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STOP Following the Leader; 3 Reasons Why It May Be the Best Thing For Your Career

I’ll admit it, the job market can be a scary place right now. However, one of the smartest things you can do to keep yourself in the game is to stop blindly saying “Yes” and start distancing yourself from the pack.

Sounds a little counterintuitive right now, when most people may be trying to lay low and not call attention to themselves for fear of putting their job or career on the line. However, it’s now more important than ever that you start to respectfully question the “norm” and start thinking about alternative ways to approach tasks and projects.

If I were reading this, I imagine I might be inclined to ask “Why?” For that reason, I’ve put together 3 top reasons to stop following the leader:

Reason 1: When you blindly follow the leader and go along with whatever suggestion or rule is handed down, or continue to complete a task the way it’s always been done, it sends a message that you are in agreement. Which is fine, if you actually do agree. However, I suspect that might not always be the case. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve attended, led, and facilitated meetings where topics are brought up, everyone nods and then, following the meeting, countless people are frustrated with the decision that was made. Here’s the thing, and I know it sounds like common sense, in most cases the party that has brought up the topic would like to hear your honest (and respectful) point of view. I think we can assume that they would like the idea or initiative to be a success, and by withholding information that could contribute to success or failure, you are doing a disservice to the cause.

Reason 2: Technology is advancing at an amazing rate of speed, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is keeping up. In fact, in many cases, businesses may be so focused on acquiring the best software, hardware, or other new equipment, there is little focus on the strategic or even basic planning behind every decision. It often amazes me when I see a company elated to show off their newest acquisition (usually designed to save time or money), and at the same time, their front-line employees are shaking their heads saying it will never work. In the worst cases, the new “toy” may cost more time or money to the bottom line. However, if you are the person with firsthand knowledge of the area that will be affected, you’re in a perfect position to save the company time or money and make yourself look good at the same time!

The key is to take the initiative to find out what is being considered (if possible) or to pay close attention if the decision has already been implemented. If you notice that there may be a “cog in the wheel,” go to the person you report to and ask questions about the success of theproject. Try asking a few questions starting with “Have you considered . . .” or “Have you noticed . . .” You can also start a statement with “I noticed that . . .” or “I’ve been thinking about this, and I may have come up with a way to make this even more successful . . .”

The important thing is to be mindful not to come across as intentionally negative, argumentative or (gasp) happy to see the project fail. Your intention should be to provide legitimate assistance in partnering for success.

Reason 3: People often know what they want, and seldom what they need. Ever hear the expression “Do what you’ve always done and you’ll get what you always got?” It can be especially true in business.

Very often a prospective client will call me to tell me what they’d like me to do for them. I suppose the safe thing would be to politely smile and agree. However, it’s not always in the client’s best interest for me to follow along. After-all, if we all knew exactly what we need to do, wouldn’t we already be doing it? Often times, the best thing to do is listen to the “want” and determine the “need.”

You can agree to do something you’re pretty sure won’t be successful, and you can be pretty sure you’ll get what you expected. However, if you listen to the need, look at things from another perspective, and make suggestions that might differ from the rest, who knows . . . you might just be surprised by your own success.

Taking a step in the right direction might be a little scary, but it sure beats standing in the wrong place indefinitely.

Activate Potential. Realize Results.™

©2014 Lisa Broesch. All rights reserved internationally. Permission granted to excerpt or redistribute with attribution and notification