Career Advice #38: Draw a line.
When you work for someone else there’s always a caveat: you don’t make the rules but you do need to follow them. There is a fine line between bringing all your creativity and ideology to work and using it to step beyond limits. That is why it is important that as long as you someone’s employee, you understand about limits.
Sometimes you will do so good that you will feel limits are somewhat not that hard on you, the line will look dotted rather than solid. For those that usually do good and are well regarded, another fact stands: they can bend rules a bit, or maybe a bit more. They can’t go beyond it all the time though.
You know this of course. You’ve probably seen the line, especially if you are a creative person who doesn’t like being put in a box. Those rules, those limits that do apply to everyone effectively create a guide-line that we all agree to and use.
But what about your line? What about your rules or limits? Have you stopped to wonder if your line is contained within the lines the Company draws for you? Put in other words: are your limiting yourself within the limits of the Company? What will you do or what won’t you do, when the Company asks you to do it or not to do it?
We also draw lines, personal ones. A great example is our own “values”. They tell us what’s right or wrong and the best part is that we bring them with us no matter where we work. Depending on how solid those lines are you’ll find yourself challenged or empowered within a Company. Your personal lines such as your beliefs should always be stronger. Would you work for a Company or a boss that doesn’t respect what you believe in after all?
Drawing a line
Here’s a quick exercise for you:
- Draw a vertical line.
- Now think on what that line represents to you. It can be personal values, it can be beliefs or ideas. It can be hours you think you should be working or even money you want to make.
Tip #1: go deep, find a very solid, strong line.
- Now that you’ve found a name for that line, label it. I labeled “My Values”.
- On the left side of the line write words (not sentences), that explain your thoughts. Just one word per thought.
- On the right side of the line…put what’s beyond those words. You will not be shocked to see that most of the times, they are the opposite to the ones on the left, aren’t they?. It should look something like this:
6. Now ponder on it a bit. If it looks right and you feel right about it…it’s time to draw a second vertical line. First challenge: where will you place it? To the right (beyond your boundaries), or the left of your own Line (within your own limits)?
Tip #2.: think on something you were asked to do that challenged you and made you think about it. Finding it shouldn’t be hard, it’s usually things that we either love or hate about our job.
Tip#3: The Company line should resonate with your Personal line. If your Personal line is about Values, then the Company line should also be about Values, only the ones the Company cares about.
7. Go through steps 4 and 5 again, this time for the Company line. Start with the left side as you did before: state the Company values in this case. On the right, put those things the Company won’t stand for or won’t tolerate. Again, not a surprise to see they are opposite to the ones on the left. Here’s how it should look:
8. The example above shows what My Values are and what I consider to be “beyond the line”. It also shows what the company poses as values, and what the “beyond the line” looks like for them. My line appears before the Company Values as I considered they were contained within them. (note: this is actually just an example, it doesn’t represent my current values or those of the Company that currently employ me)
Tip #4. Your lines, your limits and rules, as much as your values, ideas, thoughts, change as you change and grow.
9. Finally see this other example where my line was actually beyond the Company’s one, signaling that I held my values above the Company’s one and considered mine contained them already.
What does your line look like?
How far is your line from the Company’s one, and how true would you say each value is? Do you feel closer to the statements before the line or after the line in both yours and the Company’s one?
In other words, your lines can help you find or see the Company’s lines, their limits. If you feel you’re too far away from them you need to think on why that happens. Are your personal lines such as your values, compromised because you work there? Do you feel you can give so much more than the Company demands from you?
Knowing your limits allows you to better understand the limits of the Company you’re working for. It will also help you understand, given the distance between both lines, if you are working for the right people or not. And it might help you see if what you are willing to do for yourself or the Company is in fact within what’s expected or what’s not right.
Draw a line. That’s how it starts.
Originally published at IT is what IT is.