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Winning at Working: Big Hat, No Cattle
by Nan Russell

I did exactly what the magazine wanted me to do. I bought it solely for an article featured on the cover. But when I got it home and started searching for the piece I wanted to read, I couldn't find it. The headline drew me in, but hidden behind other features was an article with a different title that sort of, kind of, talked about the topic. I felt cheated.

I feel cheated sometimes at work, too. There are people who make claims they can do this or that or boldly state they've already done it. But when you dig deeper into the specifics, you discover they're "big hat, no cattle" people. Living in Montana, a state where hats and cattle mean something, I say forget the hat and give me the cattle.

I admit I've been duped by these boastful, confident talkers. I've allowed hope for their promised skills to sway me, only to discover the limited possibility of the deliverables after they were hired. More than once, I've gratefully used the probationary period to eliminate no-cattle people from my payroll. The ancient proverb is often true, "Every ass loves to hear himself bray."

In a world rife with deception and hypocrisy, it's not the big hat, no cattle people who stand out. It's the authentic ones. There is a refreshing transparency to authentic people. After twenty years in management, I've come to think of them as WYSIWYG (pronounced wiz-ee-wig) people. It's a term used by software developers for what-you-see-is-what-you-get. WYSIWYG allows a developer to see what the end result will look like during development. The same concept applies to people.

Authentic people (WYSIWGY people) don't surprise you. They don't lie to you. They don't manipulate you. They don't deceive you. They don't deliberately mislead you. And they certainly don't pretend to have cattle. Authentic people are people of substance.

These what-you-see-is-what-you-get people are genuine, credible, good-to-their-word people who "show up" as who they are. There's nothing perfect about them. You'll know when they're angry or frustrated, excited or stressed, irritable or compassionate. They have strengths and weaknesses like everyone else. But, unlike many, they're not trying to be someone they're not. They're trying to be who they are and offer their uniqueness to their work. They show up as a total package, with passions and biases. Authentic people are unassuming, not boastful; truthful not cunning; self-like not saint-like.

When you show up as who you are, you change the work dynamic. You raise the bar for yourself and others by putting skin in the game, setting the expectation for how to operate, and expecting nothing less from others in return. When you speak and act from authentic conviction, well-intentioned thought and winning philosophies, others follow your lead. Want to be winning at working? Lose the big hat ... or get some cattle.

(c) 2006 Nan S. Russell. All rights reserved.

Receive a copy of 21 Winning Career Tips (a free download) at Nan Russell has spent over twenty years in management, most recently with QVC as a Vice President. She has held leadership positions in Human Resource Development, Communication, Marketing and line Management. Nan has a B.A. from Stanford University and M.A. from the University of Michigan. Currently working on her first book, Winning at Working: 10 Lessons Shared, Nan is a columnist, writer and speaker. Visit

Nan Russell may be contacted at or


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