"My job title not only represents the scope of my assignment but most importantly it represents the enormous obligation I have to deliver great value to my stakeholders."
- Joe Z, my fourth boss, who went to become a very successful and respected executive
How good is your title? Well it depends on what you do, as Joe said in the above quote. What happens when the focus on your title becomes more important than the focus on the value you create? Consider the following true story:
One Friday afternoon in the late 1970s, we were having a birthday celebration and some cake with our director, "SD". SD asked Ken and I, two recent college graduates, to join him in his office for a chat. He lit a cigar and started telling us different events from his life with every puff of smoke he took. In those days, there were no smoking regulations, and as new hires, we had no choice but to endure a lot of smoke!
He (SD) was 28 years old (puff), had a Ph.D. from a prestigious university by the time he was 24 (puff), he had already become a director at the age of 27 (puff), repeated thrice that he was a director (puff, puff, puff), had a house on the hills (puff, puff) and land in an affluent area ...
Just at that moment, his phone rang. It seemed to be from his boss. As soon as he hung up the phone, he told us "My boss (the General Manager) is calling an emergency meeting. I need to go."
As he was leaving his office door, he looked at us with a smirk and said, "You guys are lucky. You don't have Friday afternoon emergency meetings at your level."
That was the last time we saw SD. On Monday morning, we were summoned to our own emergency meeting by the General Manager and introduced to our new director.
Reflection: As our meeting with the GM ended and we were leaving the room, Ken and I had learned one of the most important lessons at an early stage of our career: your title is as good as one phone call from the boss. What matters is the value you deliver to stakeholders.