The Gordon Gekko approach to professional development

"You think you have it all, then your dry cleaner holds your trouser to ransom and you have to shout at people from behind a chair all day"

Bad suit-tie combos, abusive language, never any sign of morals – yet magnificent hair. Though there was a lot to criticise the iconic Wall St character for there was the odd thing that was to be admired about him, though not a lot. But what if his powers were to be used
for good rather than evil? Hmmmmm…

Michael Douglas won an Oscar for his performance of a money hungry 80s trader Gordon Gekko who proved to be all too realistic both then and in recent times. He did not care about who or what he
hurt in his pursuit of material wealth. The famous line ‘Greed is good’ really did sum him up perfectly in terms of his outlook on
business and life in general – excess all areas.

However, putting the morality of the character to one side (and slowly side step all sorts of socio-economic-political issues… nicely done!) one cannot argue that he had focus and was totally driven in meeting his needs. What if you were to readjust the goal from being material profit to that of development and learning, then using that drive to make sure you had the continuous momentum to keep moving forward? Of course this would have to be allied with a moral compass – we don’t want a Gen Y CPD Gekko on our hands here – that realised that you will need to depend on others to keep that momentum going.

If you were to ally the two, it might have some of the following practices/themes:

1)      Never settle for second best
Your employer would never settle for you putting off an important work project or task, so why would you consider the same with your own professional development? More often than not aims and tasks that come out of even the best self appraisal are left in a drawer to gather dust – do not allow this to happen.

Get an image of Gekko in your head when you think about what it is you want to achieve with your PDP aims and goals – could you imagine him losing sight of its value and putting it off till after lunch? No way!

Why? Well first off lunch is for wimps (Im sorry, it had to get in here somewhere) but secondly you are responsible for your own development and how it is managed.  Love or hate him, at least Douglas’ character was very clear about not letting things distract from getting results. Get that mindset in your approach to your own professional development and you will be on to a winner.
2)      Some profit is better than a loss
There is  a moment in the movie when he remarks along the lines that he had to settle for only making $10 million rather than $70 million – he is agitated at such a low profit margin but takes comfort in the thought that he at least made something from a deal, so the day has made some sort of profit for the greedy so and so.

It is unlikely we will ever be in a position to have such returns from a days work, whether they be in actual financial rewards we obtain for ourselves/our employers, or some sort of intrinsic reward achieved. But what about aiming to get just 1% from your day?

Tony Hsieh talks about how Zappos aim to get just one suggestion of an improvement to their staff handbooks, as it is some form of progress. Gary Veynerchuk suggests “anything is better than zero” – so you might not be able to get light speed progress but what sort of difference would it make to you goals on your CPD if you were able to make an improvement of 1% each day, every day?

3)      Information will keep you afloat
In some ways this is what finally meant Gordon was done for, using illegal means to get an inside track on how he could leverage his investments to his best advantage. We don’t want you doing anything illegal but you do need to start thinking about information and where you get it, namely feedback.

Learning to self appraise your own performance on a regular basis and take action is important but we always need to be on the watch for when we might be becoming  less robust in how we look at our own performance in any given task. With this in mind try to bounce around ideas with your network, peers or mentors. It shows a bit of humility in that you accept that you do not have all the answers and would benefit from other expertise, as well as providing a fresh source of ideas.

And who does not like being asked to approached as being as a respected opinion that you want to ask for help? It is a compliment to those you approach and helps get some 20:20 vision – you might need to be more easier on yourself and the standard you set, or maybe you are coasting when you should be getting energised in some form or another. Either way a second opinion can benefit this and help you refine future appraisal of your performance.

If you are thinking that this sounds like a lot of work I would have to redirect you to point 1 – would Gordon Gekko settle for anything less? Jesus just look at the hair this guy rocks, he really does think he is worth it!

Make sense? Sounds like a poor choice of role model? If you have a better one I would love to hear it – for all his faults I think that drive when applied to this area could have real benefits.

Money never sleeps – so can your professional development afford to?


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