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Grow Where You Are Planted... Seriously?

How many of you are familiar with the phrase, "Grow where you are planted?" This term became my mantra later in my career. Of course, I always understood that every role I secured allowed me to learn something new. However, when I was "voluntold" to take on a responsibility I had no experience or desire for earlier in my career, I did not immediately appreciate the benefits of stepping out of my comfort zone.

Case in point - while working for an investment bank as a recruiter, the responsibility for managing a mortgage loan benefit program for executives transitioned from my compensation colleague (who got promoted) to me. I do not have a finance background. While in college, I changed my major from Accounting to Human Resources because I had a love/hate relationship with numbers, and I received my first and ONLY "D" in college in statistics. It was clear (in my mind) that I would never be an accountant, a mathematician, or a loan officer.

So, there I was, overseeing the home mortgage process for executives. I felt like I had no power to say that I would not take on this additional responsibility; the consequences of making errors would not look good on me, my leader, and the human resources department, and having a love/hate relationship with numbers did not help my confidence either.

After a huge gulp and a whole lot of prayer, I quickly became a mortgage loan apprentice learning all I could about our process. I leaned on my compensation colleague to provide advice whenever I encountered issues or had concerns. Little did I know that taking on this responsibility would lead to me gaining the trust and confidence of our senior leaders, which benefited my career.

After what seemed like a lifetime, the responsibility for mortgage loans moved to another function (Praise baby Jesus)! Shortly after that, I was promoted to a position in our Employee Relations function. As part of my new role, I coached and consulted with executives on sensitive and confidential topics – from performance management to strategic workforce planning and employee investigations. These were some of the same senior leaders with whom I developed a great rapport while managing their mortgage loan process. Now I was being viewed as a trusted partner on a whole other level, and my confidence as a Human Resources professional increased tremendously.

Reflecting on my career, I did not have a blueprint for what makes a successful career. I was the first person in my immediate family to graduate from college and work in Corporate America. Also, the thought that someone in a C-Suite would look to me for advice on sensitive topics was unfathomable because I did not see or know of anyone who looked like me doing this type of work in my immediate circle back then. At least we did not discuss it. So, my experience during this stint in my career was indeed the epitome of having faith and "growing where you are planted." My lessons learned include the following:

  • Never say you can't do something. We can do more than we recognize but often choose to stay in our comfort zone. Real growth comes from doing something new.

  • Change is inevitable. You can get stressed about it or keep an open mind to the possibilities. The new scenario is frequently better than you imagined (check out my blog titled "Changes Ahead: Who Moved Your Cheese and How Will you Respond?").

  • Learn all you can, which will benefit you further by providing a new skill or building new relationships with people who can advocate for you later in life. You'll also gain breadth and depth of experience that could make you more competitive as you seek other opportunities.

  • Identify a mentor who can serve as an advisor and confidante during your transition into a new role. My compensation partner was that for me. I can only suspect that he gave my boss feedback about my performance which contributed to my promotion to Senior Director.

  • Be kind to everyone you encounter. When you are good to people, it will return to you tenfold. Those executives didn't know I had just learned to manage mortgage loans. I never complained, "out loud." I handed them documents and talked them through the steps like a pro. As I indicated, these same individuals would sit across the table from me, requesting advice on handling many challenging leadership scenarios, or they would have their direct reports call me because of the trusting relationship that we developed.

In closing, I encourage you to view every situation you encounter as an opportunity to develop – personally and professionally. Even if you validate your dislikes, at least you can say that you tried, gained a new skill, or acquired new knowledge.

Now, "grow where you are planted"...Seriously!


Michelle Biggs is the Founder and CEO of My Best Every Day Coaching & Consulting, LLC.

Click the link below to learn more about Michelle.

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