Updated: Jun 29, 2021
Here's 3 questions I'd like to ask you:
When you got this job, what did you think you’d be doing?
What was the primary focus, the actual purpose of your role supposed to be?
And how closely do you live to that job description in reality?
For most people (I can include my younger self in this too) the answer to that last one is: disappointingly distant.
There’s always so much STUFF to do - 'busywork', I like to call it - important, sure, but not what you’re supposed to be doing.
People have questions, admin needs 'adminning', clients distract your attention from the work you’re doing (to give you more work). Maybe your team’s under-resourced too, so you're always stepping in to help.
All totally understandable reasons to keep you distracted from your main purpose...for a time.
But when you get to the point you can’t remember the last time you actually did a task from your proper to-do list, you realise how far away you are from your goals.
I’m going to share with you my own story, & I’d love to know if this resonates with you…
When I started working in account management, I had split priorities - I was supposed to be doing 80% account management (organically growing the revenue from an account), with 20% of my time spent running events. I also had 3 line reports that weren’t even factored into my time...
So I was expected to be allocated e.g. 1 event at a time, so that around 20% of my time would be helping with delivery when resource was low - but resource was always low - so in reality, I was spending more like
90% of my working day looking after multiple events
10% making sure my team were staying sane (busywork, you know)
and I was just checking in with my client accounts here & there to keep them happy
That’s not what the company hired me to do.
It’s not what they needed me to do either, in reality (even though it felt like it at the time).
What they did need was for me to focus on my goals & targets within the accounts, lend some support to the operations team when it was needed, & tell them what the big picture was looking like, & what we needed to deliver on it & keep it coming.
The biggest mistake I made as an account manager was missing this crucial concept.
I actually identified quite early on that in order to do a really great job with my accounts, I needed to invest some time in learning more about the industry, more in depth detail about what was going on & gaining a deeper understanding of what my clients were dealing with, working on & worried about day to day.
So I set myself a goal to read industry magazines & publications on a regular basis (e.g. an hour a day).
I knew that would give me more to talk about with my clients, it would help me show up as an expert with solutions for them & that would help build our relationship with them (which would then hopefully lead to organic growth) which was the overall goal.
That’s what they hired me to do...but I didn’t do it.
I didn’t do it because I leant on the excuse of not having time (I’m calling myself out here & I’m calling you out too if this is resonating with you, because I honestly wish I’d had somebody there help me realise that I actually wasn’t helping myself, & to give me the confidence I needed to stick to the path I needed to be on).
I had just as much time as everyone else, but I chose to put my focus & attention into this busy-work. Busy-work in areas where I felt I was more urgently needed, where I thought I’d be recognised for helping out as a senior team member...actually areas that I found easier.
Because becoming a leader or stepping up into a new role has a learning curve, & it’s the natural thing to lean towards the easier option - especially if you think the result will be better (at least in the immediate future).
The entire scenario was an oxymoron - I was passing on reading a magazine (easy) to take on an event project (hard work) - because I was holding on to beliefs that told me things like I needed to look like I was working hard to be recognised for my contribution (which is BS), but in fact, because running events was my previous experience it was so much more in my comfort zone, so it felt like a much safer place to be. I was literally hiding behind the word ‘busy’ instead of getting out & actually doing my job.
So there I was, busting an absolute gut being all-things-to-all-people-all-the-time, then being taken down in review meetings because I hadn’t hit my targets.
Can you guess what the response was to “I haven’t had time, the team needed help”?
“That’s not what I asked you to do”
You will never get promoted, rewarded or recognised for not doing your job.
As a leader, there will always be more responsibilities on your plate than just ‘your day job’.
But when your day job includes oversight, creative thinking & strategic planning - if you don’t have that down, doing the busywork won’t help you.
A team is built up of different contributors with different strengths & different focuses.
Compare it to a football team - the goalkeeper stays at one end of the pitch (by the goal) for the entire match. He doesn’t run up & get involved with the ball mid-field, or start passing it around - his role in the game is to stop the ball going in the net when it comes at him.
Nobody thinks any less of him, thinks he’s no good, or thinks he’s not pulling his weight because he’s not all over the pitch all the time. If he did that & wasn’t there, defending the goal at the critical moment - or more importantly didn’t do a great job & let the goals in because he’d tired himself out running all over the pitch - that’s when his reputation would sink. That’s when he’d be letting himself & the team down.
Give yourself permission to focus on what you're there to do & have faith that your contribution on that specific area is just as valuable as anything anyone else is doing.
Oversight, strategic planning & being available to support people in your team requires time & space. That means some days your diary looks pretty empty. It means that blocking out a chunk of time & not being available for a while, so you can focus on one priority that requires a lot of concentration is necessary.
Getting past the idea that protecting your time is a luxury is a huge milestone towards being able to perform at an exceptional level & that kind of mindset is what will encourage others in your team to up their game as well.
So how can you make sure you’re doing the right thing, when there are so many other things to be done?
First, you need to know what it is, set yourself clear goals, & protect your time.
Second, you have to understand just how important that work is, how valuable you are to the company being the one in that position to do it, & defend that value to the bitter end!
Don’t sell yourself short of what you’re capable of by getting bogged down with things that aren’t yours to do.
You’re in the position you are because you have the ability & the experience to do more, to lead people forwards, to achieve great things & most likely to support people along their journey to join you in their development too.
Give yourself the permission to keep moving forward & keep growing by working on what’s meant for you, being bold enough to speak up for it’s value & passing on busywork that’s not your responsibility (even when it feels really hard to do).
If my story sounds all too familiar to you & you’re feeling bogged down by too many tasks & responsibilities at work that aren’t serving your higher purpose, click here to find out how you can work with me so I can help you get out of that space & onto a much more productive & fulfilling path.