Good is Good, but Best is Better

Some people are too good for their own good.

What I mean by that is, some people are so capable, so competent, that they can take on almost any task and do it well.

Don’t you hate those people? ;>}

Whether it’s a broad spread of natural abilities, or sheer drive to perform, or a combination of both, these folks seem omnicompetent (actually, nobody is omnicompetent, so let’s call it “multi-competent“).

You know the type, right? Organized – check. Persuasively able to sell – check. Great marketing instincts – check. Loves data and analytics. Project management? -no problem. Manages people smoothly, yet still reaches inbox zero every afternoon. Worked successfully for several companies; launched a company; advises entrepreneurs; writes a weekly column in Fortune magazine. Enjoys kale smoothies, and works out daily.

I hate them too.

Multi-competence – what a blessing, right? And talk about a dream hire!

Well, yes. And, no.

I’ve had long discussions recently with multi-competent people who are considering new career directions. And along with multi-competence comes this: confusion.

Multi-competent people are good at so many things that it’s not clear what they’re best at.


Here are three distinct areas of confusion that occur with multi-competent people:

  1. When hired into a company, they quickly outgrow a limited set of duties. Leaders recognize the get-it-done employee and keep adding more work. That person, and his/her role, morphs according to external need.
  2. When such a person starts a consulting practice, it becomes a huge challenge to narrow the focus to a very specific domain and offering. This is especially the case when the multi-talented person also has a lot of curiosity, and interest areas.
  3. When constructing a resume or LinkedIn profile, it is difficult to construct a clear and compelling narrative – work history looks like a jumble of roles, tasks, and bullet points.

Now I think it’s a wonderful thing for someone to be multi-talented. But nobody achieves world domination as a utility player. Even if you can do 10 things pretty well, it is highly likely that there are one or two things at which you truly excel (your “magic superpower“) – and which should be your main professional pursuit. Too many options can be paralyzing.

We all need clarity to find our sweet spot. If you’re struggling with your professional focus, perhaps I can help you also.


Also on the blog: Please – Any Job Will Do!

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  1. #2 hit me right between the eyes, and you used a term I’ve also used a number of times to describe me – a utility player. That’s how I think of myself. Good at a lot of things, but not great at any one thing. At least not “best” at any one thing.

    Great post Steve. Got me to thinking.

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