October 12, 2022
You will be relieved to hear that I am temporarily out of youth soccer analogies. I could switch to “American” football analogies but am mourning the likely loss of the college football season and will save those “lessons” for another time. So, today’s blog will be sports-free. As a consultant, I get calls from people whose projects are in trouble due to lack of skilled and experienced people. Other calls come from recruiters hoping I can give them leads on finding skilled and experienced people. Few managers seem interested in developing the employees they have into the ones they think they need. If only people were like light bulbs, they opine; we have 75-watt bulbs and really need 100-watt ones — or whatever the appropriate modern equivalents for illumination are. So today I offer advice to those 75-watt bulbs. If no one wants to train you to climb the ladder of success, you will just have to do it yourself. But how? And didn’t I just get done telling you to stay in our lanes? Remember when you first learned to drive a car? Lane control was a problem until you got more comfortable with highway speeds and looking down the road instead of at your hood ornament. The same thing happens in the workplace; you have to develop the skill set for the job you have before looking for the next position. Once you really “know” your job you start to wonder about why things are being done in a certain way. Absent a good mentor, you need to do your own research on those topics using books, online resources, and, hopefully, high-quality continuing education. As your knowledge grows, you will start to think about that next step up the ladder. I mentioned last time that no one gets promoted for just doing their job. My own career got a jump-start because a co-worker had some attendance issues and his boss figured that because I sat next to the absent guy in the “bullpen,” I must have known where he was on his past-due assignment. He was correct; when colleagues brainstorm together, opportunities arise. Yes, I still had to do my own job while helping out on another project. (Whiners do not get promoted either.) Many employers have more “100-watt bulbs” around than they realize because they do not challenge them to do more. Unless you want to remain stuck in that lane, you need to actively demonstrate a desire to step out of your comfort zone and try new things. And employers nurture the people willing to step up. Over the years, I have observed many talented people ignored to the point where they answered those recruiter calls and went on to great success somewhere else. When that happens, all the training you did invest in them walks out the door, too. Instead of a 75-watt bulb, you have an empty socket and, in many cases, a stronger competitor across town. You can pay for lots of online training for the money you otherwise spend on recruitment fees. Spend time getting to know your team. Identify the training they need. Sign them up for those classes and give them a chance to shine.