Monday, August 20, 2007

All Dressed Up With No Place To Go

In some recent coaching sessions with clients, I've been reminded of the importance of running room.

The business section of many bookstores is filled with career advice books that counsel this strategy and that. Most are based on two assumptions:

  1. There are sufficient opportunities for advancement within the organization.

  2. The reader is interested in those opportunities.

Those are pretty big assumptions. The career advice books that feature examples from Fortune 500 companies are discussing scenarios that are worlds apart from the average person's reality. Giant organizations offer far more opportunities for advancement and the inspirational stories of people who took advantage of those chances don't resemble the places where a grand opportunity may open up every six or seven years.

The issue of interest also is different. Larger outfits don't just offer more opportunities, they also have a greater likelihood of offering something of genuine interest. A company of 10,000 employees or less is going to have much less running room for people who are ambitious than will one of the mega-corporations.

I'm familar with the Horatio Alger-like stories of people who created their own job opportunities by thinking of a new product or service. That can occur if the organization is receptive to such creativity. Many places, however, let the dead hand of bureaucracy stifle such energy.

My point is that individuals who are preparing themselves for advancement within a particular organization need a realistic appraisal of whether that organization will provide enough serious opportunities for their talents.

Many workplaces face a serious morale problem: What to do with highly skilled middle managers who are all dressed up with no place to go?

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