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If you’d like, you can find a self-help book that can enable you to master just about any skill. They claim through their advertising that the pages you are about to read will unlock secrets you never knew. It will reveal things to you (about yourself, mind you) that have never before crossed your mind. Just read a book and you can become:

A better parent

A better boss

A listening spouse

And above all, a model employee who could NEVER get fired.

Right.

I mean I am well-aware that my articles often get an advisory tone to them or suggest a choice or two I have found some success with, but I try very hard not to take on a preacher’s tone that appears to simplify the most complex issues of your life just by giving you “Four Easy Steps to a Better Marriage” or anything like that. I like to tell you what I have seen work and suggest you might want to try that but these days everything to be accomplished is advertised with a formula that practically guarantees success. I don’t think things happen that way. As we attempt a recovery from the recessionary days of 2007/08 I find a lot of books out now about how to not only get a good job but keep one as well. And while such efforts are well-intended, I believe that no one can tell you how to be a perfect employee any better than one can advise you how to be a perfect parent. How can any advice be whole-heartedly accepted by a new parent when the person writing the fail-proof book has never met you or your child? Sure, they try to paint with a broad brush and hit as many audiences as possible but the things that make your family unique are typically the things that your child picks up on first and those become the foundations you will be trying to affect. To that same end, what author really knows what’s inside you enough to tell you how to handle your employer or employment?

I have long held that what makes some people capable of maintaining a job in almost any market is a list of intangibles that give them a coating of “unemployment Teflon.” They just seem to have a knack for finding ways to be useful and pertinent and amidst the most sweeping staffing turnovers they always seem to remain standing.

The strongest trait in these folks I have found to be a skill set I hear more and more about these days. It’s called “conceptualization.” It is the innate ability to see how the elements of the overall whole fit together and to clearly engage and resolve the “first” problems that need to be addressed since the others will not be approachable without laying such groundwork.

I think college and pro sports coaches with successful records would be a good example of people who are clearly “conceptualizers.” They can visualize the end result of things and can design plays and drills to insure things are executed in a certain order to bring about the intended result. They have an easy measuring device. They need to win games.

I think Steve Jobs would be fine example of this. It appears he was always one step ahead of everyone but I don’t think, for him, that took any great effort; it came naturally. From the first moment an idea was produced it seems Jobs’ mind was already putting the new concept through his personal battery of tests and potential shortcomings. He’d waste no time challenging those he worked with and it further seems (as it seems typical with other conceptualizers) he often grew impatient with people as others could not always keep up with his quick mind.

Now to take that point one step further here’s what I find to be the real “magic” of being able to see “the big picture.” People that enjoy their work are much better at conceptualizing because they care about the end result, they are passionate about the outcome and they know, early on, when it just looks wrong. As has been said a million times in quoting Confucius, “find a job you love and you will never work another day in your life.”

The coach that loves baseball has watched and listened to a million games, he knows every possible angle the game employs. As the ninth inning draws to a close, his pitcher is throwing way out of the strike zone. His arm is shot. He needs to be replaced. This is not guesswork--THE COACH KNOWS. The ballerina instructor that is casting the “Nutcracker” danced it a million times as a child and knows how demanding it is. She knows her newest student will not have the stamina to sustain the show; maybe next year. The kid is heart-broken at the news but would be much more damaged if she failed once being given the honor. The instructor has eliminated the possible embarrassment of her up-and-coming protégé and insured the show will not fail as well. The semi-driver who is taking a sharp turn on an icy road knows that since he is hauling meat that is dangling from hooks in his trailer, the weight will shift oddly when he comes out of the turn. He therefore compensates as he drives and never breaks stride, the load is safe as is his space on the highway. The mother of four children hears her son coughing intermittently as he plays his video game in the other room one afternoon. This is her fourth child. She knows by nightfall that cough will be chronic and croup-sounding. After dinner she takes him to the med center who confirms he has a chest infection and begins him on a meds progression. He sleeps soundly through the night as the medicine has allowed him to detour the onset of the illness. She sleeps well, too. She has conceptualized the end result. 

So--let’s take a page from the self-help book that tells us “conceptualizers” are the most employable people of the future BUT let’s let common sense be our real driver and understand that you can only truly see all impending hazards and difficulties if you are passionate about the subject matter. 

As my mantra continues to be, passion in all things. I may not be able to give you the “guaranteed or your money back” commitment but I can tell you from my own experience that without throwing yourself into anything wholeheartedly--your vision will never be completely clear. It’s that that allows your management to be fully conceptualized.

Ron Ciancutti has worked in the parks and recreation industry since he was 16 years old, covering everything from maintenance, operations, engineering, surveying, park management, design, planning, recreation, and finance. He holds a BS in Business from Bowling Green State University and an MBA from Baldwin Wallace University and has held his current position as Director of Procurement since 1990.

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