The uncertainty of how to clearly and effectively get your job done irrespective of your organizational level is often the norm inside organizations today. No longer is it enough to just do your job. Being proficient and known to have a certain skill or ability that the organization places value on isn’t quite sufficient either. “Redundant resources” have long been taken out and many individuals are responsible for doing multiple jobs; have varied responsibilities with titles and job descriptions that often don’t come close to describing what they do much less what they are responsible for. Also there are multiple bosses to answer to – that dotted line and solid line relationship is often painful. Most importantly, none of this is on any organizational chart. Sound familiar?
So, in today’s work environment, the question becomes, “How do you navigate within an organization to get a task accomplished when who or what to connect with is no longer obvious? Simply stated:
“Where do I go?”
The fact is that it has become increasingly important for you to understand how to effectively master the skill of navigating through your organization but not knowing all the players or where the resources are or who really does what.
Why? Because you still are being tasked with getting your job done and delivering on your commitments. You are ultimately accountable.
Unfortunately not knowing can be crippling to you when you are trying to complete a project or assignment if you don’t know where or who to go to. And many times, to our detriment we only think about the obvious people or groups that we know – what “comes to mind” at the time. However, what “comes to mind” is often not the resource(s) that we actually need. So, as a result of this, we spend many hours trying to solve for something that if it was already known (who, what or where to go to), the results would not only be a better outcome for you, but the organization overall.
This is why the skill of understanding and knowing how to successfully navigate through your organization is important. Many times being able to do this is not thought of as a skill. Plus it is not something that you can go to a training class to obtain or receive a certificate of completion in. More importantly, it doesn’t seem to matter until it is needed.
So what’s the secret? The secret in mastering this skill is in really understanding how to cross multiple entities or groups within your organization to engage or garner the right type of support or assistance from others well before you need it. This enables you to get your work done successfully when you do need it. Often this is what separates how organizations unconsciously view or determine if an employee is successful (irrespective of their skills or abilities) or not. Individuals who successfully master the ability to cross multiple boundaries in their organizations are often viewed as valuable to the organization which often translates into promotional opportunities, higher compensation as well as important organizational exposure.
How should you master the skill of navigating not only through but across organizational boundaries or entities before it is needed? Here are a few proactive ideas:
Pay attention to the actions of your others that are viewed as successful. It’s called watching your informal network. Watch who they go to for help and how they obtain the resources that they need to accomplish their work from individuals within your team or function but more importantly outside of your group. Often seeing how others in your function or on your team navigate helps you understand how you can do this as well. Also ask individuals not just within your team but across your organization how they achieve their goals and objectives. It’s great to observe, but having a dialog helps minimize the issue of interpretation and enhances what you are seeing. Also try asking some of them to serve as a guide or mentor to you.
Develop your own network and increase your organizational capital. As you develop your network build your social capital as well. Doing this means that as you meet people, you take the time to not only to think about how they can help you, but how you can help them as well. Also think about how you can connect them with others based on what you have learned or know about them and their work. Overtime you become a valuable resource to others in your organization because of the knowledge and information that you have. So not only are you able to achieve your goals because of your understanding of how your organization is informally structured and works, but you become known as a connector and valuable resource to others. Your social capital increases.
Step completely outside of your immediate function or team. Many times we go to those groups that we have adjacent or similar skills to. It is sometimes just easier as they understand what we do. However, going to a person or group in a totally different area that has nothing in common with what you are doing for your company leads you to think of things you hadn’t before. Is there a function or group that connects with or across the organization such as Finance or Human Resources that you should get to know? You’d be surprised about the information and people that they know and have to connect with due to the nature of their roles and the work that they do. Don’t forget about those groups that often have to have a broader view of the organization than you.
Mastering a skill means that you practice it. In order to learn how to effectively navigate through you organization, you have to be active and ensure that you are engaged. No one will come to you and once again, this is not a skill that you obtain in a classroom setting. Take the time to really understand your organization which no organizational chart will ever show you or tell you before you really need it. Here’s to navigating and practicing!
Flickr Photo: Calsidyrose
I am Francine Parham. My focus is professional and leadership development. I help individuals in the development of the critical skills they need in their careers to be successful in achieving their professional goals. I speak publically about the value of professional networks and networking as well as navigating through corporate cultures. I am also the creator of “Maximizing Your Network!”™, which instructs you on how to build, interact with and maintain your professional network. . Please connect with me at francineparham.com or attend one of my upcoming speaking events.