Falling on the Grenade for Your Team and Your Career

In your work environment, there’s typically always that legacy thing that no one wants to touch. It’s old, fragile and bound to break at any moment.

Volunteer for Misery

A problem crops up with this product and a junior staff member, who does not know about the history, comes around and says, “I can take this on; no problem!”. While the senior employees think he’s nuts, he goes in and amazingly fixes the problem with this legacy product with no downtime. What that junior guy didn’t know was that he’s now the proud owner. He can’t let it go even when he wants to.

This junior staff might have impressed management, but now he’s at the level with the senior team. He’s bored with it and doesn’t want to own it anymore. One way or another, he fixed it last time, so he automatically knows everything there is to know about it. Sound familiar?

I’ve been there numerous times in a PKI environment, example. I’ve even done some printer-related tasks that I hated because, at the time, nobody else was going to fix it. Little did I know that it was going to be my product until the end of time.

Resourcefulness is the word you need to fall on sometimes. Using the analogy in the military, “Fall on a grenade to protect the team.” It goes back to one of my previous #CarTalks about taking the initiative in doing things you don’t want to do for a better outcome.

To better understand this, let’s take an example I hate managing certificates, but I somehow owned the PKI infrastructure at a previous position. This product is something I don’t want to do, and I’m going to do everything I can not to do it. But I’m still going to volunteer to fix it because nobody else in the organization wants to do it and the PKI infrastructure is a critical infrastructure component.

Short-term pain for Long-term gain

You may not want to do it, but you’re going to be the go-to person. Think about the advantages it gives you. You’re the one that is solely responsible and most knowledgeable about a critical piece of a business infrastructure. Don’t you think it’s going to increase your job security and help you get noticed by management? Of course, it is.

You’re going to look like a superstar in front of management, and that’s going to bring you perhaps a nice raise eventually. That’s a good feather in your cap and is something that you’re going to have to do to get noticed.

As you progress in your career, you’ll find spotting the superstars, and the upcoming stars become much easier to pick out by how they can immediately detect a problem and quickly see that no one is taking the initiative on something that is obviously important. They can see that no one is taking on the issue, man up and volunteer themselves.

Take the time to learn from scratch. Learn something. Figure out how to break a problem down and what’s involved. How can it be resolved? Then, fix it. You’ll see you’ve inherited the Sticky Product; at the same time, you’ve also inherited another responsibility, whether it’s good or bad.

That “I will do that” attitude is what I look out for whenever I see the junior guys. I know these people don’t necessarily want to do that work and just want to work on exciting things, but at the same time, they know that some sacrifice and the willingness to get involved is necessary to be a productive member of the team and be vital to the business.

Those are the kind of people that always appear to get the raises, the promotions, and awards. They might hate the new product now, but they know the skill is just another feather in their cap of experience, which they can put on their resume. They have some vision, and that’s what a lot of managers look for.

So, next time you’re in a situation where nobody wants to touch an issue, volunteer and take it on. Admit that you don’t know much about it, so it’s going to take you a bit to get up to speed on it, but you’re willing to take it on and see what I can do. That kind of initiative would go long way in your career.

This blog post was brought to you by a #CarTalks video of the same name. Check out my YouTube channel for this video and lots of other videos like it!

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