Know 3 Things About Your Role

OK, here’s the first deep dive into the “12 things I’ve learned about work.”  # 5 is: Know three things about your role at all times.  I first developed this insight about seven years ago when I started at Capital One – which is a wonderful company that really stretches people and challenges them to be their best.  It became clear to me that, in this company, you better know three things about your role at all times:

1 – Context.  What is the overall context for your role – why does it exist?  How does it fit into your function or department, and the larger organization?  Who was in the role before you?  What is this role’s “reputation” in the company?  How is it thought of?  What has this role historically been known to produce?  What is expected from this role?  What’s significant about it – what specific problems is it set up to solve?

2- Vision.  Given all of # 1 above, what’s your vision for the role?  Where do you want to take it?  What more can you do with this spot in the function or organization?  Where can you take this role in terms of visibility, brand, etc.?   What do you have planned for the role, from a products or services perspective?  Can you articulate why this role is critical to the organization?

3- Status.  How is the role thought of, today?  Given # 1 and # 2 above, how close is it to the reputation you want for the role, and how achievable is your vision?  Be honest with yourself – how much “juice” or status does the role have, right now, in the organization?  Is it gaining traction, or losing ground?  Your brand and the role’s brand are slightly different – you might be well thought of, but expectations for this role’s results might be through the roof (in other words, you might not be living up to the standards expected of this position).  What’s your take on the pulse of how the position is seen in the grand scheme of things, not just your own brand?

In summary, my learning was this: just like people, roles have reputations, too.  Do some investigating to see how your role is perceived… is it a dead-end job?  A high-flyer rotational assignment?  A role of influence, or merely one of churning out interesting but not very purposeful work?  I believe you should know the context, vision and status of the role you’re playing in the organization.  Roles are fluid, as you know… and to some extent, are what you make of them, of course.  But don’t think that you and your role aren’t linked somehow – they are.  And it’s best if you give that some thought as you navigate the white water of your own particular organization.