Important people do things differently than unimportant people — that is, behavior correlates with importance. If you want people to consider you more important — to trust and defer to you — you should pick up on how behavior correlates with importance. And with unimportance if you want to avoid being lumped in with unimportant people.
The more important you are, the less you carry. The following corporate examples are simplified to communicate easily, but see how they resonate with your experience.
An engineer who is easily replaced often carries tons of stuff — a big bag, sometimes so full he or she rolls it on wheels, pockets full, multiple cell phones sticking of the belt, etc. Everything is functional.
A manager may have a bunch of stuff, maybe a full bag, but typically not like the engineer. His or her stuff is functional, but there is less of it.
A senior manager will typically have a small briefcase. His or her gear’s style begins to gain importance over functionality.
By the time you get to the CEO, not only does he or she carry little or nothing, he or she often will have an assistant or two carrying his or her stuff — that is, the CEO may have negative stuff. And what he or she has looks good. It communicates he or she thought about what he or she is communicating.
The extreme case in the opposite direction is a student. Students don’t yet have jobs and will often carry huge textbooks. Compare a pre-med, who carries large biology and chemistry textbooks, with an experienced doctor. When I’m in doctors’ offices, they walk in with nothing material and everything important in their minds as experience.
It’s not just in the professional world. It’s all over. Rock stars walk on stage with nothing and roadies hand them their instruments on schedule. They don’t have equipment in their hotel rooms with them — maybe just instruments they like to play. Band members who aren’t yet stars carry all their equipment with them. Roadies don’t show up on stage and their job is to handle everyone else’s stuff.
An irony is that if you want to be promoted or entrusted with greater responsibility, you want to communicate to decision-makers that they can trust you. Many people try to show how much work they can do by having so much stuff. Often looking like you can do work will result in you getting more work, not necessarily more responsibility.
So which person do you think you should look like?
People understand who you are by how you behave and communicate, not by who you think you are 0r who you want to be. They will treat you like others who behave like you are treated. Whether you realize it or not, you choose how you behave and communicate and therefore how people perceive and communicate with you. If you behave like you should be given work, you’ll tend to be given work. If you behave like you should be given responsibility, you’ll tend to be given responsibility.
I suggested above that you consider how youre experience resonates with my simplified descriptions of various roles. Of course your experiences will differ. Now consider the cases where you saw a CEO with full bags — how successful was the company?
Edit: Tomorrow’s post follows up on this one: on time, priorities, and how important people use theirs.
Read my weekly newsletter
On initiative, leadership, the environment, and burpees