Which conversation – addendum

I’ve heard from a few readers that yesterday’s post – Which Conversation – was a little opaque.  So here’s take 2:

There are two models of how you build yourself up professionally, how you grow your visibility and responsibility.

The first model says that you do what’s asked of you, (over) deliver, and then ask for/be given more responsibility. That’s the school version of life – do your homework, get good grades, advance to the next class.

What I was getting at is that you’re holding yourself back if you always ask for permission.

Why not be indispensable instead? Go ahead and DO all those things that seem like the next step, the thing you’d like to do next year or someday.  If you do that well, if you’re already delivering like crazy AND handling a bunch of other important stretch opportunities, then you’re no longer going to your boss asking for permission, you’re going to her with a full list of things that you’re already doing and just asking her to formalize your role in whatever way will confer the official authority you’re looking for (but may not even need).

Of course this requires you to figure out a way to nail your current responsibilities and to make time and space for all the new stuff.  It forces you to think hard, confront your fears, do things without formal authority or blessing from above.  It forces you to do real work.

If you’re up for it, then you’ll find yourself having a very different conversation with your boss a year from now:

1. School version: “I did well. Is it OK if I do these new things next year?”

2. Indispensable version: “Here’s everything I’m doing, all the ways I’m going above and beyond.  Anything I should stop doing?  If not, at some point we should formally acknowledge that I’m doing a lot more than the job I was doing before.”

Hope that’s more clear.

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