Several months ago I was asked by the president of my organization to assume a new role on an interim basis. While I had worked with each of the groups I was being asked to supervise, the new responsibility would be totally outside of my day-to-day experience. Oh, and I had to make this decision in the next 2 1/2 hours.
When situations like this present themselves, what do you do?
The safe route is just that—safe. It’s easiest to decline and stay right where you are. You can think of reasons to justify that decision. You don’t know that part of the organization. Who will take your role if you’re not there? You’re not ready for it.
Each of those thoughts ran through my mind. But I also had other thoughts, competing for space in my head. These included: This is a way to grow, I will learn new things and meet new people, the president must think I can do this, my associate dean is ready to be the dean.
So when he asked me what I thought, I candidly replied, “This scares me to death. But I will paraphrase Richard Branson [CEO of Virgin] who said, ‘When someone asks you to do something amazing, say yes and then figure out how to do it.’ ”
So I said yes.
Saying yes is not necessarily the right decision for every person. But think about what you would do if a similar situation was presented to you.
I had been a business dean in three institutions for about 16 years. While each institution was quite different, the job was essentially the same. I chose to be a dean again and again for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was that it was easy for me, especially as a mom who wanted to be present for most of her kids’ activities. I knew how to do this job inside and out, and I was comfortable.
But about a year before I was asked to assume my new role, I told the president that I was getting into “maintenance mode,” which is a not a good thing for me. I am a builder, a change agent, a “make things better” person, and I was running out of ideas. The president remembered that conversation when he needed someone for the interim role.
He understood that I had not spent time in the part of the university he was asking me to lead. But his confidence in my abilities to lead, manage and communicate gave me the willingness to leap into the unknown.
I see folks stuck in lots of jobs. Maybe they never should have taken the job to begin with, as their skills and experiences are not a good fit with what they are doing. Or perhaps they once were quite happy but now are miserable. They might even think no one realizes how miserable they are. On the contrary, everyone does. Maybe, like me, they need to grow in a new direction and, for whatever reason, haven’t had the gumption to pursue anything new.
Please don’t stay stuck! If anything I’ve said resonates with you, look for new opportunities, either within your organization or outside it, so you can stretch yourself. Learning new things is quite exciting, but also intimidating. I haven’t been this stimulated in probably five years. Is it scary? Of course! But sometimes a little fear of failure can provide the impetus to work that much harder to ensure your success.
The goal is growing and helping the organization. So I’m glad I took the leap of faith and said yes when asked to do something different. While you may not be asked, you are in charge of your career and can certainly pursue new growth opportunities. Update that resume and get started today!
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