There are many factors that influence engagement, success and workplace satisfaction. Aligned values and culture fit, salary, location and work/life balance, to the team and manager, all play a part. Engagement is ultimately a psychological construct and the better you manage risk around ‘fit’ the higher the likelihood of success and strong performance.
Have you ever had someone tell you that you ‘must’ apply for a job as you’d be ‘awesome!’? Or when facing redundancy have you felt the temptation to click ‘apply now’ on every role within your skill set – sometimes just to create a lot of effort for limited reward. Equally, when facing that first promotion from operational delivery to management, it seems like the logical and sensible next step so naturally you’re likely to take that great opportunity to progress….right?
It is all too easy to get caught up in the compliments and enthusiasm of others, paired with a sense of achievement in progressing to the next big step. But you may be surprised how many people get lost between what they ‘can’ do and what they actually ‘want’ to do. As a consultant, I have often experienced the consequences when people are promoted to their ‘first level of incompetence’. They’re often not prepared for this new adventure and are out of their comfort zone. They don’t receive the leadership training and tools they need to succeed and, as a result, they fail to engage effectively with their team leading to a drop in performance. Sadly, these ‘failing’ individuals will often resign or be performance managed out. Whilst some in this situation simply required better training, many should never have made the change.
The other thing that I often witness is when someone says yes, shines and is very good in their new role but HATES it with a passion, pining for their old job. They much preferred the comfort of the tactical delivery role and sense of team, than their new and isolating management position. These people almost always believe that it’s too late to go back, or their pride won’t let it happen.
What we’re seeing in all these situations is a blurring of the lines between ‘capability’ and ‘motivation’; the decision to take on a role, project or challenge because you ‘can’ do it, not because you ‘want’ to do it. If we’re not passionate about and loving what we do, smiling more than frowning, then something’s wrong!
The simple exercise I outline below could benefit many of as an annual calibration of our own engagement and progress. I would always recommend it to those facing times of either forced or voluntary career change:
List all the things that are in your skill set, the tools in the toolbox, in column one. All the stuff you ‘can do’. The second column is for those things from column one that bring genuine pleasure, the things that motivate and foster a sense of satisfaction. The stuff you ‘enjoy doing’.
In column three it’s time to include the dreams and schemes for the future. What you ‘want to do’ when you grow up! For me it is a sabbatical year in Umbria/Tuscany finally writing my pop psychology book!
The ‘Gaps’ section is to help develop a strategy relating aspirational goals. Notes on what needs to be done, through experience, coaching or training, to bridge the gap between the current state of play and the future vision.
Managers would be well advised to complete this exercise with staff being considered for any role substantively different to their current one. For a first role in a management/leadership capacity it should be obligatory!
Whilst it is understandably rare to find a role that will only be made up of content that sits in the motivation column – having some clarity about what it is that actually engages and creates positive energy can truly help with making smart work-life decisions. When a signature goes on a new contract it should be backed by the confidence that the role will tick a good number of elements that are intrinsically rewarding. You need to get your ‘happiness fix’!
Sometimes that promotion, next step or advertised role is absolutely what you should go for to develop your career – HOWEVER – it is certainly worth taking the time to ‘check-in’ with some self-reflection, risk management and healthy due diligence to make sure that decisions are based on what you ‘want’ to do, not just what you ‘can’ do.