This is one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite movies. Maximus is leading the cavalry full speed into the final battle to conquer Germania. In full armor, sword drawn, high in the saddle, he looks over his shoulder, down the line to be certain that he’s bringing the full brunt of the cavalry to the point of impact with the Germans’ flank. I love the wherewithal (one of my favorite of all words in the English language) he exhibits in a most intense moment.
Lately, I’m struggling to hold the line with others out there who are on mission to better our world. One of the things I have to keep a watchful eye on is maintaining my mission to foster positivity at work. The other thing I’ve been challenged to keep at the forefront of my efforts is being truly passionate about identifying opportunities for process improvement, isolating and casting aside the weaknesses, elevating the strengths, building momentum; and moving forward with consensus.
I’ve noticed that when you’ve been with an organization for a few years and people are viewing you as a seasoned and valuable contributor, you’re in a place to raise your hand and take on some challenges which could noticeably improve the day to day for those who are in a place to open doors for you. The challenge is that they are typically the ones who need to get out of the way so that you can make things better. They may think that you’re still too junior because you haven’t ever done anything like this before, or you’re too young, or they’re afraid that you’ll mess up on their watch, and the least palatable is that they may be afraid that they’ll be outshined. If you’re in this stage with your current position, seize it. This is when leaders are discovered. It requires tactful diplomacy, patience, and humility.
>When you come up with what you perceive to be a great idea, don’t overshoot your audience, float it to a superior whom you trust, someone who will advocate for you and endorse you when the moment is right.
>Focus on your expertise. People won’t be surprised or put-off when you bring an idea to improve processes around the work that you do on a daily basis. Tread carefully if the idea you have crosses over with someone else’s work or specialty. If you’re going to go there, get their buy-in first or form a strategic alliance to tackle the “opportunity”.
>Identify opportunities to improve the processes while being careful not to seem like you’re whining or complaining as though you’re the only one who realizes that there’s a problem and you’re the only one who can fix it.
>Always propose a solution and a plan for rolling it out including a date to get it out and specify your audience with explicit consent from your manager for the roll-out.
>Keep going, don’t stop for the defeating mind-frame of discouragement if your first idea gets ignored or bashed. Become an idea shop. Keep cranking, but be calculating. Sometimes it’s all about timing…right person, right place, right time.
>Propose solutions which aren’t self serving, but clearly elevate the business, don’t cost anything or very little in comparison to the benefits.
Hold The Line! Allow yourself to continue to be awesome. Believe.
What’s it going to take? What gives? Are you wondering how much longer you’ll have to keep plugging away before you’ll get the next right thing? I am. Far be it from me to compare myself to the late great Dwight D. Eisenhower (Ike), but there’s something to be learned from his story. There was a time after WWI (the war to end all wars) when the military was being downsized and most in the military went two decades without a promotion. Just before WWII broke out, Ike was an obscure colonel who’d never seen combat. In the short span of two years he became a four star general commanding the allied invasion of Europe. He was a West Point graduate but he’d spent most of his career enduring undesirable posts and insignificant assignments. In spite of it all Ike made the most of his posts by learning all he could, developing new strategies, and networking. He’d found a friend in the infamous George S. Patton, and when a wise old colonel opened his library and his heart to Ike, he attached himself to an invaluable mentor. What Ike gained from what others in similar situations squandered, made him into one of the greatest presidents in US history.
We may feel stuck. We may feel unappreciated, underutilized, held back, and suppressed but we may also be missing something. It’s so easy to get mired in internal quibbling about our dissatisfying circumstances whilst missing opportunities to squeeze every last drop out of life. For some, the next perfect career step is just around the corner and their efforts are just about to pay off. For others, it may be some time before they get to use their wings. Make no mistake, I’m not trying to give anyone, myself included an excuse to lose hope or become complacent, rather the opposite.
Action > Take stock of your situation. What haven’t you mastered in your current job? Master it. Identify some process improvements and make them happen. If you find that you regularly have idle time in your job, fill it with time spent learning about concepts and techniques which will make you a better candidate for your next job. Identify a career coach in your company and find ways to bless her before ever suggesting that she coach you.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in our careers, so it’s important to remember that there’s more to life than work. A life lived without love is a life not truly lived. Take a look around and identify some opportunities to bless people with your time, energy, gifts, talents, generosity, and kindness. Since none of us know what tomorrow may bring, we should take stock of what we might be missing out on today and take note of what we could learn from Ike.
Make the best of your situation, after all, it’s the only one you’ve got. Thrive. Believe.
As the author of this blog I want to welcome you to Navigating Gracefully. I engage proactively with brand and digital folks as a talent scout for Nike and have served as a career coach for the past 8 years. I started this blog because a have a passion for seeing people succeed and I know it is challenging, time consuming and draining to job search or career plan. My advice and insight comes from personal experience with many big brands and also from having worked on the agency side. My style is to be sometimes painfully honest and at very least, straight forward. I hope you find some inspiration and energy here too. Please leave a comment or reaction to the articles you read and if you are a frequent reader I’d love to see you follow my blog.
Cheerio! – Jen Jacobs