About 16 years ago I was a very enthusiastic young professional. I had the whole world in front of me, and I wanted to master & conquer the corporate scene. Back then, in the organisation I worked for, technical competencies were really appreciated. As I wanted to climb the ladder fast, I did everything I could to learn technical jargon, processes, and procedures that were necessary to function as a good specialist, but also to become a good manager.
Despite my motivation, no matter how much efforts I would put into understanding my technical role, I would only manage to perform on an average level: not failing but definitely not shining. Sometimes we think that there is nothing standing in the way of our willpower, so we should always give the 200% to reach our destination. While, this is definitely true, there is one element that shouldn’t be missing: our natural and inner passion. As much as I wanted to be part of this prestigious club of technical specialists and project managers, I felt that it’s not where I want to be but I just didn’t want to admit it. In my organisation I didn’t know any better and I tried to show my direct managers and supervisors that I could nail it.
And then it came: the week when my direct manager conducted individual talks to inform who will continue to the technical leadership program. He started our conversation by asking me how I feel in my current role. Of course I boasted how well I’m doing and how much I enjoy it, and while I was trying to convince him, and myself as well, nodded to my mechanical arguments. And then came the verdict: “Ronen, there is something more suitable for you in our organisation”. “More suitable?” I answered back while he continued to explain something I never knew even existed: a Learning and Development program for future Team Leads in the field of soft skills. It took me two minutes to realise that my manager noticed things that I myself didn’t want to admit. He noticed that I’m not using my talents to the fullest and that I tried too much to force myself and like what I do.
So how did my direct manager notice this and came to that conclusion? By the side projects that had nothing to do with my core job but were closer to my personality and interests. These I grabbed with both hands when they came my way, and I really gave my soul to these assignments. He also learned my character and read between the lines. After our talk I felt much lighter, like a big rock was taken off my shoulders. A few weeks later I started the program that prepared me to my new role and I completed it with ‘Honours’. Finally I could put my energy and time to learn and develop myself in topics I really liked. I earned my spirit back and the organisation earned a dedicated employee in the right box of the org-chart.
The famous line “you need two to tango” is very valid in these cases: the employee is somewhat lost but still tries to perform out of fear to his job or even his ego, while the manager will immediately take it as a reason to show the employee the way out of the organisation. Only open communication between managers and employees will help to find the best chair for us in the organisation and assure we don’t loose good talents along the way. Depending on which role you have in these scenarios, consider the following approaches.
As a manager, when you sense some performance issues or a lack of motivation with one (or more) of your employees, look beyond the regular tasks and visible elements. Observe, learn, and know your employees to be able to guide and help them grow in the organisation. Being familiar with the work of other departments and the different projects in the pipeline can help you provide the right guiding advise, while showing sincere concerns of the employee’s expectations from themselves and the organisation.
As an employee, know your strengths and talents. Don’t compromise and don’t force yourself to like a role you are not complete with. You should feel that you are being healthy challenged and not operating in high-speed while continuing to stand still. Be aware of your added value to the team and organisation, and if something doesn’t feel right, speak-up to work towards a suitable resolution, whether it will be within your current role or in another place in the organisation.
16 years ago I was too young to understand this but luckily I had the right manager to show the right path for me. He didn’t do any magic. He was simply present, and in many ways I own him my career for that.