In order to commit

You want to excel, you want to break-through, you want to achieve great things, and it looks like they are finally giving you the chance to do it. Great! Except, be cautious of the shadow cast by your own ambition because it can hide imminent risks that will blindside you once you are in knee-deep.

Ambition is great when it serves a good purpose. Personal growth, wealth, and happiness are some areas where it can help you gain momentum and keep your priorities straight. However, you can’t let it become the only driver behind your decisions.

When I got promoted to a managing position I knew I had been given a great opportunity. I knew I was green, and I knew I had a lot to prove. But I also knew what I was bringing to the table and was determined to succeed. In my eagerness to take the chance I missed the opportunity to lay down some conditions that would help me do a better job.

Luckily, I could learn a great deal from this experience and managed to avoid some pitfalls just in time. But they were close calls and the exposure to those risks was never really eliminated until I brought it to the attention of my board. Here are some of the assumptions I made that later proved me wrong:

Assuming I’d get the help I wanted.

Yes, help comes but often too late to really take advantage of an opportunity or in the terms you might expect. Plan for things you can achieve with your own resources and limitations.

Assuming results would be measured in a reasonable way.

And by reasonable, I mean, ‘the way I would do it’. Priorities change from unit to unit and from director to director. Make sure you get clarity about what KPI’s your board really cares about and take the time to explain what you think should be assessed and how.

Assuming there was a ‘big picture’.

If there is, you will hear about it early in the process. If there isn’t or if it is in process, you need to understand the basic premises and objectives and build your own. Work on what makes sense for your unit but in the context of where it fits in the organization it belongs to. Whether it is a parent company, a board of directors or just you at the end of the day, you need a big picture. Don’t assume someone else already thought of it, especially if you are the boss.

Assuming ‘they’ understand.

There is no they once you become the boss. They are wrong, they are unfair, they are too busy for you, they don’t care. Newsflash: to everyone else you are now they. You will be the end of all complaints and problems and you will have to deal with them. No more they for you. Your employees can only do well if you provide the context. Your board of directors is not there to solve problems for you. Your clients are entitled to be as entitled as they come. You can’t get away from it. Evey time someone complains about any of the aforementioned groups, you are included by default: either you are part of the problem or, hopefully, the solution. You can’t just shrug it off. There is only we for you from now on, and they is a luxury you can’t afford now.

Write down all the assumptions you may have about this new challenge and turn them into discussion points for your agenda the next time you talk to your boss, board, or potential employer. They too will have assumptions of their own so get them out in the open as well. Only then will you be able to see if all the right pieces are in place in order to commit to this new endeavour.


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