I’m still here. Many things have been rapidly changing lately for me including a large change at work. This has been really wonderful for me as it has been a “stretch” professionally and I am learning more per day than I was learning each week in my previous position. This has caused me to think a lot lately about the importance of learning new things and growing professionally by taking on new challenges.
Are you still learning and growing in your current job?
It is not always possible to experience a high rate of learning and growth in a job. However, the opportunity for learning and growth sometimes comes when you take on a new role or a challenging project in an existing role.
Fear of Failure and Avoiding Extra Work
Many times we are hesitant to take on a new challenge because it means more work or because there is a risk of failure.
But does that make sense?
For one, I have been amazed at how often a new project seems like it is going to be a great deal of extra work and then I find quite the opposite. Sure, it may be a little more work but the newness of the task and the relief from the monotony of my normal duties makes it seem exciting and not like work at all.
But then there is the risk of failure. I had an opportunity to work on a project which was going to be presented to very senior leaders in my company and which involved some very touchy office politics. This didn’t seem like something I should even attempt to be involved with. It was one of those things where it seems better to get out-of-the-way of the freight train barreling towards you!
But that was mostly due to the fear of the unknown and allowing myself to have an irrational fear of failure. I realized that when I initially took the project I had been visualizing all of the things that could go wrong. But that was the complete opposite to what I should have done! I decided that rather than focus on the negative things that could happen, I would focus on the positive things that could happen and use that vision of success to help guide me in my work.
Being hesitant to take on more work and fear of failure are not reasons to stay in your current role and not take on any new projects. It is true that if you take on additional work to an extreme you will get burned out. But I am writing to those who are reticent to do it at all.
Another thing that can hold you back is failure to seek input from others. I quickly realized when I took on this new project that the team would utterly fail if I tried to do all the work myself. This was a big stretch for me because I had spent years and years focused on my individual performance. But I was forced to rely on the work of others.
What I found amazed me. I was astounded at how the talents of the team were magnified when I stepped back and we all worked together. Many of us had different focus areas but we made it a point to discuss all of the components of the project and respect one another when we disagreed. For the most part, this fostered an environment where we were able to extract the best contributions from each other. This resulted in a better work product and ultimately in all of us being recognized for our hard work.
I took this lesson into several other projects and have been surprised at how easy it is to forget this principle. I am constantly reminding myself to take step back and make an extra phone call to get input. Or I will add five or six additional people to an e-mail on what I think is a very straightforward or easy item. But if the stakes are very high, I make sure I include all the experts I know in order to extract the best information and get the best product.
This does not work if you are an egomaniac or a control freak. I do have issues with being controlling but am working through them. A well motivated team working together generally does not need to be controlled but may need to be guided.
This involves making sure the direction is clear. Communicating expectations and direction up-front is really important. This works when the right people are on the team and the right motivation is in place. Assuming those are in place, it’s all about getting everyone working together and involving people to the greatest extent possible. Going it alone will result in failure or a sub-par work product and it will give the impression that you do not trust or respect others. This lack of trust may cause them to not offer help or good ideas which is the exact opposite of what is desired.