Who’s the boss?

Work has two faces: 1: it is a means for living, enabling us to pay the bills and 2: it gives identity and a sense of purpose. As a mental model the “two faces of work” remind us that it’s more than mechanics of effort-reward. Work is also a social experience and a lifelong education process.

Traditionally, getting work assignments was largely depending on the line manager; a patriarch (M/F) assuming fatherly responsibility for everyone’s tasks and workload, as well as personal growth, promotions (or not!), quality assurance processes, annual appraisals etc etc. This is changing, middle managers are becoming feeding-and-watering stations people turn to infrequently and for formal alignment, eg for changes to employment contract.

The day-to-day work experience is happening in teams for most people. Teams are becoming the core social structure of working life; the point of delivery for many corporations; the most important “work home”. The team is where the rubber meets the road, the engine room. To thrive and grow in teamwork and to get the great assignments, you need to know what you’re good at, your values, wants and needs.

Don’t expect any of this to come from “above”, this is about your identity and purpose. Jobs are becoming roles; roles are becoming essential, with clearly articulated value-adds and accountability. The workforce (an antiquated term), especially the younger generations, are confidently embracing the new world order, looking for impact and meaning.

Building a team is to match carefully branded individuals with optimized team structures, and teams only existing for the duration of their useful life, ie as long as they deliver against defined objectives (developing a new product, winning a deal, etc). Teams are great, accelerating skills utilization, productivity and opportunity for the individual.

When the job is done, each person is evaluated and returned to the feeding-and-watering station until next project. The “Gig economy” exists as an employment arrangement, but also as an internal assignment principle: this is a highly dynamic and competitive exercise, a reflection of the speed and agility with which people and companies are aligning with market changes.

Back in the day, line managers would have laid out a plan for each person; some employers still provide their employees with some form of guidance, now typically automated as portal-based career roadmaps. Even with the supplement of internal career advisory service or counseling, this will typically lack everyday proximity to each person’s achievements, strengths and development potential. The need for a personal brand, once a thing for executive leadership profiles, is spreading to all team workers.

Reflecting on these matters is worth the effort. You’re unique, and only your own clarity will get you where you want to be. So be your own boss when it comes to your development and career. Whether you’re out to secure the next steady job, a pay raise, or to change your behavioral patterns or assignments towards better alignment with your personal values, there’s no avoiding the facts: don’t sit around waiting for direction – you own this! You also own the feedback you get along the way. It’s not the responsibility of your team leader (plus, he/she is likely very busy). Your line manager probably won’t know you very well. Team workers, take charge and lead: set goals for yourself, clarify your values and strengths, learn new skills, build your brand.