Hubris, Anyone? - by the Nightshade Fairy
This is the fourth article where we are applying poker strategy to our career game plan. Last time we looked at Mike Caro's advice to Never Make Anything Worse. From chewing out your coworkers when you're upset, to going into the office when you're ill to work, to repeating poor decisions, we saw how it is bad for your poker and career bankroll when you make a marginal situation worse.
We will return to more of Caro's advice later. For this article, we'll look at an observation from the youngest poker player to ever win his first World Series of Poker championship at age 24 - the "Poker Brat" Phil Hellmuth, Jr. Successful poker players are a thick-skinned, confident bunch. But overconfidence causes embarrassing losses at the poker table. Hellmuth admits that even he wasn't immune in his early poker career when he says in his new book, Play Poker Like the Pros, "It seems that everyone overrates himself when it comes to playing poker!"
We're talking about Raging Hubris, or excessive arrogance mixed with overconfidence in your ability to make the best decisions every time. If you've been paying attention at all in the workplace, the Raging Hubris coworker is everywhere. Which leads us to our next advice.
Advice # 4 - Don't Overrate Your Ability. At the poker table, a hubris-laden Fish (inexperienced player) sits down at a table full of Sharks (experienced players), and loses his bankroll in short order. Did the Fish encounter Bad Luck? Not necessarily. Choosing the table where you play is critical to profitable poker playing, just as it is in the workplace. If your pride, arrogance, or simple overconfidence sits your butt in a chair at a table full of Sharks, then you have made a Bad Decision because of Raging Hubris.
There is a beautiful project manager's golden nugget that I'm about to share with you, a heuristic that applies when there is a question of effectiveness versus diminishing returns on effort, expense, or time. I use this constantly in the workplace, and it's been a salve for my suffering from the questionable decision making of others. Pareto's Principle, or the 80-20 Rule, gives us proper perspective on coworkers (and poker players) that suffer from Raging Hubris. Simply stated, Pareto's Principle says that the relationship between input and output is not balanced; it is the ratio of 80% to 20%.
This means that at the poker table, 20% of the other players will give you 80% of the profit to your bankroll. Or 80% of the starting hands in Texas Hold'em poker are junk and should not be played. Or 20% of the other players at the table are more skilled than you are at playing poker (if you're a Fish, make that 80% will play better than you).
Let's look at a tale of real-life Raging Hubris and Pareto's Principle in action at the workplace. It was during the best and worst of times of the dot com frenzy, and I came on board a start-up company that had released a simple web site to a tiny client. Flushed with hubris, they were.
One of the geeks had just been promoted to Manager, and was anxious, he said, to have me mentor him in project management ways. Selecting someone to mentor is always a serious decision for me, and very few have been chosen. For him to ask so soon sent up a warning flag, and trouble quickly developed.
I started with implementing a change management process, where the project manager keeps a simple log of the requested changes to a product. Everyone on the development team is responsible for telling the project manager when someone asks the developer to change something in the software. This is very simple project management stuff. It wasn't even an hour after the meeting where I introduced this to the team that Manager went to my boss and complained, and wham, my boss rushed into my office, chewed me a new one for stifling the creative child within the development team, and told me to stop this stupid change management process.
Manager gave me several mini-lectures over the next few months about his disappointment with my project management skills and how I should do things better. Ole Nightshade does not suffer fools, especially from Raging Hubris coworkers who feel compelled to train me up right with their uneducated lectures.
I purchased several copies of the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), seeded these copies with coworkers, and mini-mentored these selected coworkers about real project management techniques. Accurate information is a powerful medicine against Raging Hubris.
It was my last project status meeting before I was moving on to another dot com. Manager was really chewing me a new one about what a terrible project manager I was, and I (innocently!) mentioned a recommended technique from the PMBOK.
"I know about that," one of our coworkers piped up. She pulled out her copy of the PMBOK, turned to a marked page, and read aloud the description of this project management technique. I swear I did not set this up with her beforehand. Let's leave our story by saying that Manager's blistering words during the rest of this meeting did not help his future at this company.
Decide for yourself. Was Manager in the 20% who are knowledgeable about project managers, or was he in the other 80%? The 80-20 Rule applies to many aspects of the workplace. Do 20% of your company's products produce 80% of the income? The next time you're in a meeting with coworkers, look around the table and decide which 1 out of 5 is truly skilled and knowledgeable about his or her job. Do the remaining 80% suffer from Raging Hubris?
Next time we will talk more about how unprofitable it is to get your money's worth.
Play Poker Like the Pros by Phil Hellmuth, Jr. can be found at http://www.amazon.com.
PMBOK by the Project Management Institute can be found at http://www.pmi.org.