Should you volunteer to do more, or set boundaries?
In my trainings on Resilience, I constantly hear the refrain: ‘we have too much work’.
And against this backdrop, our national conversation is raging about whether to Lean In, or not (at least for us women, you gents are being asked to step up and make work life integration an issue for all, not just women).
So I thought I’d give you a few examples of my clients who are making their own decisions whether to do more, or not. You want to make these decisions in a context of role clarity, and what you want in the current and future chapters of your lives.
1) One of my clients works in the private equity field – she is very ambitious, wants to rise to the top, and earn a lot of money. You go girl! She is not well known by the senior leadership in her firm and has a weak manager or mentor.
She needs to ‘Lean In’ and go above and beyond her current role: She’s volunteering to spearhead a strategic review of the firm’s deal decision making, and she’s put in extra hours to hire an outside firm to generate leads for the firm. As a result, she’s gotten to meet with the heads of the firm a few times, and is making key relationships with the heads of each of the sector teams. So she’s getting the apprenticeship she needs in order to develop her investing acumen, given that she doesn’t get this from her direct boss. She’s willing to make a shorter term sacrifice of long hours for a long term gain, she’s postponing starting a family for a year during this crucial time.
In contrast, she ended her draining efforts doing research for lots of other teams, and her time-inefficient ‘spray and pray’ approach to her deal sourcing. These hours weren’t in the service of her goals, they stemmed from her insecurity and lack of clarity.
2) Another client is a woman lawyer who’s worked very hard on a well known case. She doesn’t have a family but wants balance in her life. She is the #2 person to the top guy in her firm, so she is frequently sought out for her insights and has traditionally been the one to clean up any loose threads in order to get the work done. She has already proven herself, is even on a partner track. Yet is not sure if she wants to stay a lawyer.
She needs to set boundaries. She’s removing herself as the ‘middleman’, and is finding people at an appropriate level to transition out of the non-legal work. We’ve helped her find morning and evening times in which she is truly ‘off’. She’s volunteering for a non-profit that stimulates her to see if she’d rather do that kind of work.
3) A third client works in a financial institution. She operates with role clarity and does her job well. She has a family. But she is seeking a next job in another company, and also wants to become more of a thought leader in her field. She may be doing the work that is fine for her role now, but if she wants to be confident as she goes on interviews, she needs to expand her knowledge and range of functions she could serve. If she wants to say yes to speaking opportunities and contribute more to her field, she needs to grow a bigger perspective so she can add value to people in her audience (the first thing she requested in order to say yes to speaking opportunities was the ‘anxiety reset button’ which you can find on page 133 of my new book Success under Stress!) She needs to “Lean In” to grow her confidence and her perspective, not necessarily into her current role.
Hope this helps you think through when its appropriate to when to volunteer and when to set boundaries on your workload.