A friend and I were discussing the flow of work after the first few years in the job. Initially, there will likely be some low hanging fruit, and people think the results are amazing.  But the more into the position someone gets, the less ‘sexy’ the work becomes.  The focus shifts from the easier projects to the really hard, but important, work.  

The most essential projects are often behind-the-scenes, grinding work that does not produce great sound bites or make for splashy reports.  The trick is in managing expectations, especially after others have become accustomed to the splash that came in the earlier months.

My friend described it by likening the expectations to those of an addict; those higher in the organization must be continually fed (good news, new projects, etc.) or they become grumpy and, worse, they start micromanaging in the weeds.  If process work is something that needs to be done to move the organization forward, but is too operational to delight, it becomes incumbent on the leader to manufacture enough sizzle in order to keep the ‘addict’ happy — and to provide the space needed for staff to continue their work on the infrastructure needs.

If you spend your time only on the easy-to-complete or showy projects, you’ll likely short-cut much of the foundational work.  Don’t adopt a Wall Street mentality and look at only the next quarter.  Find ways to grind away at the long term projects, even if they don’t have short term results, and craft other ways to create some sizzle while you focus on the real meaty work too.

— beth triplett

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