Study “Stuff” or Study People?

2 min. read

Pro-tip: It’s not even close. 

The reason people go to college and continue their education is to develop technical competence. Doesn’t matter whether you’re an accountant, a doctor, or teacher –– you are expected to know your “stuff,” to learn the basics of your craft and more.

This doesn’t change once you’re in the workforce. Nothing new here. Learn the job, do the job, get results. Keep it up.

But there’s more to this story.

A successful career is not just about the command of your “stuff.”

It is about how you build relationships and credibility, the ability to help those around you, and to create the conditions for their successful performance. 

It’s about your ability to build a base of credibility and trust – which, in the long run, are better predictors of career success than cognitive intelligence.

You mean people rely on their perception of you to inform how credible you are? You bet.

Credibility lies in the eye of the beholder.

The point here is:

Building credibility is not about you. It’s about other people and your ability to commit and deliver something of value to them. They succeed, you succeed.

It means you need to be a student of people.

Understanding why people do what they do and what’s important to them- makes your credibility possible.

The more you build relationships and understand someone’s perspective, the more you can have a positive influence on them and greater impact on the organization.

Learning about people doesn’t mean you abandon your technical competence. It’s that relationship building opens more doors for you to engage in a more meaningful career. 

While some people have a natural curiosity, there are four specific people-studying skills:

  1. Take the time to understand what is important to someone else
  2. Be a good listener and ask good questions
  3. Be visible and accessible
  4. Remind  yourself of why building relationships is so important to your success and the organization’s success

Studying people builds an appreciation for how vastly similar and infinitely different we are. It’s reality television without the television. It’s a fascinating experience.

Listen to the latest episode of the podcast of Ladderburners Unite!

Kelly Norton shares how studying people is at the heart of her career development, which she describes as “organized chaos.”

Availability wherever you listen to podcasts.