This is a tricky question but read on for an interesting insight from Lisa Unwin into the new ‘hybrid’ phenomena and how it could impact your career. Great Hamilton lyrics too – although not sure anyone wants to know exactly how a sausage is made! I’m a veggie this month so best not to mention them at all.
No-one else was in the room where it happened…
No-one really knows how the game is played,
The art of the trade,
How the sausage gets made,
We just assume it happens.
Have you seen Hamilton? These lyrics are from one of the most famous songs from the musical “The Room Where it Happened” and they’ve been ringing in my ears this week.
I’m back from a fabulous two week Christmas break, having had to dig a tunnel under La Manche to escape M. Macron’s freshly imposed ban on the Brits, only to find myself taking a lateral flow test on my return which told me in no uncertain terms that I was positive. I am a one in ten. (Guess the artist and year).
So here I am again. Stuck at home, doing the cleaning, ironing, cooking and trying to keep a business going. Luckily, I’m not feeling too bad but it did make me think about how I can continue to build relationships with clients and build new business when I can’t be “in the room”.
Remote, Office, Hybrid Working
The large scale return to office working but most of us will probably face some sort of decision in the future. Do we go back to the office, remain “remote” or cobble together some sort of hybrid arrangement.
Will your choice impact your career success?
atherine Mann of the Bank of England provoked quite a furore recently. She dared to offer an opinion that when most people begin to return to the office, women who work predominantly from home could find their careers at risk. (Not entirely sure why she singled out women, but there you go).
Much of the commentary castigated Catherine for betraying the cause and urged organisations to embrace the benefits of remote working. “The system needs to change, not the women”, was the common theme.
Mmm. I don’t disagree but I’ve worked in “the system” for over thirty years and I’ve seen how quickly things change. Not very.
So whilst we all wait for “the system” to change, here are a few thoughts about how to be a little bit savvy so that your career continues to thrive whatever choice you make.
The Room Where it Happens
At some point, over the next year or so, the likelihood is that leaders in your organisation will meet. Probably together, in a room. The topic will be promotions, bonuses, salaries and the like. You need to be in that room.
Obviously, unless you’re one of the aforementioned leaders, that isn’t going to happen in a literal sense. Instead, you need to make sure there is a person or people in that room who will make your case. The question is how to do just that.
I’ve been in those rooms. I’ve seen people benefit from having fantastic sponsors, prepared to go out on a limb. I’ve heard them explain why someone should be promoted, receive a bonus, or is being unduly overlooked for a plum assignment. I’ve also suffered firsthand, finding out I wasn’t getting a long-expected promotion simply because I didn’t have my own representative on earth in any room that mattered.
Here’s what I’ve learned.
Be Crystal Clear on How you Add Value
Or, put bluntly, follow the money. What are you actually paid to do? What is it about your role, objectives or remit that makes your organisation successful?
I sat alongside a colleague once. Literally. He was very annoying.
Ostensibly, we had similar roles, we were both senior managers in a consulting team. I thought our job was to help our clients make sure their change projects had lasting impact. He thought his job was to grow the size of our change practice. While I spent time with clients trying to overcome those last little barriers, he’d moved on to the next huge sales pitch. Which, of course, he won, thus delivering lots of work for large teams of consultants.
Guess who was promoted to partner first?
Be Ruthless About How to Spend Your Time
Once you know where you add value, it becomes clear how you’re going to be measured. And that tells you where to spend your time. This means two things: focus on the small number of tasks that will achieve the maximum results; and learn to say no.
In his brilliant little work “the Brain Book”, Phil Dobson makes the distinction between people who are perpetually busy (active but achieve very little), those who are productive (achieve a lot but not the things that really matter), and effective (spend the right amount of energy on the right things). The point is to focus on the few vital tasks that will achieve the most results. The Pareto principle applies: 20% of your effort, if applied correctly, will achieve 80% of your results.
It also means saying no, politely, to many of those requests on your time that do nothing to help progress your own goals but are all about supporting others. This is an anathema to many women as we seem pre-programmed to say yes to everything.
Have a Location Strategy
Think about when and where you can best meet competing objectives. Cal Newport, author of “Deep Work” is not a fan of open-plan offices when it comes to focusing on a creatively or cognitively demanding task. His point (I summaries 263 pages and around 60,000 words here) is that we do our best work when we concentrate and are free from distractions.
Assuming you have a distraction-free space, home might be just the place for that sort of work.
In contrast, Lynda Gratton, author of The 100 Year Life asserts that one of the most valuable assets we have is the quality and diversity of our networks. I agree with this too. When you’re planning to spend time in the office, do make sure that it will afford you the chance to connect with people who matter – not just the decision-makers but people who are part of your network and with whom you can generate and swap ideas.
Be strategic about this. And don’t limit yourself to your own office, think about your clients too.
Do You Own PR
Remember that colleague I mentioned earlier. And yes, it was a “he”. Not only did he focus on generating new business and sales, he made sure the right people knew what he was doing.
One thing I’ve learned is that no one cares about your career as much as you do. Everyone has their own sh*t to deal with and their own concerns about what the future holds. Don’t expect people to notice how wonderful you are, especially if they never see you.
That doesn’t mean being in the office every day, but it does mean staying connected, being involved, and being visible. With Zoom, LinkedIn, Teams and the like we can all manage our online and virtual presence in a way which will amplify the impact we have.
Engage the Home Team
Finally, if you are going to work from home, set some ground rules. Don’t become the “default parent.” If this pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s that pretty much anyone can work from home and therefore pretty much anyone can do their fair share of domestic chores and caring responsibilities.
Catherine is concerned that we revert to the “old world” where presenteeism wins out. That need not be the case. We’ve proved that we can “work” from home. There’s no doubt that as we move to a post COVID, hybrid world, there will be jobs that can be done in a hybrid fashion. If we want a career not just a job, we need to be a little more strategic.