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An excerpt from Pushers of the Possible.
When I was in my early twenties, I was working in the construction industry. I knew I could do more, but I grew up in a blue-collar environment, so I thought, if a labor job was okay for my parents, it’ll be okay for me.
Then one day, I was on the job, building the Berkheimer building in Pennsylvania when I started talking to members of the Berkheimer family who were on-site overseeing construction. At one point they said, “You know, you don’t strike us as someone who is going to be in construction all his life.” I told them why I didn’t envision a career as a laborer either. Next thing you know, because I was local, they introduced me to a leader of one of the local banks. Each person they introduced me to said, “This guy’s not just a construction worker.” However, I was a construction worker. I wore work boots, a hard hat, gloves, jeans and a T-shirt. I had no badge, no title, not even a corporate business card. Yet, I spoke with energy, passion, drive, and focus, which is what set me apart from others.
The next thing I knew, I was being asked if I wanted to learn the banking business or the insurance, real estate, or finance industries. I chose finance and became a bill collector, which was the launching pad to the adventure of a lifetime. We might ask ourselves, was it luck?
I don’t think so. I engaged with business owners when no one else I worked with on the construction crew did. They believed it wasn’t their place to speak to the owners. I was the only one who took the time to talk to the guys in suits. No one else was willing to step outside of their comfort zone and make the leap into a different life.
I think it was positioning. I think it was energy. I think it was courage and drive. I was willing to put myself into uncomfortable situations. It wasn’t natural for me to walk up to business leaders and ask them questions, as I was not sure if it was the proper thing to do, but I wanted to know what it took to wear a business suit and to be the one making the decisions. I wanted to Push the Possible in my life and see how far I could go.
When I was trying to learn multi-disciplines in business insurance, other people in the office tried to keep me in a box by being unhelpful and blocking my efforts to grow. I knew I had to teach myself things about finance, business insurance, operations, employee health and benefits, retirement services, and personal lines of insurance. I expected it was going to be tough because I was new to those disciplines in the industry. When I asked questions, people tried to block me by telling me, “You don’t need to know, just be good at what you do and stay over on your side of the fence.”
It was not easy to find the information at that time because the internet was not what it is today. I had to rely on others to help me find the sources of information I needed, and most people were not willing to help. I did not let it stop me, I pushed on by learning as much as I could about the various disciplines in the insurance industry and after a while, the more senior insurance agents started to come to me for answers.
This is when I discovered the reason people did not want to help was because they didn’t know the answers, not because they did not want me to succeed. This realization helped me to gain confidence. I wanted to be valuable to those with whom I worked; constantly learning, growing, and pushing up.
If you want to be valuable to the company you work for, be valuable to yourself. Put on the correct uniform, be it a suit or work boots and a hard hat. Leave your problems at home, focus on your tasks, and be helpful to your colleagues. Do not see them as just people sitting in a cubicle next to you. Do not see them as competition. When you help them, they will help you because they will start talking about you and then opportunities will appear. This is how you will advance from one position to the next, through good work, goodwill, good humor, and a caring attitude. Leaders and managers are looking to advance and team up with the people who have the skills and talents they may not have.
My podcast producer, Caryn Ojeda, is always positive and always has a good attitude. She never has a bad day, ever. There are days I would complain to her, but she has never complained to me. I see in her what I want in myself. I’m searching for people who can apply a band-aid to my cut when I’m hurt. They can patch me up and put me back in the game. I do the same for them.
At Marsh & McLennan Northeast, they have a community, not a culture. Cultures are simple. Everybody wants to work in a good culture. It is not hard to do, if we are just decent to each other. When you build a team of people who support each other, help one another, and push each other to be better, you are forming a rich community. Leaders want people who are energetic, focused, have a can-do attitude, and don’t take credit for work. They never say, “Look at what I did.” They always say, “Look at what somebody else did.” They always congratulate others for their success.
This is the type of person leaders want on their team.
Anthony Gruppo is the CEO of Marsh Commercial in London UK. His book, Pushers of the Possible, is available on Amazon.