Rich was a rock star, and everyone knew it. He walked into work, like he did every day, knowing he’d be contributing something amazing to the team’s project. He always produced the best work and was happy his manager, Antonio, gave him the toughest assignments. Today, however, Antonio asked him to work on putting together a few slides explaining why the project was important, its budget implications, and a justification for the needing the entire team to be working on it. Rich pushed back, complaining that his time was valuable and better spent working on the actual project.
There are tons of career inhibitors: behaviors that prevent a person who is extremely talented from continuing to grow. As a person moves up within any organization, they’ll eventually have to take on tasks that seem pointless, bureaucratic, a waste of time, or just plain-old dumb. Learning to handle this type of work is what differentiates those that rise even higher, and those that will eventually stagnate in their careers.
5 Steps to helping your employee overcome career inhibitors
- Determine if the employee even wants to grow
- Explain the reasons why “dumb” work is actually important
- Make it clear that handling it is a requirement for further growth
- Connect them with a mentor to help overcome the challenge
- Continue to give them these tasks and always make the purpose clear
Antonio, Rich’s manager, prided himself on how he ran his team. They were exceptionally high-performing and an example for how other teams within the company should operate. Like any good manager, Antonio knew he needed to grow the skills of those under him. He wanted to eventually promote Rich, and in the long run, hoped Rich could run the team while he himself took on even greater responsibilities.
He was taken aback by Rich’s response to his request to help with the presentation he had to give to the CEO. Thinking back, however, he noticed that this was a pattern with Rich. If Rich thought something was a waste of time, he didn’t want to work on it, and usually Antonio would take on the task or delegate it to someone else. This was a problem. Antonio knew that if Rich couldn’t handle all types of tasks, there would be no way he could grow to eventually fill the role. He needed some solutions.
Being in the technology field myself, I’ve heard this scenario play out over and over again. It takes a combination of willingness to change and ability to mentor, to end up with a positive outcome. It doesn’t come easy, but following the five steps mentioned above will get you started in the right direction.
If you’re coming from the employee perspective, then just know that overcoming these challenges is necessary for your career growth, because trust me, your technical skills alone will not be enough. You may not like—or understand—it now, but that’s precisely why you’re not ready yet.