01 Mar Charlie Sheen’s Career Game
Charlie Sheen is providing a target-rich environment when it comes to consideration of career moves. Celebrity careers make for fascinating case studies – brilliant ascensions, rapid falls from grace, and restorations of reputations happen and are publicly chronicled.
By now, it would have been hard to escape the coverage of Sheen’s antics and the decision by CBS and Warner Brothers to cancel production of the remaining episodes of the hit show.
Coverage of the events has focused on two levels – one rather clear and the other still much more speculative. In terms of the former, it is clear that Sheen has no respect for the show’s creator, Chuck Lorre. Sheen has called him names and even challenged him to a fight. There is no misunderstanding here – Sheen has been aggressive at seeking the most public venues to continue his diatribe about Lorre, Warner Brothers, and CBS.
The more speculative matter concerns the cause for Sheen’s rants. Theories abound – drug abuse and bipolar disorder appear to be the favorites. These are serious problems and people close to Sheen have a responsibility to intervene – both for Sheen’s sake and that of his young children.
In “Your Career Game” we propose that it’s useful to think of the game metaphor in considering career decisions. Like games, careers have goals, moves, interdependent players, and rules – among other characteristics. Deeply understanding these game elements is useful in winning in both games and careers. Thinking about Sheen’s recent moves in his career game raises some important issues.
First, does Sheen understand the criteria others hold for performance in his job? Sheen’s basic case is that in spite of any personal choices he made during the show’s production he “hit the mark” with every line. Evidence suggests he is correct – the show is wildly popular and his character is at the center of every storyline. Sheen defines his job as hitting the mark – if the lines are well delivered then his job is done. What Sheen has failed to do is to understand how others define a job well done. Hitting the mark while creating piles of collateral damage in the process isn’t what his production company is looking for.
Second, does Sheen understand how his career moves impact other players? Does he understand how other players will view him based on those moves? Clearly he does not. He precipitated the shut down of a show and won’t take any responsibility for it. He cost people jobs. Sheen either does not understand how his moves impact other players – or doesn’t care. In the short run, Sheen may have enough money and distractions or want a break badly enough to not worry about how others view the way he plays the career game. In terms of projects that might take place in the future, though, he is building a reputation that will change the way other players approach opportunities to play with him.
Contrast Sheen’s moves, for example, to those recently of Tonight Show host Jay Leno. When Leno decided last year to honor the writer’s strike he himself paid his employees during the hiatus his decision created. That’s a career move that will make people want to play with you – and that makes others want to see you win.
Finally, this distinction between the near and far term warrants a bit more consideration. Sheen is making career decisions that must feel good to him today – simple hedonism is a reasonable motive to explain his actions as he appears on morning news show after morning news show. The question he – like all hedonists – may face one day is whether or not the long-term cost of this short-term good feeling was worth it. He is, in effect, raising the “cost” people will assign to having him in a game. Sure, the lines may hit the mark, but who knows what else Sheen may be interesting in hitting!
As Sheen’s drama unfolds, we may learn more about what has been driving this erratic behavior. And we will see how it plays out in his career game. Perhaps these are the last moves in a career game that ends in a crash. Perhaps they are the first moves in what becomes a great redemption story. Hollywood loves them.
In the meantime, think about the lessons that you can learn from watching such a public career game. Are you aware of how others define excellent performance in your role? Are you responsive to the other players in your career game and are you building a reputation that encourages others to want you as a part of their career game? Are you properly balancing short and long-term career goals as you make each move?