Do The Job You’re Capable of Doing
What makes people stay in positions they find unsatisfying while others will find new challenges? What makes people climb the corporate ladder while others strike out on their own and start independent businesses? Daniel H. Pink, author of the book, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, might say that those who leave have met their basic needs and now seek that upper tier of the needs pyramid. They are trying to self-actualize.
An economist might argue that we are not so much reaching for spiritual satisfaction, as we are the more basic needs of food and shelter. In economies where jobs are scarce people are often forced to start their own businesses out of necessity rather than desire. The truth probably lies somewhere between. Still, it makes me wonder why some bright capable people are increasingly finding their way to independence while other people who would be better off on their own remain inside organizations.
Middle Management Mindset
It would appear that there is an interesting phenomenon that happens at the middle management level. Some leaders discover that they have found their niche and stay in place. Others realize that they are out of their depth, and struggle to avoid sliding backwards. Then there are those who are not up to the job but still look for more responsibility. Surprisingly, they have often rewarded for their efforts. This happens because most managers would rather promote than fire.
The employee quite naturally assumes that they are great at what they do, so they keep doing it. Their confidence grows and thrives and they take on ever increasing challenges. In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg notes that studies show that a woman will chase a job if they feel they have an overwhelming number of the skills required to do the job. While men will chase a position even if they have about half the skills, perhaps even less. The implication is that women should give themselves an ego boost and go after the big jobs. Frankly, I find that idea disturbing. While I do think women tend to under estimate their abilities, I don’t believe that misplaced self-confidence is the road to success, at least not for the employees left reporting to incompetent bosses or the organizations that stumble under the weight of poor leadership.
How About Something Completely Different?
I’m all for women having more confidence and tackling the big jobs, but I like their approach to work. That hesitation in the face of opportunity means that when they do leap, they are ready for the role. I wish more men behaved like women. Just for a change, why not have people go after jobs they actually had the skills to perform? I’m not saying that everyone should have one hundred percent of the skills needed before applying, that would be a waste of talent. It would be more productive however to have employees and leaders who knew what they were doing. We have incapable leaders because we often hire with too much emphasis on self-confidence and not enough core skills.
What do you think? Lean in or lean back?