If you have not watched an episode of Comedians in Cars getting Coffee, I highly recommend it. It is a great show and the premise is Jerry Seinfeld borrowing a classic car of some sorts to go pick up a fellow comedian to have coffee together. It appears to be unscripted, and other than the police escort thinly veiled in the background, it is just two people out for coffee.
In the episode with Eddie Murphy, it is a really interesting exchange between the two of them; they are so different and yet have so much in common. They both began their careers at the same place, in the same week. Jerry and Eddie take turns telling each other, in very candid and genuine fashion, how much they admired each other in the early days, and then as their career paths diverged. I hope you have friends that you have conversations like that with on occasion. Hopefully you have friends worthy of those kind of conversations.
As the show progresses, Eddie Murphy reveals why he has not done stand up in so long. It was interesting to hear him discuss that, and I won’t give it away here, but again, watch the show and see for yourself. Most episodes are under 25 minutes; this one happens to be one of the longest ones at 41 minutes. I’m glad it was longer than most, as it was more engaging than almost all of the others.
Anyway, the quote at the top of this blog post is one that jumped out at me. I think this statement is very true. Many people are not doubling down on their strengths and really focusing on one thing that they do well. Too many of us stay in that school mentality of being a generalist, trying to be good at everything and not great at one thing. I think Seinfeld’s point was shedding light on that. Like he used to joke about in his show, he never had a real job. All he ever did was be a comedian, and focus on honing that craft to the fullest extent. I would say his focus paid off.
What should you be focused on? Is there something you do really, really well that you should be capitalizing on instead of wallowing in mediocrity trying to do things you just don’t have the aptitude for? I can tell you in my case, I have no business trying to play accountant or CFO, running the numbers just isn’t my forte. But then again, the CFO at my company would never have made it as a salesperson either. Both of these things are okay; our company needs both roles, and I can’t play both and neither can he. That is why building the RIGHT team around you is so important. You can’t be good at everything, even if your name is on the door of company. You have to build a team to fill your gaps, to plug the holes, and to allow you to focus on your thing.
Many company founders are not cut out to be the CEO. Their strength(s) fit in the start-up phase; to create a solution that the market needed, and to bring that solution to fruition. Now that things are past that phase, someone else should be driving the bus. Otherwise, your company may not be doing much more than treading water in your industry, struggling to keep profitable and moving forward. It is not easy to admit that you’re no longer the guy to run the company. Too much of an ego hit to have a realization like that, let alone say it out loud for others to hear. But in many cases, it is the truth. And as they say, the truth hurts. But when it is the case, you have to take a serious look inward and ask yourself that really hard question: Am I the right guy to be steering the ship?
If you are not, you are doing a disservice to the company. Whether you are the CEO, a department Manager, or just ended up in a role that wasn’t your real strength, it may be time to take a hard look inward. As Seinfeld said “A lack of focus is why there is a lack of greatness”. This may apply to you and your company as well. Man up, look in the mirror, and ask the question. If your already know the answer, then get out of the company’s way and get someone in the driver’s seat who is going to be the right person for that role. Everyone will benefit from that level of humility, honesty, and dedication to the overall health of the company. It may mean you are stepping back out of the spotlight, but what was the original goal of the company in the first place? Did you want to build it up and sell it? Fine, do it. If the goal was business in perpetuity, you may be impeding that very thing. Either way, neither of those aforementioned options has you driving the bus. Focus on what you do best, and the others, who have different skills and strengths do their thing. You and everyone else involved will be better off in the long run.