Every A-Player Needs a Playbook

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I recently worked on a project that included the creation of a Sales Playbook, and it sparked an idea worth sharing. What would happen if you created a Career Playbook that captures your methods for success?

Personal Playbook Page

Mindmap from Kelli's Playbook

Could you use it as a competitive advantage if you are job hunting? Perhaps you’re craving an opportunity to do and be more where you already work, and you want to prove you’re ready.

If a Personal Playbook did nothing other than map what makes your methods unique, would it be worth your effort?

My answer? Yes. Definitely Yes.

What Do I Mean By a Playbook?

Just as in sports, it’s a notebook containing narratives, lists and diagrams of the plays you have practiced. It is the blueprint for how you operate in business scenarios. This is the HOW, not simply the WHAT.

Your Playbook is a highly-personalized tool that reflects YOUR direct experience. It’s your reference, your bible, your go-to resource.  It is your proof of concept.

Fast Company founding editor Bill Taylor wrote The 10 Questions Every Change Agent Must Answer, and in it he asked ‘What Are You the Most of?’  That is the guts of your Playbook. It’s the User Manual of what you do best.  It isn’t your memoir or a journal nor is it a lesson book.

Your Playbook is a collection of YOUR tactics and best practices (not those of your favorite guru). It’s not a history book; it is a living-breathing body of knowledge about your methods and rituals.

Why Write a Playbook — More Than Just Intrinsic Value

No matter what type of thinker you are or whether your strengths are strategic or tactical, a Playbook will boost your market value.  I came up with 5 reasons to do my own book:

  1. High performers have a methodology. Own yours, because it sets you apart.
  2. Methods and rituals do co-exist with creativity. Even the most spontaneous people are predictably spontaneous.
  3. You can’t scale without process. When you articulate a scalable methodology, you will blow the door open for new career opportunities.
  4. Prove to yourself that you are a repeatable success story and not just a tale of one-hit wonders.
  5. If you want to jump industries, you have to prove you can transfer your knowledge.  Your process makes that possible.
Timeline Exercise

Brainstorm technique: Timeline your highlights of a key position.

The Content: Part Ritual, Part Process, Part Magic.

If you’re still with me on this idea, you may have guessed it is no small task to create. Let’s be real about this project: creating a Playbook demands an honest look inside of yourself and a fair bit of writing.

What goes into your Playbook? Simply put: any (or every) scenario that is part of your regular work life.

Here is part of the list I created for my own Playbook:

  1. How do you (begin to) understand your customers?
  2. How do you gather competitive intelligence?
  3. How do you seek understanding of the formal and informal communication norms inside a company?
  4. Where do you look for new ideas outside of the company?
  5. Who do you turn to for advice?
  6. How do you make an unforgettable impression?
  7. What is your decision process?
  8. How do you break down the walls of communication with people who are NOT like you?
  9. How do you communicate most effectively (i.e. what do people need to know about the way you do it)? This includes all channels of media.
  10. How do you cross cultural barriers?
  11. What are the signals that you’re stressed or over-committed?
  12. How do you know when you’re short on resources? What steps do you take to get what you need?
  13. What feeds (and kills) your creativity?
  14. Who is in your power base?
  15. What motivates you? (don’t skip this, because you need to be very clear with your own boss about this.)

3 Ways to Start the Process

  • Replay your success reel. Think through your career in 5-year increments and identify the 1-2 remarkable achievements that stand out.  What made those possible? What did you face, and (most importantly) how did you make it work?

    Left Brain - Right Brain Example

    Inside the pages of my separate Vision and Mission Book, an ongoing project.

  • Look at where you’ve prevailed against all odds. Your biggest lessons often come from there.
    List the project or the job or the company. Explore how and why it didn’t meet your expectations (in some cases, maybe it did, but it fell short of someone else’s).
  • List your Always and Nevers. This is your sacred ground and the deal breakers.  Know where you draw the line with colleagues and clients.

The good news is that you already have the content for your Playbook. The content is in your head,  but in order to make it tangible, you need to invest the time and discipline to put it on paper.

Have you done something like this? I’d love to hear about it.

Great Additional Reading:

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5 thoughts on “Every A-Player Needs a Playbook

  1. This is a great way to help jobseekers understand a way to demonstrate transferable skills. I think this will work especially well with sports-minded career counseling clients. Thanks for this great tip! I really like that you included #15 (What motivates you?). One thing that helps clients in their jobsearch (especially if they’ve been downsized) is identifying their motivations and hindrances. It helps me to keep them motivated and to know their boundaries.

  2. So my plant is moving along a with a pretty substantial change. We are moving from generalists to specialists some rewards for certain positions some lower pay for non skilled support positions.

    How this ties in to this article is our Plant Manager is using a permutation on this concept as one of our principles. We compiled what the employees thought were their strengths into a ‘coach’s playbook’. The next phase was we decided what our ‘team’ needs to look like to move us into the future in the best competitive position.

    Now come the ‘tryouts’. We are posting our new set of ‘team need’s’ and all are welcome to apply for these positions. Just like in HS & College football, just because you played QB you might end up as a running back, or reciever or even on the defense. Therefore there are no limits for the tryouts, no preconcevied placement of talent.

    Well the first tryouts are for Quarterback – a position we are calling Leads. These twelve people will be the subject expert for a different large areas within the plant. They will be tested for knowledge but also tested on how well they can explain & train the different job functions. An expanded Maintenance force (lets call them the defensive linemen) is also open for tryouts and the same time.

    As we proceed in creating our new team, other positions will be posted in about three months with the whole concept ready and completed by the end of March.

    At the most recent employee meetings a few people questioned the status of the lowest positions, that it might be demeaning to be in that group. To that our Plant Manager replied ‘this is like a football team, these people are my bench and any coach knows to be successful he has to have bench strenght. It is our duty to develop these people to rise into the higher skill positions”.

    The concept makes sense. Not everybody can be a starter, there are skilled players and support players and a successful team people know thier roles.

    Stay tuned

  3. The whole Playbook concept seems like it can apply in a team aspect as well. Quite often I hear the complaint “we never get consulted when you decide to change something” on the other hand I hear the managers complaint “we ask for input but never get any”. Well the Playbook concept looks like it might be a means to see that the Coach has the right players in the Huddle.

    I am proposing to our HR and Plant Manager that we ask employees to answer two questions

    1) I am very good at __________
    2) When you are considering changes to (a piece of equipment, a billing process, etc) I would like to be involved.

    Now when the VP says “we need to improve the uptime on the Guggenheim line” – you can look at the Roster and see who you need out there.

    I think this will help with employee engagement, it certainly forces the employees to view & assess their talents from a managements perspective, and if you see don’t see employees filling a specialist role it might provide insight into future training.

    Now sure their are emergencies and the Coach sends down the play down to the people already on the field, but a good Coach would rather take a timeout and make sure the right people are on the field.

    Anyway I’ve put it out there for our people to try. If allowed to proceed further I’ll report back here on the results.

  4. In a couple weeks I’m presenting to some top Media Students at Ball State University as part of the “Alumni Class.” The students get a new teacher each class. This will be perfect to bring with me. I’ll be tying corporate branding to personal branding, then lead to the “career playbook.” Thanks for the notion.

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