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The Princess Bride and the importance of job titles!


n the legendary movie, “The Princess Bride” Westley, tells Buttercup, how it came to be he received the title of the “Dread Pirates Roberts.” You see, even fictional pirates understand the importance of a title!


As a young manager, I never paid much attention to titles, as the age-old maxim, “Titles don’t make the man” always resonated with me. However, later in my career I came to realize my beliefs didn’t always mesh with those of my employees and weren’t always practical.


I used to think, if someone is spending time thinking about what their title should be, then they are not focused enough on their job, or that people shouldn’t be so vain as to worry about what their business card reads. However, after several meaningful conversations with people whom I respect I came to understand that my personal opinion was clouding my professional judgement. For the record, and this has nothing to do with titles but if someone from your team who you respect is vocal about a certain issue, it’s usually wise to pay attention!!


So, why titles are important?


1. Employees take genuine pride in reaching certain title milestones, be it senior, head of, VP etc. It doesn’t mean they are vain. It means they’ve worked hard and accomplished enough to be awarded a more advanced title. A title is one of many ways to show your employees you appreciate their effort.


2. A title can help outsiders navigate internal bureaucracy. For example, if you are doing a pitch to a company, chances are they want to know they are dealing with someone who is a decision maker and has the authority to push a deal though. They would probably prefer to meet with a “Senior VP”, as opposed to a “Junior Marketing Associate”. You may be harming the ability of your more senior level people to get their job done by keeping titles overly generic.


3. It can help employees with their job search when they decide to leave. Giving your team members a title which is commensurate with their position is the fair and decent thing to do, so when they do leave, they will be able to list a title which is relevant and recognized. Also, it helps if an employee can show progression in a company based on their job titles.


4. It’s important to people! While I don’t have any scientific data on it, I’ve discussed this issue with enough people from various companies who all said, “Yes, it matters to us”. So even if it’s only 50% of your company, or more likely closer to 80% that care, if it’s important to them, it should be important to you!


Let's all learn from the Dread Pirate Roberts and provide employees with appropriate titles, commensurate with their responsibilities and performance.


Claim the last of the early bird tickets this week for the “Leadership by movie” workshop on February 20th!

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