The Joy of a “Clean Up” Job Assignment
Recently, a person wrote to me fairly distressed that the CEO had personally moved them into an assignment they didn’t want, working in a group that was fairly dysfunctional. Despite her outstanding performance, the move felt like being put into the penalty box. To make the situation worse, she was being given assignments from the boss of this dysfunctional group that weren’t really that beneficial to the company. The new boss was doing strange things in an attempt to avoid getting fired and poor choice of projects was one of them. Up to this point, the company, job and pay were great.
I thought it was time to celebrate which was a puzzle for this person.
Over the years, I have found that being tossed into a train wreck was one of the most career enhancing situations. The reason: It can only get better and you can be the one to make it shine. “Turn around” expertise is a highly sought after skill which can also be paid substantially higher than the every day equivalent job. A person with that kind of talent is like finding a red diamond (which there are 5 of in this world)
I’d like to outline the various things I saw in this situation that are reason to be excited. I hope it fuels your thinking about how to handle things like this when they come along – or go after them in a big way. (!)
Some people I know would assassinate their own grandmother for this type of situation. Somewhere along the line, this person performed well enough that the CEO either noticed or was made to notice her. She was the solution to a problem the CEO personally found important enough to get directly involved. When you are part of a solution the CEO thinks is important, you have a God-given opportunity to use that visibility to your personal benefit. Of course, you have to perform but that should be no problem for a person with a proven track record.
Not having a title or position is totally a non-issue for driving the results that need to take place within a group. Some people get very hung up that without those credentials, you can’t do the work. Hogwash! Have you ever heard of leading from behind, or leading without a title? Those aren’t philosophical terms; they exist because some situations require that someone do just that. Initiative is a big characteristic of leadership as is taking responsibility for yourself and others.
People who are running scared tend to make poor decisions especially when protecting their ego. This dysfunctional, poor performing manager could actually look better to the CEO if work was being done that had real impact to the company. By using those great skills all this person had to do was to figure out a couple of dynamite projects that will turn them into a rock star. If positioned correctly with the existing boss, that boss would come to their senses and fully support it. It also holds the possibility of slowing down the stupid projects being assigned. Even if it doesn’t slow down those requests, it can give this gal a reason to negotiate a delay of starting one of those assignments.
Among the concerns of this gal was the fact that she was unsure what her job really was or how her performance was going to be measured. This is another area where taking leadership will not only help her but also the boss and possibly her work peers. She can develop what she thinks would be the best use of her skills combined with the work that desperately needs to be improved to create the framework of the job. From there, then apply what good performance would be. She can set down with this boss and probably the CEO to ratify her recommendations. Taking this approach is like how you would approach work if you were a consultant. Oftentimes the work isn’t well defined; they just know they have a problem for a consultant. The first order of business is for the consultant to figure out where the improvement opportunities exist, pull together a work plan and ratify.
In a situation like this, there may be no need for accountability back to the CEO but you should act like there is. Keep this person updated on your progress and accomplishments without going into too much detail. Maintaining some amount of contact will confirm that you are worthy of their trust by being mature enough to provide communication. This doesn’t mean you are throwing the current boss under the bus – in fact, don’t say anything negative about your boss. Also, keep the boss in the same communication loop. By being upfront and transparent, you keep demonstrating your leadership. By maintaining some contact with the CEO you keep the visibility that will be crucial in the future.
I hope you can see, that a situation like this could define how fast and how far you could go in your career.
Brought to you by Dorothy Tannahill-Moran – dedicated to unleash your professional potential.