Watch out if you are the boss’s Favorite!

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We all know, bosses have their favorites. They are human beings and so do the people who work with them. It is natural that the boss likes and trusts someone more than the others. You become first among equals, the go-to-person for prestigious project, a critical decision or a crisis. You enjoy his proximity and often become a part of the inner circle that has the knowledge of classified information. You feel privileged and start enjoying a special status in the team. Is life a bed of roses for you?

Are you able to drive Change programs effectively?

Since you are the go-to-person for your boss, your plate remains full all the time. You are undoubtedly important for your team and the organization. You get to work on challenging assignments and can potentially learn a lot from these assignments. However, there is a catch here!

Problems in the organization are solved not by just one person but by a team and often by a cross-functional team, especially if you are in a role that has a significant strategic bent to it. The boss’s favorite is a spotlight in the organization and is looked upon with a range of emotions such as jealousy and awe. When you are in the situation of getting things done by collaborating with people from other teams, you experience bottlenecks. They do not open up to you; some of them start sabotaging your intent in a stealth mode. You start feeling frustrated and shooting from the shoulder of your boss. It often back-fires especially when you are talking to people from other teams who do not report to your boss.

You are unable to get the things done as per the plan. Often, you do not get the complete picture of the ground reality because people are not forthcoming with you. You are unable to identify the root cause of the problem you are supposed to solve or give those critical inputs to your boss. You fail to deliver the business impact. So, do not oversell your clout! Stay modest and do not take advantage of your special status.

Are you developing your career?

You are protected well by your boss, enjoy a big elbow room in many things related to work and get to solve the meaty challenges. Does that mean that you are developing your capabilities and increasing your worth? Your boss could have a rough patch in your organization and might fall out of the main stream. Your boss might become cold and distant suddenly. The peers of your boss could come to the lime light and might have opportunities which are better for you. But, your deep loyalty to your boss could come on the way of you being trusted by the front-running leaders in the organization. What happens to you in that situation?

Secondly, as you work through the maze of your organization, you being the boss’s favorite tend to be the spokesperson of your boss and his ideas. This happens unconsciously; over a period of time, this leads to you being branded as someone who toes the boss’s line, lacks the depth and confidence to form opinions and speak one’s mind. This kind of an image harms your future prospects and potentially compromises the kind of recommendations that you are likely to get from the others in future.

Each passing year, you must analyze if you are increasing your experience by a year or strengthening your abilities and deepening your expertise. Staying as a sidekick will not necessarily enrich your abilities unless you are delivering on assignments which have increasingly greater impact on your organization. Your title might change and rewards might increase; you might deepen your roots in the organization. However, the most critical factor to analyze is to check if you are producing greater impact each year. If not, you must look out for career options within or outside your current employer!

Are you hungry for approval?

Many a times, we have noticed the school kid in us want to be in the good books of the teacher. We look for the pat on the back, the stars on our books and so on! We want to be the apple of the teacher’s eye. We behave well by following all her instructions and do our best to shine in the tests that she takes. Are we carrying the same to our workplace?

It is important that we introspect and understand who we are. In case, we look for the praise or the abrogation all the time, we fail to stand on our own feet. As a professional aspiring to break into the higher echelons of an organization, it is important that we learn to think independently and present those thoughts firmly. At the same time, we have to learn to stay modest and sensitive so that the bosses do not feel hurt to hear another perspective rather welcome them.

Being the favorite of the boss puts us on a pedestal. However, we must make sure that we are growing well by increasing the business impact that we deliver and build the social equity in the organization at the same time.

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Develop your career!

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Employees in most workplaces in the world look for a combination of factors from their employers. Some of these expectations are fulfilled to a large extent while some others are ignored by the employers. Training, career development and growth opportunities are some of the areas where employees expect a huge gap between their expectations and what they actually receive.

Expectations galore!

Interestingly, many employees tend to outsource a lot of their responsibilities to their employer. For example, all of us know that we need to exercise and remain physically active to enjoy good health. In spite of this knowledge, employees expect that their employer will take care of all their health woes. Many employers set up gymnasiums, appoint trainers in the gym, organize health camps, arrange sessions for employees to advise them on well-being, run campaigns to participate in physical fitness programs, reimburse or offer discounted rates for memberships in health clubs, provide insurance and so on. In spite of all these, employee health is an issue and organizations lose productivity due to sick days reported by employees.

I think, the root cause behind the mismatch between employee expectations and experiences lies in setting expectations around growth, career development and training. Employees need to take responsibility of their own growth and development to a large extent rather than outsourcing the responsibility to their employers. This might sound radical but is a bitter truth that the employee has to commit efforts and interest for his or her personal growth. Only then, efforts and investment of the employer organization will bear fruit.

So, the 1st step is to take ownership of one’s career development. Then, comes the other steps of finding one’s own strengths, matching them with areas of interest and arriving at a personal development plan. Then the execution and course-corrections.

Are you clear about career goals?

First of all, one needs to discover the goals which are exciting. Many a times, people flow along the stream and expect to reach the goal. However, given the speed of business and the volatility that the business cycles have been witnessing, the streams are often constricted or redirected to accommodate the changing needs upstream or downstream. So, flowing along the stream with the hope of reaching a higher level is no more plausible. Hence, one has to discover one’s calling and work towards it. Reading books, journals and other such business publications – online as well as offline, provide a good idea of various possibilities; discussions with seniors in the industry, networking with colleagues and peers helps one gain clarity about various possibilities. In the process, one is able to broadly decide what goals should be pursued.

It is a process you have to follow.

One should learn to write a career development plan. Ideally, the plan starts with an over-arching statement of purpose or a primary area of interest. Then it starts going deeper such as writing down the long-term plans which are time-bound and more specific. Then the next stage is to write a short-term plan which can be 1-3 years depending upon the context. At this stage, one draws up the threats or challenges that one might encounter and hence, a plan to mitigate the risks, the weaknesses which are to be bridged, the strengths to be leveraged and the opportunities in the environment which can be exploited.

Having taken all these 3 steps, one draws up the action plans which are specific, measurable, realistic and time-bound. One identifies the support and investments required from other sources to fulfill the action steps and the milestones.

The next stage is to review the progress on a periodic basis and make changes to the plan.

Work with someone you trust!

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A mentor or a coach plays  a significant role all along this process. Right from the time of drafting the development plan, the person supports till the plans are executed. The support ranges from helping you discover your strengths and weaknesses to working as a sounding board all along the journey, putting in place a rigorous mechanism to review the progress, helping you gather feedback from the stakeholders, interpret them and work on them.

Along the process of development, there will naturally be challenges. A coach, mentor, friend or co-traveller, whatever you may say, helps you overcome these challenges. One big challenge on the path of development is rigorous follow-through. Many people fail to sustain the momentum of the program. If you have someone helping you follow the regimen, it is easy for you to follow through the tasks in a disciplined manner. The second big challenge is to help you listen to the feedback from the stakeholders and interpreting them objectively. A big reason behind the failure of a career development plan is the self-defence mechanism and the ego. People tend to trivialise, rationalize and at times, sanitize the feedback they receive. A coach can help you see the inputs objectively and stay the course.

The way to develop one’s career is simple if one follows the process rigorously either with a high degree of self-confidence and self-awareness or take the help from someone who is skilled at leading one in the process. One cannot expect the employer organization to take the responsibility of learning and development. At best, one can expect facilitation and encouragement from the employer!