Most managers and career coaches will tell you that if you want to position yourself for advancement in your organization, you should ask for more –more work, more responsibility, and more exposure. And that’s true –sometimes.
Yes, if you want to develop new skills, learn, grow, and be seen in your company as someone who wants to and is capable of doing more, you should ask for more responsibility.
Before launching my business, I was a national director at a company headquarters. I led a department with 21 locations and 200 people. I had a big job. One of my peers who had an equally big job leading a different department left the company. He was not replaced. After several months of his role sitting vacant, it was clear that his job was not going to be filled.
I thought the department was important to the company’s success and needed a strong leader, so I offered to run it. I already had a big, time consuming job, and now I had another one that I had volunteered for.
There was lots of opportunity to make improvements in the department I was now leading. The department needed an overhaul – different jobs, different staff, different processes and procedures. And type-A, workaholic girl was just the person for the job.
I spent six months revamping every process, procedure, and job description and trying to get my recommended changes approved. After six months of trying to make change happen, I realized that my boss wasn’t going to support my recommended changes. He blocked everything I wanted to do because changes can cost money. And he didn’t want to spend money on this department. Let me clarify, the company didn’t want to spend money on the department. The company’s most senior leaders didn’t see the department as integral to the company’s financial performance, and thus the department was not important.
I should have realized that our senior leaders didn’t see the department as important BEFORE I asked to run it. A large job, led by a senior person, is not replaced, when there is no hiring freeze in place. When a company is creating new jobs and filling vacant jobs, but chooses not to backfill a senior leader, it’s because the job wasn’t seen as necessary. I thought it was necessary. My boss and his boss disagreed. And I couldn’t get them to think otherwise.
I am a change agent. If you want to keep your status quo, I am not the person to bring in. We will both be frustrated. My old boss did not want me to make changes to the department I took on. He didn’t think the department was important. And I didn’t see it until after I’d invested six months of my time, passion, and energy.
Every company has non-strategic and not-so-interesting work. To some extent, all employees ‘wash windows’. But don’t ask to wash windows when you can put your energy into an area that is seen as integral to the success of the business.
Ask questions and be knowledgeable of your organization’s short and long term goals. Look around for juicy work that moves the company closer to those goals. Don’t take work that the people at the top don’t think is important. You’ll be tired and frustrated.