What is your job?

Having coached many top executives I have found that a question they constantly grapple with is, “What is my job?”

Understandably you might ask, if they don’t know what they are doing, then why are they there? The more senior your position, and particularly in the top job, the less prescribed it is. It becomes more complex and ambiguous. Why is that?

Circumstances change!

You were hired to “join up the dots”, but now somebody has moved the dots around or even stolen some of them!

Not only do you need to be clear what roles you have, but also how they can change over time. Let me illustrate it for you.

Do you know how to boil a frog alive?red-connecting-the-dots

Well, simply put him in a pan of cold water and he will quite happily let you boil him and very tasty he will be. If, however, you threw the frog into a pan of boiling water he would leap out like Bob Beamon! It is very easy to be boiled alive and not spot the imperceptible changes happening about you until it’s too late.

When you start a new role, however, you have a clean sheet of paper for a short period of time. You can see things with fresh eyes and be more objective.

One of the most fascinating periods in my career was helping to set up three entrepreneurial businesses, which were being spawned out of a traditional engineering business. The CEO, Francesca, was a highly imaginative business lady and she was energised by the prospect of creating something new but, to be honest, she was a bit bored with the legacy business. She was feeling a bit the frog in the boiling water in having to manage the traditional business, but was enjoying having “clean sheets of paper” to play with the new ventures.

Francesca very wisely kept the two types of business apart and both thrived in their own ways at very different speeds. She tried to run them all for a period of time, but was losing focus on the legacy business. Eventually the decision was made to get her to concentrate on the new ventures. It would have been better if she had spotted the changes and made the decision for herself. As Bob Beamon said “Whatever you do, don’t do it half way.”

Your role may have changed quite substantially since you started it. You have the same title on your business card, but the demands on you are greater and wider. This can be a superb way to expand and stretch your skills and experience. A leader is always looking to develop and to take on the next challenge. But there may be times when you have to say “No” because it is wrong for you and therefore for your organisation.

I have come across numerous situations where people have taken on additional responsibilities for which they are not suited. It was convenient for the organisation, but over time they were boiled alive. They eventually became “collateral damage”.

You may be in an entrepreneurial environment. Your situation will then be more creative than created. Your challenges will be both very exciting and daunting. You are going into unknown, unexplored territory. A right turn will be a happy event; a wrong turn needs quick remedial action because consequences can be severe. Agility, the ability to adjust, is a key characteristic that you will need to develop.

Remember, ultimately it is your responsibility to ensure that you are in the right job. Don’t assume that others always know best. You have to take the lead.

As you go through the rest of the book you will be challenged to think deeply about the various roles that you have to juggle. Be clear in your own mind where your priorities lie.

Also recognise that circumstances can change your environment, either dynamically or incrementally. This can result in a change of expectations. You will then need to be clear in your mind when you answer the question “Well, what is my job now?”

John Greenway

This article is an excerpt from my upcoming book – “Leaders’ Map”. It would be great to get your feedback, so please do share your comments here or on Twitter or LinkedIn.

You may also want to check out the Leaders’ Map App which is now available on the Apple App Store.

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