Coping with Increased Responsibilities

One of the challenges faced by high performers is the dramatic increase in the scope of their jobs as they get promoted. An individual contributor is promoted to manager, and suddenly has a whole department reporting to her, maybe eight or 10 people or even more. A district manager becomes a regional manager, and is now responsible for eight or 10 districts, a ten-fold increase in scope. And so forth.

A reasonable question, then, is how to cope with the dramatic increase in responsibilities that comes with promotions? I have asked this question of numerous experienced, successful executives, and here are some of the answers I have heard:

  • Prioritize Ruthlessly – Identify the most important issues and work on them first. If you don’t get to other things, be sure those are the less important matters. “You have to accept that some things won’t ever rise to the top of the list,” was how one put it.

  • Forget About Perfection – One executive said: “Early in my career I was a perfectionist and that was a big part of my brand. Now, that is a sure path to failure. With everything I have to do, I’m happy with 80%. It sounds terrible, but that’s the only way to keep up.”

  • Delegate Until it Hurts – There are many reasons not to delegate - - takes too long, it’s confidential or too important, my people are already overloaded, etc. Those who succeeded when their scope increased by multiples overlooked these barriers and used delegation extensively to get things done and develop their people.

  • Stay Above the Fray – Several executives talked about keeping a long-range, broad perspective and avoiding getting too immersed in the details of what’s going on. This is not always easy, since it requires trust in other others to provide information, answer questions and do the work that has been delegated.

  • Get Some Advice – A very common practice among successful executives was seeking, and being open to, advice from others. Having informal conversations with mentors and more experienced executives was frequently cited. In addition, some noted that insight often comes from unexpected sources such as junior staff and mentees, who can have fresh views that are helpful if you are open to them.

All in all, coping with dramatically increased responsibilities goes way beyond “time management” techniques such as color-coded folders or electronic reminders. It is a mindset of looking at the work in a fundamentally different way. Adjusting one’s approach when promoted is key to success in the bigger role, and for continued growth into even bigger jobs down the road.

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