Getting Ahead Means Changing Our View

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Career progression is a tricky thing. On the one hand, when we are early in our career our supervisors expect us to know the details inside and out. It’s our job to be in the weeds. But as we prove ourselves and take on more responsibility, it’s expected that our ‘field of view’ will shift. As we begin moving upwards, we’re expected to focus on the strategic, not the day to day details. But letting go is difficult. Being in the weeds has become a habit. And it’s a hard habit to break.
I worked with a VP once who asked her administrative assistant to open all of her emails. I sat down with her to try and understand how she gave up such control. Her response was simple: “I can’t do it all. I know what my role is. My focus can’t be on answering every email that comes in.”
Let’s take another example: The President of the United States. Harry Truman famously said “the buck stops here.” President Truman knew that the ultimate responsibility of decisions made by his administration, rested on his shoulders.
But, one man can’t do it all. He had advisors, cabinet members and a large staff to assist him in the day-to-day operations of running a nation. He had to let go of knowing every detail about every decision. He had to let go of even making every decision. He didn’t abdicate the responsibility of those decisions, he still owned that, but he (like every President) knew he couldn’t do it all alone.
And neither can we in IT Leadership. Our careers started in the weeds. We may have been great at code or the best at unified communications, but in order to progress in our careers we have to stop being the subject matter expert. We must become strategically focused. We must let go of the operational details and let our advisors do their jobs.
Our role is to understand how technology impacts the business. Our role is to reach across lines of business to empower them to use technology to succeed in their endeavors. Our role isn’t just to keep the lights on. Our role must be bigger if we want to continue our career progression.
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