Develop Your Power Skills

The All-Terrain Professional (ATP)

entrepreneurship leadership relationshipcapital viprm Nov 04, 2022
Bronco symbolizing all terrain professional

Today’s effective business leader functions more like a high-end sports utility vehicle (SUV) than a luxury sedan or sports car—able to perform smartly in various situations with confidence, power, and flexibility. While the terrain may vary from the boardroom to the customer site, the research laboratory to the factory or distributor, from business partner to supplier, industry forum, or cyberspace, the evolved professional must adapt quickly to seize opportunities. Tomorrow’s leaders train to be the “all-terrain professional” (ATP)—entrepreneurial, highly collaborative, multi-tasking, and increasingly autonomous.

The shape of business models and markets is changing swiftly, and the antidote for these sweeping changes is to effectively manage relationships on many levels, on any terrain. ATPs stay engaged with their networks inside and outside the company and get constant traction at every turn to keep in tune with the competitive landscape. Like an SUV, the All Terrain Professional is a generalist who has evolved quite rapidly in the past decade and understands how to leverage the expertise of others in both loose and tight organizational connections. Yet, so often today, there is no staff of onboard experts to help figure things out. To get things done in Internet speed means collaboration and the use of technology whenever and wherever it makes sense.

What’s become increasingly clear is that professionals in the workforce must think and act like entrepreneurs, even though many individuals will still resist this idea. There’s simply no place to hide in today’s high-performance organization. No longer can we assume that we will experience only one or even two careers over a working lifetime: five is now the predicted norm and more for the most versatile or adventurous among us.

This new work world dynamic has had the effect of pushing us all, as our experience grows, in the direction of ever-increasing personal autonomy. Yet, ironically, we must learn to collaborate to truly achieve it. Today our value is found in thinking like a general manager or a consultant concerned with the what and when of things as opposed to merely the how. While we focus on our core competencies and partner with others to deliver complete solutions, we also strive to keep the Big Picture in mind in our endeavor to create a new order of things. That is what entrepreneurs do. Within such a brave new world, Power Skills enable us to take quick advantage of both the transitions and the opportunities, recognizing that such fast action is no longer optional but a total necessity.

Capitalism has begun to foster never-before opportunities on the Internet: do-it-yourself stock trading, global electronic commerce, self-publishing, distance learning, and online research, to name just a few. Moreover, well-developed mechanisms now exist to support budding entrepreneurs wishing to raise capital and resources for new businesses and for “intrapreneurs” seeking to initiate significant projects within their more prominent organizations. University entrepreneurship programs and venture forums, for example, and new financing sources, eagerly seek talented people with great ideas whom they can help.

Business leaders understand the clear value resulting from a strong focus. Without this critical ingredient, it’s near impossible to build a consistently profitable business because the repetition of perfected solutions and the creative reuse of work products allow enterprises to become predictable and efficient. But one word of caution: an intense focus over time can also become a trap, especially when it has done its job, i.e., keeping a business on track. The track may become a professional dead end.

When we only remain comfortable with what we know, we can become closed off to the changing world of possibilities. Whenever successful professionals face up to the financial or professional risks of a new endeavor, weighing them against the need for personal creative expression, fear of failing holds the power to do them in. Though focus, focus, focus may, in general, be good advice for a business, it can also starve the soul of the very best business leaders and owners. Learning curves tend to flatten out, so professionals who wish to keep growing must think like Captain Kirk and Ulysses, “boldly going where no one (or you!) has ever gone before.” Do otherwise and risk stagnation and loss of momentum, at the very least.

When truly dedicated to lifelong learning, we must re-pot ourselves every so often so that our roots and branches can grow rapidly again. To remain self-directed, we must, from time to time, take career choices and transitions into our own hands in this rapidly changing world. Otherwise, mediocrity, boredom, underemployment, and obsolescence appear on our doorstep. Growing through this cycle of dependence to independence to interdependence, we begin recognizing the natural interconnected- ness of our world. Relationships built years earlier tend to pay us back in unexpected dividends. Such pleasant surprises are almost always traceable to a particular value we provided others long ago. 

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