Time is on your side

You may think you lack the time to develop your career. But Byron Kalies says it is all about priorities

Management is a funny old game, especially in specialist areas such as IT. Excellent computer technicians get promoted to management for behaving in a certain way. They get rewarded for achieving results by themselves. When they become managers they are told to behave differently. They now have to get results from others. The control has suddenly shifted to the staff and the IT director starts saying: "This can't be right. I thought when I became manager I'd have more control - not less."

A senior statistician once told me: "I was good at adding up sums so they promoted me. They gave me harder sums to do. I did this really well so they promoted me. They gave me even harder sums to do. I did this really well and they promoted me again. As a reward they moved me away from the sums and gave me 50 people to manage."

When people become managers they need a different set of skills. Eventually they learn those skills and settle down until the next challenge comes along and they start looking for promotion. Now there is another problem, a different set of skills to learn. The catch though, is that they are far too busy doing what they do to spend time developing wider skills, knowledge and strategic insight.

There is a technique by Stephen Covey that I believe will help enormously in this situation known as 'big rocks'. Imagine a bucket. You put three or four big rocks in it. The bucket is not full so you put some smaller rocks in to fill in the gaps.

Since it is still not full you add some sand, then some water. Finally it is full. The point here is to do with the order. If you had reversed the order putting the water in first, then the sand and the small rocks, there would be no room for the big rocks.

These big rocks are the important things in your life. You need to schedule them first, not try to squeeze them in after arranging the water (pointless assessments), sand (unnecessary travel) or small rocks (staff meetings where no one listens).

Things you believe are important

The big rocks may be things like family, time to watch the children grow up, time to write that novel, time for yourself, time to make a difference. You decide.

Identify three or four things you believe are important and which will make a difference to your life, then schedule them. Once these times are scheduled, fit the rest of your work around them.

In terms of you and career development - if one of those big rocks is not promotion, then you can to stop worrying about it.

This can be incredibly liberating. Suddenly you will not feel the need to impress anyone. Suddenly you feel perfectly happy to say no to that opportunity to spend the weekend dealing with customers.

Take a long hard look at what are the skills and knowledge you need at the next level. Then look at where you are now. Then look at the gaps and whether you need a wider perspective or strategic management skills. Whatever you identify you now have some time to look at acquiring them.

Look at the bigger picture. Look at secondments, job swaps, shadowing, whatever it takes. This will be a lot easier when you have got more time to plan and develop it.