The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

How To Get Ahead In Your Career Without Being A Corporate Toady …

I’ve always found management an interesting concept or – more specifically – how people become managers.

Most of the time, it seems someone who is good at their job gets promoted and told “… there you go, manage the department”.

Little support. Little guidance. Masses of responsibility.

Now having done this for a long time, I realize the folly of this approach.

Sure, it’s nice to feel you’re being recognized, have a bit more responsibility and power and get more cash … but it also is the fast-track to bad habits, bad practices and bad career decisions.

You see management is complicated.

On one hand you have to lead your department … set a direction, instill standards and beliefs and develop a gang.

On the other, you have to put yourself second to enable your team – and the people within that team – to grow and develop and ultimately, take your job.

Few have the skills to work this out on their own – let alone execute it – which is why the older I get, the more grateful I am that I was given such great help from my amazing mentors and certain bosses.

You see in the early days, I saw career development as simply going from employee to boss to big boss.

In my mind, if you were a good employee you might get to be a boss and if you were a good boss, you might get to be a big boss.

That was it.

But my mentors – and some good bosses – made sure I understood that career progression wasn’t just about how good you were in your day-to-day job, but in your ability to develop additional skills.

Sure, some of these were operational skills – really important operational skills – but the advice that made the biggest difference to me was when they told me how I’d need to understand the difference between good management and good leadership.

To be honest, previous to this I never really saw a difference between the two but this quote by Peter Drucker sums up what they told me perfectly …

Now I appreciate anyone who has worked with me in the past might think I am terrible at what I do – and I accept my approach is often unorthodox and filled with dollop-loads of chaos – but understanding how the development of skills and outlook was better for your long-term career than consistency and capability made a real difference to me and that’s why I am such a big believer in feedback and goals.

I should point out this does not mean the ‘annual reviews’.

Sure, they have their use, but if you’re only having these conversations once a year, you’re really not helping anyone that much.

But constantly having conversations – where you discuss where people are and what they’re working towards – makes a difference.

It lets you know where everyone is.

It lets you know where everyone is heading.

It gives you the opportunity to offer the right advice at the right time.

Which enables them to develop the skills that will help them grow not drown.

Which lets them develop their own voice and approach to the challenges they face.

Which lets them work out where they are heading and want to head.

Which lets them get hired for who they are not just what they do.

Which means, ultimately, you’ve done what I believe a boss is supposed to do … which is help your people get opportunities they never thought they could have.

This all may seem so obvious to you all, but I still meet people who think being good at their job means being good enough for career progression and while many companies may agree with that, I am so grateful to my mentors and certain bosses for putting me straight.

May this year be your year.

18 Comments so far
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You almost convinced me until I realised this was your way of post rationalising why you never stop talking.

Comment by DH

campbell isnt a planner hes a fucking word hypnotist. not a good one but better than he is at fucking planning.

Comment by andy@cynic

The scary thing of this is I can imagine some planner actually describing themselves as a ‘planning hypnotist’ and thinking it makes them look good.

Comment by Rob

says the fucker who was once had a job where he was called a communication innovator.

Comment by andy@cynic

Yes … I know. But I didn’t choose that title, whereas a planner I once met who referred to himself as a ‘brand sherpa’ did.

Comment by Rob

This is really good. I particularly like the distinction you make between management and leadership. That is the clearest articulation I’ve heard in a long time which means contrary to what you may believe, you may be good at this “boss” thing. ; )

Comment by George

Though David may have a point in his above comment.

Comment by George

Next he will be claiming his relentless interruption of people trying to do their work (but huge annoyance if anyone does it to him) is all about team building.

Comment by DH

He would have a fairly strong argument to claim that.

Comment by Lee Hill

yeah, just like the fucking mafia.

Comment by andy@cynic

Thanks George for validating Dave’s insults.

Comment by Rob

An excellent post Robert. I remember when you talked to me about your first senior position and the nervousness you felt about doing it right. I may never have told you at the time but I was impressed that your concern was focused on being a good leader rather than being excited about entering a new salary band. That indicated to me that despite your unorthodox methods, you were going to be just fine and so I have been proven correct.

Comment by Lee Hill

just what has campbell got on you to make you be so fucking supportive?

Comment by andy@cynic

Me too … but I’m glad I have it.

Thank you Lee, that’s bloody lovely.

Comment by Rob

This is a great read Rob.

Comment by Pete

What’s a career?

Comment by John

Satan was a good mentor to you.

Comment by Billy Whizz

hes now mentoring satan.

Comment by andy@cynic

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