Written by Jerry Robinson, General Manager at SCR can also be found published in the 2013 fall edition of the ABMA, Today’s Boiler Magazine.

The published version can be seen on page 25 of the online edition of ABMA, Today’s Boiler Magazine at:


 Impacting careers – one statement at a time

Are you a mentor, manager, leader, or in any respected role of authority?  If so, choose your words carefully and be aware that the simplest comment has the potential of incredible impact – as a benefit or detriment. The power of a single phrase can be invaluable to the life and career of those with whom you interact.

So, make it a point to be a source of career enhancing statements whenever possible.

In my early teenage years my step-father was struggling with putting a cover back on our pool’s new filtration system.  The cover was locked down by two clips in brackets with welded in-place pegs.  The lock down assembly fit over two pieces of “u” channel which sat atop the flat filtration cover.  No matter how hard my step-father tried he was unable to get the pieces to all fit back together. I took a quick look and suggested that he turn the channel over and allow the pegs to slide into the channel.  Of course, that was the solution, the whole assembly fit into place and a solution was achieved.

Now some 50 years later, none of that matters.  What does matter is that I can see my step-father stepping back, first looking at the filtration system, then back at me and saying, “Jerry, you always have a different way of looking at things.”

I don’t know whether it was a lean toward engineering, a wild guess, or just needing something to say that led me to the suggestion.  But, what I do know is that no matter the issue or problem his words echo in my mind. I am able to quickly and confidently review the facts then design and evaluate a number of “different ways” of looking at and solving whatever the issue is.  His words made me believe that I possessed the skill and over the years I’ve worked hard to not let him down.  This “different way of looking at things” has evolved into an ability to quickly evaluate, develop optional solutions, reevaluate, decide on a course of action, and act.  Somewhere along the line an additional component of identifying a backup plan became a part of this automatic process.

Many years after this interaction with my step-father I heard the Roger Bannister story.  For those of you who don’t remember the name, Roger Bannister was the first human to record running a sub 4 minute mile.  He achieved this incredible feat in 1954.  The goal which had never before been accomplished was then duplicated a number of times in the next year.  Why/how could this happen when so many before had failed to reach the mark?  I, along with many others, believe it was repeated so many times soon thereafter because people knew it could be done.  They believed, and achieved.

Expanding on my life experience and the Roger Bannister story consider this…what can you say to set in place or affirm an associate’s strengths?  What might you say through a limited investment in thought and word to support another’s improvement of skills simply by supporting the perception of talent?  My belief is that if it’s honest commentary based upon even an iota of fact the impact can be dynamic.

It is an individual’s belief in an ability or talent that causes an internal focus and confidence.  The natural progression is to then frequently practice the talent and thus add skill.  Repetitive use of a skill further hones itself into an easy and natural use of the talent.


It is my contention that the following or similar honest comments have positive impact:

To an executive – “It’s great to see how your people respond to your enthusiasm.”

To a manager – “Your leadership appears to always be based on setting goals and helping your people meet them.”

To a salesperson – “Clients react well to your concise yet informative manner of relaying information.”

To an engineer – “your technical knowhow and attention to detail produce great results.”

To anyone – “Thank you, you really came through for me.”  (In this case the talent is self-identified as a reaction to the compliment.)


Over the years I’ve had many opportunities to both use and discuss this philosophy.  In those discussions detractors always seem to bring up my Pollyanna-like view of the world, which they then state is unrealistic.  But, the reality is I’ve performed thousands of reference checks in my 30 years in the recruiting business. The numbers of times I’ve listened to a reference identify an individual’s talent only to then hear the candidate list it among his/her weaknesses is astounding!

It cannot be proven at any level, but my belief is that if that associate who gave the reference would have noted and mentioned the talent to the candidate a different end-result would have occurred. The candidate might have turned their perceived negative to an internal belief of capability and grown through further sharpening of the talent.

Because of this firm belief, and a true desire to have positive impact on the lives of others, much of my business and social interaction is spent looking for opportunities to complement other’s skills.  The result has been a keen focus on listening, watching body language, and identifying talent.  Of course, as a provider of personnel this talent has become useful on a daily basis.

So, test my theory. Identify and promote in a positive manner.  Go beyond the common and look for even the glimmer of a talent and make a positive comment.  See what others can achieve with just a few seconds of your time invested in identifying and promoting skills through mentioning and complimenting talent.

I think that you’ll be surprised at the results…but then, I do have a “different way of looking at things.”


Author, Jerry Robinson

Mr. Robinson is the Managing Partner of Strategic Contract Resources, LLC (SCR).  SCR is a provider of recruitment services and defined-term personnel to the Power, Oil & Gas and broader Energy Industries.  SCR utilizes the listening, evaluation and communication skills referenced within this article on a daily basis to help clients hire candidates with superior experience, skills, motivation and confidence. Visit SCR at

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