at what you do.

My first answer was “Willingness to learn” sent fairly quickly. To me we have to be learning things all the time, formal learning, reading, on the job, always sucking up new knowledge and building on the skill set we have. But that still doesn’t really quite get to the heart of it.

So I sent a second message “That + questioning all the time, if you don’t understand something ask, don’t just accept what people say, make them explain why, that way you learn or find out they are not right”.

That was much closer to the heart of it. Have that questioning, enquiring mind. Want to know why things are the way they are and don’t just accept them for the way they are.
The other extension to that is creating a learning culture and environment wherever you are. Not accepting things have to be the way they are and encouraging people around you to learn and to share. Knowledge is power, if shared and if used to support one another. Standing on the shoulders of giants comes to mind**. Some people sadly still see knowledge as power for themselves, so hold onto knowledge and don’t want to share. Those aren’t my kind of people and I certainly don’t want to work with them or surround myself with them.

There are many other things that make one good at what we do :

  • Quality
  • Persistence
  • Perseverance
  • Technical competence
  • Hard Work
  • Lead from the front
  • Surround yourself with good people, with diverse skills
  • Recognise the contribution of others and publicly & privately acknowledge it (the latter half of that I’m not particularly good at – don’t do it often enough).

Perhaps each of us is different enough that we will all have a different “one thing” that makes us good at what we do, and the challenge for each of us is to find that one thing for us that allows us to be the best we can be. If we can see someone similar to ourselves who resonates with us and we can learn from them, great.

Be delighted for you to share your thoughts on the matter.

Simphiwe, thanks for asking the question, and for your enthusiasm and infectious laughter every day, brings sunshine to our lives.

Other Comments from respected IT personalities : 

Great blog post, for me it’s passion, heart, attitude. All synonymous for how one feels towards something, one can be the best in one’s field or subject matter, but without these qualities you just not going to get people to rally behind you.  Yusuf Loonat (Head : Service Delivery : Enterprise Information Management Services : Transnet)

The key ingredients for me  is pride, passionate, commitment and ethics. All the others are important but these are the threads that hold it together and provide meaning and relevance. Kevin Govender (Head : Strategy and Architecture : Enterprise Information Management Services : Transnet)

to @jjza well written. A passion to make a difference would be my answer. One will find all the ingredients required to satisfy the passion.. Raghuvansh Swami (Partner : Ernst & Young)  (@swamira)


From twitter conversation with Darren Smith (@DazMSmith) :

to @DazMSmith Would appreciate your thoughts on this – Question raised by a graduate intern of mine

to @jjza A fascinating question. With no easy answer. But “attitude” separates the mediocre from the exceptional. They envisage 1st, then do.

to @DazMSmith True. I’m intrigued to see most of the answers relate to personal traits rather than knowledge, skill or experience.

to @jjza Absolutely agree! All the skill in the world will get you nowhere if you do nothing with your potential. Or knowledge. Or opportunity.


**  Wikipedia tells me to thank Bernard of Chartres not Sir Isaac Newton – interesting


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7 Responses

  1. Justin:

    Thanks everyone for the input and feedback. I used all the material from the post including your very valuable feedback in a session we ran with our team on Friday. The session went very well and much appreciated by all so thanks a mill.

    25.05.2013 14:37 Reply

  2. Reyhana:

    Hi Justin, For me it would be 2 qualities: passion and humility … you have to love what you do and be humble to be at the same level of people you work with.. Ego only gets in the way and in any job, especially mine as a project manager people are the have to know how to get the best out of people.

    21.05.2013 13:01 Reply

  3. Sean:

    Curiosity for sure! A thirst/hunger/voracious appetite for knowledge. Whether it’s questioning “why is the sky blue”, to “how do magicians levitate”, to why a business process works that way instead of this way?

    It’s most likely a product of an open, liberated mind – one open to possibilities, options, alternate points of view, one that embraces a “why not?” attitude, instead of of being restricted to convention or the same old way of doing stuff.

    I relish working with teams and people that have a willingness to learn. I love to be challenged by their constant need to be better, and the challenge that places on me for constant improvement.

    Underpin that Curiosity with a good dose of Integrity and pride in doing what you do with the best of your ability (Excellence), and one should have a recipe for fulfillment in whatever one does.

    20.05.2013 17:39 Reply

  4. lebogang nkoane:

    Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (or better known as an obsessive attention to detail)

    That is what makes me good at what I do. Every pixel counts. Every semi-colon matters.

    I can’t speak for what makes others good at what they do.

    19.05.2013 09:55 Reply

  5. Martin:

    That point where willingness, passion, capability and persiality meet, I would say. To be good is one thing, to be great needs a collective of things to come together seemlessly.

    19.05.2013 09:25 Reply

  6. Barend Pretorius:

    Hi Justin. I personally think the key ingredient is the passion for the job. In other words one has to love what you do to become good at it. One might be the best in the field of the particular job, but if you don’t love it and only do it for the money, then the passion to learn, grow, and be the best will not be the same as someone who loves what they do.

    18.05.2013 12:28 Reply

    • Justin:

      That’s an excellent point. No matter how good you are at doing something, if you have no passion for it, it won’t be sustainable and you will struggle to perform consistently at it.

      18.05.2013 15:05 Reply

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