We may think we’re better job candidates, managers, and leaders when we prove we can do it all. But that’s not really how we’re perceived.
When I was let go from my last job, two weeks before a brain surgery. I was a bit sad, but I wasn’t worried at all. I knew I could get another job, I had an excellent resume, and I was doing a lot. When the time came to start looking for another job, I was surprised that even though people were impressed by the many things I was doing, they wouldn’t hire me. I later learned the reason; I wasn’t focused. I was trying to spread myself thin. I wanted to give potential employers an idea of what I was capable of, but I came across as a person with little direction and expertise.
I recently was asked a question that reminded me of that time in my past, “Tom” asked me, how I fit everything I needed to do in one day. I had flashbacks, and I immediately knew what to answer, as I had to go through the same process myself.
I don’t think Tom should ask “how do I fit in everything I have decided to do?”, but rather “what is important for me to do to accomplish my goal?”
Tom said “I’ve taken on more responsibilities within my company and as a result, I have been working more and more outside of office hours.” He also shared that his team was suffering because he didn’t have enough time to devote to them and he wasn’t sleeping much. He was a lot more stressed than he was before.
It was my impression and later confirmed, that he took these additional tasks by choice. So the first thing I would ask myself, if I were in Tom’s shoes again, is why? Why did he feel compelled to take on new responsibilities that might be detrimental to his health and the effectiveness of his team?
You would think that working really, really hard would be the best guarantee of advancement in your career. If you put in tons of effort, in the end, you will get noticed, right? Well not really. Even in a job interview you want people to know how much and how many things you are involved hoping to wow them and realize that you are “it.” But that didn’t work so well for me either.
In the case of Tom, I told him, if you keep working too hard, you will damage your health and your creativity. If you can’t manage to do everything well, your managers will see it a sign that you can’t delegate, prioritize or work efficiently. If you feel stressed because of this new arrangement, you will not come across as a hard worker, but as a person that is overwhelmed and inefficient.
After a few more questions it turned out that what he really wanted by taking on these new responsibilities, was to become more visible. So I asked him, “What do you want to be known for?” You have to pick something you are passionate about and do it enough times and with enough passion, and soon everybody will take notice. He said that he wanted to help his team, so we agreed that he was going to start developing them, by delegating responsibilities to them. He will free some time for other initiatives he wanted to take and will prepare himself and his team members for promotion. He agreed that his focus would be “developing people.”
From now on, assuming additional responsibilities will be simple. If the new task he is thinking of taking on won’t help his goal of developing people, the answer is simple, he will not take it. He will be known, in time, for the manager that develops people and the manager that everyone wants to have.
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