Learn from Colin Powell's career -
The Number One Principle in Employee-Employer Relationship
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Learn from Colin Powell's career -
The Number One Principle
Employee-Employer Relationship

The White House announced the resignation of Colin Powell as the United States Secretary of State. Powell's leaving is a big loss to President George W. Bush's administration.

What can we learn from Powell's service as the U.S. Secretary of State?

Colin Powell has long been considered as the moderate voice in U.S. foreign affairs and policy. Early on, his opinion and stand often clashed with the hawks in the Bush administration, who urged the U.S. launching its pre-emptive war against Iraq.

However, once the Bush administration made its decision, Colin tried his best to help the U.S. President promote his military plan to other countries. One of his most controversial roles was presenting evidence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction to the United Nations -- a role for which he later was under fire when the evidence presented proved not authentic.

He did go on to represent the U.S. in many other foreign affairs where he demonstrated his exceptional presentation power and tried to instill the sense of righteousness of U.S. interest in different regional issues.

If what others have commented about him is right, he is a good example of a loyal employee to the Bush administration - an employee who gets his job done despite the fact that his personal opinions and recommendations are not accepted.

The Number One rule to being a good employee is to solve your employer's business problems (refer to the article - "Use the Business Problem Concept
to Win in Job Hunting
."). This is especially important in the eyes of employers. Employers pay you and provide you what you need to accomplish your job, and your ultimate responsibility is to solve their problems. That is what you get paid for - not simply identifying problems and definitely not creating ones.

This mutually beneficial relationship is clear and straightforward. However, many job seekers and employees mistake the relationship with their employers as "partnerships" and focus on what the employers could do for them rather than what they can do for their employers.

The fact is: the added benefits of learning, exposure, job satisfaction and increased financial reward are only realized if you have performed the job well. And more importantly, the job refers to the one your employer hired you to accomplish -- not the one you have simply decided you should do. You need to make sure that you obtain from your employer or supervisor a clear explanation of your job responsibilities and expectations.

Many people, particularly those in management jobs, often take the following for granted:

  1. The employer is responsible for providing me with learning and developmental opportunities.
  2. An employer should consider my interests and career goals in assigning any job responsibilities to me.
  3. Employer should not or cannot fire me even if I consistently fail to perform my job satisfactorily. I showed up to work and I have my rights!

The fact of the matter is that in today's rapidly changing economy there are few, if any, guarantees for employees.

The only "guarantee" is that an employer should not or cannot discriminate against an employee on the following if he/she can perform the job duties satisfactorily:

  1. Marital Status
  2. Religion
  3. Age
  4. Race
  5. Sex Orientation
  6. Other personal preferences/attires

From my observation of the relationship between Bush administration and Colin Powell, I can see that both parties have observed the Number One rule. Even though Powell did not totally agree with Bush's direction in some foreign affairs, his number one priority was to help Bush to sell his foreign affairs policy.

Is it painful? It can be. But bear in mind that as an employee, you have to get your job done first.

But note: As an employee, if you think you cannot accept or no longer have the desire or ability to satisfactorily perform the job duties assigned -- like Colin Powell -- you always have the choice to resign. You should consider this if the job duty violates your baseline - it is something that makes it difficult to face your family or even look yourself in the mirror. The baseline could be something you think unethical or even illegal.

Please consider this precaution carefully. If your employee wants or forces you to do something illegal, resigning is probably the best step. Don't let your employer "blackmail" you into doing something that cold put you in jail or hurt others. There are always good jobs and employers in the world; your existing one won't be the only opportunity you have.

Otherwise, bear in mind this very fundamental principle in your day-to-day job and your job hunting process - Get the job done for your employer.

Employers pay you because they want you to get the job done - and done well and done NOW. Your recognition, rewards, exposure and other benefits will come if you manage to apply this principle.

Look at Colin Powell. Even though he has been working hard to promote the foreign policy of the U.S. to which 50% of the countries in the world have not positively responded, I do believe he has earned the respect of more than 90% of the world's leaders for his remarkable work, ability, and dedication.

We may not agree with the message he promoted, but we can learn from the way he fulfilled his job responsibilities in promoting that message.

From the Desk of
Damen Choy

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