If you’re like me, you may find it grossly unfair to realize this rather large inconvenient truth: doing your job to perfection, helping others get their work done and being the one to stay late, come in early and put in some time on the week-ends is a clear path to complete career failure. Using this strategy may (perhaps) allow you to keep your job, but definitely it puts you off the map for promotions and juicy assignments. Doing what is expected of you takes you nowhere. I sensed the truth of this early in my career, in my first corporate job in the 6th largest bank in Venezuela many years ago. Being somewhat dense, it took me a couple of decades to figure out what it really takes to gain recognition for your talent and contribution.
On the surface of things, these are the assumptions I made based on my early corporate experience:
1. It’s all about who you know.
Granted, I got that particular job and my next one without knowing anybody. But it seemed that everyone else knew everybody. I didn’t have the confidence at the time to figure out that I, too, could build great relationships with influential people. So I changed jobs, tripled my pay and started working in a small company, where it was easier for me to shine.
(In my second job I learned to use my reporting skills to meet key business owners. I still do that.)
It’s still true that it’s all about who you know, as long as the people who know you also trust you and like you, but the deeper truth is that you can build fantastic relationships that not only enrich your bank account but your life as well. And, it’s fun!
You can connect with anybody these days. But you’ve got to be strategic about it and be clear on how you add value.
2. What gets assigned and what gets rewarded are 2 different realities.
This other, inconvenient truth used to annoy me immensely. Having been a good student, I was used to giving back to the professor exactly what s/he asked for in a timely matter, and getting a good grade for my effort. Talk about living in an alternative reality!
As a person who dislikes confrontation, it never ocurred to me to push back to my boss, to make real suggestions about other ways we could get the job done better. I simply grumbled to myself about how stupid everyone was and did my job. And watched other people get noticed.
Unless you’re working on the factory floor (and even then), it’s your outcome, not your output that matters. To get ahead you need to get your job done…..but not necessarily the way it’s always been done. You may be able to do some parts and ignore others. It’s about your ability to distinguish between important priorities and CANNOT FAIL priorities. Everything is important but some projects contribute more to company success than others.
(Hint: no one’s going to tell you which project has the most leverage. It’s your job to figure that one out.)
3. Everyone loves to brag about "crazy busy" but working all the time is a death trap. (literally)
The assumption is if you’re not constantly rushed, working late and running around like 20 headless chickens, you’re a slacker and a wimp.
The reality is that workhorses die prematurely and seldom get promoted.
The main obstacle to taking time to be strategic, build your energy reserve and keep your mojo high is not other people, it’s your fear of being a slacker or guilt over not overworking.
Get over that now.
I’ve always sensed this truth but in the past few months I succumbed to the sirens’ song of work-work-work….and paid the price for it in lost new business.
Here are real rewards you get for working all the time:
– Zero visibility.
– Zero relationship building.
– Zero mojo (meaning positive energy)
– Zero creativity.
– Zero energy.
– Zero learning.
– Zero life.
– Zero thanks.
That’s what it meant by "work smarter not harder" but nobody is EVER going to give you permission, a break or time off for you to work smarter. You have to take it for yourself!
The only way you’re going to build relationships, think strategically, be creative and have a life is to be ruthless about not working all the time. Seriously. No one cares how hard you’re working. They think you have nothing better to do. Getting the time you need to be the awesome leader that you are is totally up to you.