There are seldom more frustrating words uttered in the workplace than “sorry, it’s not in my job description”. That they’re typically used in direct response to a request for help merely adds salt to the wounds. Such rigid adherence to a particular set of tasks and responsibilities is the antithesis of social business. Not only does it limit the work you can do, but it also often fails to tap into the wide range of knowledge you contain.
I wrote recently about the growing trend in job crafting, where both employee and manager take a collaborative approach to creating someones job description based on their interests and values. Central to this is allowing oneself a degree of freedom to work on the job rather than merely in the job. In other words, allowing employees the time to grow both their own job and themselves as individuals.
With an increasing number of organisations turning to the crowd for ideas this becomes even more important. Suffice to say, the idea generation phase is merely the beginning of the process, with the implementation of that idea far more challenging and time consuming. For the whole crowdsourcing process to work, it requires a flexible workforce that can apply itself to new ideas as they emerge and adapt to the changing requirements of the business. Working to the job description doesn’t allow that.
As a manager, here are some things to consider:
Are you monitoring the environment?
Suffice to say, the first area to look at is the idea space itself. If you’re not aware of the ideas emerging within your company or the requests for help then you’ll be blind to the opportunities to apply either your own skills or those of your team more effectively. It’s very easy to become consumed with matters directly affecting you and your team, but make sure you reach out to others throughout your organisation and learn what else is going on.
How much slack is in your employees schedule?
Time is often the most precious commodity we have. In order to apply our skills where they’re best suited, there needs to be time allowed to analyse whether skills are being best utilised, and then to actually re-direct them elsewhere as applicable. Things like 20% time are good for both sides of this.
How wide is your interest?
When I first read Maverick by Ricardo Semler a decade ago, one of the best vignettes from the book for me was how he encouraged staff to work in various parts of the business, both to learn how things are in other departments, and to also discover the field where you can best apply your skills. At the heart of a collaborative culture is taking an interest in the work done outside of your home department, so make sure you take an interest in the work others are doing, and don’t be afraid to offer your help.
Are you thinking strategically?
Whilst it may have been the case historically that strategy was only something that concerned senior managers, that isn’t the case any longer. An ever growing number of companies are turning to employees for input into the strategic and business planning process. This more meritocratic environment is a great way to prove your abilities and get involved in new ways. Don’t believe for a minute that strategy doesn’t affect or involve you.
Are you looking at the flip side?
Whilst you’re looking to apply the skills of yourself and your team to other peoples projects, the same should apply to your own work. A great outcome of analysing the talent you have at your disposal is that you will know your weaknesses as well as your strengths. This is your chance to bring talent into your team from elsewhere that you don’t currently have. Asking for help is not something that comes easily, but delegating effectively not only ensures you have the skills you need, but it also frees your own time up to apply your own skills more effectively.