Ellen seldom attends workshops or the conferences of professional groups. Even her reading of management journals is limited because she feels that there is not enough time for anything other than meeting and exceeding the performance expectations.
Mary, on the other hand, goes to several workshops each year and usually attends the monthly meetings of a professional association. She subscribes to and reads several management publications and sends copies of interesting articles to her colleagues. She has become adept at scanning publications for the latest news and participates in a “meet for lunch” circle that doubles as an informal think tank.
If you looked at the performance of their respective operations today, Ellen’s would rate highest. If you look at them in four years, however, Mary may have pulled in front. If both lose their jobs for whatever reason, Mary is definitely in a stronger position. She’s gained more knowledge and has made far more contacts.
This doesn’t mean that I lack sympathy for Ellen. She may be consciously avoiding the “all talk and no action” behavior of those infuriating managers who’d rather do anything than mind the store. That’s an easy trap to enter. Her mistake is taking an otherwise admirable position to an extreme and in not grooming herself for advancement. The same bosses who will commend you for sticking to your desk will later zap you for not having new ideas or for having few contacts in the community.
Just as maintaining physical health is important, so is maintaining professional health. That means, on occasion, escaping the routine and taking the professional actions that will make you stronger. If you don’t look out for your career development, it is unlikely that anyone else will.
Michael Wade writes Execupundit.com, an eclectic combination of management advice, observations, and links. A partner with the Phoenix firm of Sanders Wade Rodarte Consulting Inc., he has advised private and public-sector organizations for more than 30 years.