Archives for posts with tag: Jack of all trades

There is a terribly famous song by U2 called ‘I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.’ Those of you – and I count myself among you – who don’t live to work, as opposed to work to live, may well identify with the lyric in the song.

I know people who go through an entire life without finding what they’re looking for career-wise.  Are their lives the lesser for it, do they feel unfulfilled as a result? No and no, at least they shouldn’t.

Searching for perfection in life, in work, in every single project or activity you turn your hand to, is an important means in itself, not a means to an end.

It’s unlikely we can achieve true perfection in anything, nor is it healthy or productive to try beyond a certain point, but it’s the looking for perfection, the striving for what we think the end goal is, that keeps us improving, keeps us working, keeps us alive even. Hunger for the new, the next big thing, stops us standing still and sustains the quality in the work we do.

The majority of sales organisations and sales people intuitively distinguish between two types of sales person and sales role. The hunter is the new business person who gets the deal with the new customer in the door and then moves on to the next. The farmer is the account manager who develops that account and nurtures the relationship.

The received wisdom is that each role is suited to a particular type of character. Some folk are suited to the rough and tumble of closing the deal, others are better at deepening the rapport.

Then there is another view, propounded principally by companies like The TAS Group who are behind the Target Account Selling methodology. They argue that the best, most strategic and most successful sales people are those who strategise on target accounts, figure out where the need is, develop the opportunity for a sale and then close the opportunity themselves.

Where do you stand on this? Are opportunity management and account management dedicated, specialised roles that should stay separate, or should they be part of a combined, more strategic role? The answer, of course, is that it depends, but I’d be interested in your views on the matter.

These days it seems that the world is ruled and run by specialists, people dedicated to doing one thing really well.  As business and the world get more developed, and more sophisticated, you don’t seem to see the Renaissance Man any more, someone supremely gifted in two separate fields, maybe representing their country at two different sports, or being a well known ‘thesp’ and a pioneering doctor for example.  It’s just too hard these days.

This is great if you’re good at and really enjoy that one thing.  Your career and life choices become easier, even though you may suffer from career bottlenecks, glass ceilings or lack of a plan B.

But what about the generalists, where does this leave them?  Those that are good at most things, can turn their hand to pretty much anything, but don’t consider or are not considered by others to be a specialist.  For them the dreaded moniker ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ looms, whispered in the hallways or by the water cooler.

In my anecdotally-acquired view, generalists are more well rounded and better adjusted people.  They have more opinions, more dimensions to their character.  Put simply, they’re just nicer, better to have around and get on with.  The trouble for the generalist is that they don’t usually burn with a passion for that one thing.  Choices come harder to them and their natural inclination is to hedge their bets, seek diversity, spread the risk, and be good at a number of things rather than great at one.

Moreover, they’re probably better at their chosen job than the specialist.  And here’s why; they’re adaptable.  It turns out that adaptability is probably the most important skill when it comes to leadership.   And guess who’s best at being adaptable, at moving seamlessly from skill-set to skill-set, situation to situation?  The generalist of course, it’s what they’re wired to be.