Jobs and the Future of Work

Why everyone in your company matters

Bill McDermott
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, ServiceNow
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We’re all part of a professional ecosystem.

Thankfully, I learned this early in my career going door-to-door selling office equipment.

In the eighties, office buildings didn’t have much security. What they did have were doormen, and these uniformed workers were powerful figures, gatekeepers to my success. A doorman had the power to keep me out of his building. He also had the power to welcome me in and welcome me back; recommend my products to tenants; and tell me when a new tenant —and potential customer—was moving in.

For those reasons and more, doormen got my attention and respect.

I introduced myself to every one of them. I asked them their names, how long they had worked in the building, where they lived and if they had kids. Eventually, I came to know most of the doormen up and down my territory. We didn’t go out for beers, but I brought them coffee and we’d chat about sports, the weather and family.

I befriended some terrific, hard-working human beings, and our relationships became critical to my success.

Every doorman had my business card, which he handed out to tenants—“Call Bill, he’ll take care of you.” And if a new tenant moved in and needed office equipment, I was the first to know. I also benefitted because many doormen let me stage product demonstrations in their lobbies.

These individuals were unexpected members of my professional ecosystem, and my experience with them taught me three truths about career success:

Invest in kindness. Sure, it takes a few extra minutes to strike up a conversation with someone when you’re on the move. Yes, it costs a few bucks to buy someone coffee, or flowers, or lunch. But the ROI on your time and money is invaluable—people really do respond to small acts of kindness. (More than a smart tactic, being nice is just a good way to go through life.)

Power resides in unlikely places. Assume that everyone you encounter has influence over the outcomes you desire. In other words: act as if everyone matters, because they do. Treating everyone with equal respect will open doors you didn’t even know existed.

Success is never a solo endeavor. Self-reliance is admirable, but we’re kidding ourselves if we think we can achieve any goal without help. The smartest people you know rely on others with sharper skills, better connections and more knowledge to succeed.

Honoring ecosystems is not only essential for our careers, but also for our companies—especially in today’s interdependent global economy.

No company can build an infrastructure that is, in and of itself, capable of serving every unique customer. That’s why companies must constantly partner with other organizations. Collaboration enhances performance. For our part, SAP counts more than two million people in its global ecosystem.

Partnering, collaborating and seeking assistance is not about admitting weakness. It’s how business gets done. People or companies that insist they can be all things to all customers are doomed to fail.

Honoring your ecosystem is about more than “networking.” It’s about how we treat each other, how we view others, and how we work together. So invest time, money and kindness in the people around you. Treat everyone with respect. And never be too proud to ask for assistance.

Finally, broaden your perspective—my bet is that your ecosystem is larger than you realize, and thus has untapped potential.

Oh, and next time you see a doorman, consider saying more than just “hello.”

This article is published in collaboration with LinkedIn. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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Author: Bill McDermott is Chief Executive Officer and a member of the Executive Board of SAP, the world’s business software market leader with more than 253,500 customers in 188 countries. 

Image: Facebook employees work in the design studio at the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California. REUTERS.

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