Welcome to the fourth segment in The Hunger Games of Business. This post was inspired by a recent story one of our Vice Presidents told a few of us during a recent work conference. He was talking about his 12 year old daughter who is 4’10” and plays basketball. Even though she plays with young ladies who sometimes tower over her, she never backs down, and she sets a strong precedent from the onset.
He was telling us about a game she was starting and a few minutes into the game, walked past one of the biggest girls on the opposite team and shoulder checked her hard enough to actually spin the girl. He laughed when he saw that and later asked her if the girl had said something rude to her. His daughter replied that she hadn’t and when he asked her why she shoulder checked the other girl his daughter replied with: “Dad, I was sending a message!” Even though his daughter is petite and the other girl was much bigger, his daughter was letting everyone on the court know she was to be taken seriously.
In the Hunger Games books there are training sessions for all the tributes when they get to the Capitol. After a couple days of training, they’re ushered into a banquet hall (privately) to show the Gamemakers their skills. At the end of this process the “strength scores” of the tributes is announced to the entire Capital and to all the districts. This is done publically so all of the players know who the weak, and who the strong candidates are, and they strategize accordingly.
In the first book, the heroine of the story (Katniss) was the last to go. She was a petite girl from the poorest district that hadn’t produced a winner in the games for years. When Katniss arrived at the banquet hall the judges were drunk, in “party mode” and not paying a lick of attention to her. They had written her off before she even walked in the room based on looks, and where she was from. So in a bold move she fires off some arrows and the last one she sends directly into the pig laying on the banquet table…directly in front of the judges. Katniss then exited with the words, “Thank you for your consideration.” Guess what her “strength” ranking was…?
This is the same exact thing (once again, without all the dying in the Hunger Games) that happens in the work environment, with any industry, especially the ones that are extremely competitive to get into. In the first few months that you work somewhere, your co-workers and bosses are sizing you up, assessing your strengths and weaknesses, and you will be included or excluded accordingly. Everyone is trying to build an alliance of sorts (even if it is on a subconscious level) and they are trying to surround themselves with “A” players.
In my industry, the majority of the sales reps in the operating room are male, especially the implant reps, and especially the orthopedic ones. Most of them are ex military or previous college football players, or semi pro athletes of some sport (basically they are uber competitive, big, and gregarious.) The type of product I sell means that these implant reps can either be a big help to me, or they can choose not to take me seriously, and not help me at all. Each time I meet a new implant rep, I set a precedent from the onset that I’m to be taken seriously, that I know my product inside and out, and that I’m not some random rep with some dinky product that’ll be out on the street in a month. And when my supposed “competition” comes around, same thing.
I’m never rude nor overly confrontational, but I do create enough of a presence so that they know who I am, and that I’m not to be messed with. I’ve now been around long enough to have established a good reputation, but when I first got into the industry I came from a company that (at that time) no one had heard of, and had a product that no one knew about. Even then, when I was new to this extremely competitive industry, from a tiny company, with a product that no one had heard of, I never backed down, and I set a precedent of who I was and that I was NOT going to be taken lightly.
I’m in no way promoting a rude, aggressive, overly abrasive demeanor as soon as you get to a new company (or ever.) In fact the more humble and open you are, the more productive you will probably be in enlisting people to your side. However, I strongly believe in displaying a strong and confident demeanor from the beginning. And if you can sense that someone is testing you to see how far they can push, or to see if they can break you…go ahead and dig your heels in and stand your ground. After all, when Katniss shot that arrow into the pig at the judges banquet table, she ensured her chances of survival by receiving a high “strength” rating, thereby ensuring sponsors and help during the games. So how about you…? What kind of message are you or have you been sending?