Hot Shot Rule – Improve your career and life with this ONE question!

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In May of 2016, I had the opportunity to hear Kat Cole, Group President of FOCUS Brands, speak on leadership and setting vision.  While her entire talk and story was moving, one thing really stuck with me on how to improve your career – the Hot Shot Rule.  

So what’s the Hot Shot Rule?


The Hot Shot Rule is a way to be your own coach in seeing what is possible and what needs improving.


Basically, you ask yourself, “If a hot shot took over my job today, what is one thing they would think is unacceptable?” And then go address that one thing.


Need a friendly reminder each month? 


Why the Hot Shot Rule works?


For the past several months, I have been applying the Hot Shot Rule to my own life.  And IT WORKS!!  Let’s check out why the Hot Shot Rule is so darn effective. 


It is focused

The Hot Shot Rule really zones in on what is MOST in need of changing. It prioritizes all of the “should be fixed” or “could be better” and narrows in on the ONE aspect that MUST improve.  Despite what society tells us, multi-tasking is often detrimental to both the quality and quantity of our work.  By focusing on just one unacceptable aspect, you will definitely improve the quality and likely the quantity of your work.  


It encourages reflection

When finishing up my coursework for my MBA, my professor Rob Harris said something that has stuck with me – “ Never underestimate the power of reflection.”  We get so busy doing that often we forget to take time to reflect on what we are doing.  


As someone who cares about their career (that’s why you’re here, right?), I know you work hard at what you do.  But reflection allows you to take a step back and ensure that you are doing the right things.  Then, and only then, can you ensure you are doing the right things well.


It requires honesty

The more you can be honest with yourself, the easier it will be to recognize and fix issues.  This is important because you can address issues before they are seen as a problem to others.  It allows you to maintain your own Hot Shot reputation, without enduring the (open) criticism of others.  Also, the more honest you are with yourself, the more easily you are able to accept the honesty of others when it is necessary.  


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It promotes continuous improvement

A great tidbit of insight that Kat Cole shared was that just because things could be worse, that does not mean you do not have obligation to make them better.  If you rely too much on what you’ve previously accomplished, you can become blinded to the current or future problems.


Instead, by regularly applying the Hot Shot Rule, you are able to address the most important issues proactively and continuously.  You will be less likely to experience the lull in your career if you are constantly striving to improve in what you are doing.


It strengthens your ability to see from another’s point of view

By regularly practicing viewing situations from outside of yourself, you will be better able on a daily basis to consider issues from multiple points of view.   


This is an invaluable skill that my mother taught me from an early age.  We often talked about current events and the news, with my mother encouraging me to first to consider how I would feel and what I would think if I were in their situation, with their background, and their experiences.  It taught me empathy and how to understand another’s perspective.  


This does not mean that my mother taught me to condone the behaviour of others, or lack judgement.  On the contrary, her example and encouragement allows to me to make a more complete judgement after considering all aspects of a situation.  This also helped me differentiate judging a person’s actions, versus judging the person.  


By applying the Hot Shot Rule, and viewing your own actions as if you were another person, it allows you to judge your own “unacceptable” behaviour.  The more you do it, the more you will be able to do it without passing judgement on the person (you!).

Need a friendly reminder each month? 

Improve more than your Career – Improve your Life

What is amazing about the Hot Shot rule is that it can be applied to all aspects of your life.  Think about all of the roles that you have.  For me, I am a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a colleague, an engineer, an employee, a manager.  I’m sure I missed a few in there!


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As an engineer, it can be challenging at times to accept less than perfection in each of these roles.  But if I have learned nothing else in my 31 years of life lessons, 21 years of schooling, and 19 years of working, I have learned to strive for excellence, not perfection.  


Edwin Bliss is credited with saying, “The pursuit of excellence is gratifying and healthy.  The pursuit of perfection is frustrating, neurotic, and a terrible waste of time”  


How overwhelming is it when you start to think about all of things in all of the roles that you have that ‘should’ be improved.  I have an anxiety attack coming on just thinking about it!  If you try to tackle all of these things at once, it becomes very debilitating. Paralysis by analysis, as some say! “Frustrating”, indeed!


So don’t try to overhaul every role all at once.  Instead, rotate through your priority roles – still focusing on just that top “unacceptable” item.


Although daily priorities might shift, my general role prioritization goes something like this:

  1. Wife
  2. Mother
  3. Employee / Manager / Colleague / Engineer
  4. Sister / Daughter
  5. Friend


Every month or so, apply the Hot Shot rule to a different role.  You can adjust the phrase by saying,  “If a hot shot took over my job today as a mother, what is one thing they would think is unacceptable?” And then go address that one thing that you need to improve about being a mother. Or as a wife.  Or as an engineer Or as a friend. You get the idea.

Need a friendly reminder each month? 


I will say it again to stress its importance.  DO NOT try to take on everything all at once.  Just focus on improving one aspect, for that one role.  

It will be amazing how big of a difference using the Hot Shot Rule will make in your life.  Addressing that one “unacceptable” thing will begin to have a ripple effect, improving other aspects of your life.  You will be creating new habits which will often carryover.  It allows you to be your own self-coach in seeing what’s possible – in your career and in your life.


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