How To Expand Your Job: The Pushing Boundaries Strategy

Image Credit: Pixabay.comExpanding your responsibility is one of the best moves to grow your career. It’s a proven strategy that many of the world’s top performers use to develop themselves. Adding new tasks and responsibilities to your role is a practical way to demonstrate your proactive approach. The organization benefits from the increased productivity. The individual benefits from the challenge of learning new skills in the short term and laying the groundwork for future growth (including compensation growth).

The “do more at your job” theme is a tried and true career development strategy. Consider the following insights from researchers and other career development experts.

  • Grow Your Engagement By Focusing On Your Strengths

Adding new activities to your work is one way to increase your engagement. Gallup research found that, “employees are most likely to be engaged — and stay with their companies — when they report that their managers understand them and give them the chance to do what they do best every day.” Unfortunately, Gallup’s research reports that few managers score well in engagement. Fortunately, you can be proactive by adopting the pushing boundaries strategy to grow your role.

  • The 150% Rule for Promotions

According to Manager Tools, the key to earning a promotion is the “150% rule.” This rule states that a person must demonstrate an ability to perform 100% of their role and 50% of the role above you (e.g. half of your manager’s job, if that is role you have in mind). It is an excellent guideline.

  • The Making Your Boss Smarter Rule

Jack Welch, the successful former CEO of General Electric, proposes two rules to win promotions. The first is delivering results in your role, i.e. doing your assigned job well. The second aspect is helping your boss become smarter and more effective. As Welch explains: “The other quality that makes you promotable is constantly working to make your boss smarter. So when your boss asks you to do something, don’t only do that, but expand your responsibilities and lay out a much bigger picture.”

Identify Opportunities To Grow

Taking on more work is only valuable if you take on high value activities that help the organization and grow your skills. In organizations, there are many boundaries one can push against. Before pounding against a brick wall, take the time to identify where you can achieve a win.

1. Analyze Your Strengths

There are two types of strengths to consider: personality strengths and skill strengths. For insight on personality strengths, read Why Knowing Yourself Is Essential To Leadership. For example, highly people oriented professionals would do well to grow and deepen relationships. The next step is to identify skill strengths: look for skills that you have used over and over (e.g. data analysis, business development, leadership and so forth) and strengths that have been praised by clients or management.

Action: Identify my professional strengths (personality and/or skills) using a personality profile and performance reviews.

2. Review Your Department’s Problems and Opportunities

Most well run departments feature team meetings where problems and other matters affecting the department are discussed. By paying close attention to these meetings, you can find new ways to contribute. Specifically, read through the minutes from the past three team meetings to look for problems or opportunities that have been mentioned several times. These repeated themes will give you ideas on where to push the boundaries of your job.

Action: Review my department’s priorities by reading through three department team meeting documents.

3. Consider The Organization’s Priorities

Going beyond your department and yourself is the core of this recommendation. Start with your organization’s financial measures: are revenues and profits growing or declining in the past year? How does your organization’s financial performance compare to peer companies? In addition, look for speeches or “all employee” communications that your organization’s leadership have recently distributed. Most leaders make problems and challenges clear in such messages so that investors, employees and others can take appropriate action.

Tip: If you are based at a public company, you can use Yahoo Finance to identify competitors. For example, for Bank of America, Yahoo Finance names Citigroup, Wells Fargo and JP Morgan Chase as competitors.

Prepare A Proposal

Armed with your research, it is now time to prepare a proposal to ask for more responsibility. This approach assumes you are in a larger organization that tends to rely on process. You may be able to skip some of these steps if you are in a small and highly fluid organization.

4. Start With A Small Addition

Incremental progress is the name of the game when it comes to building career success. For example, you may ask to take on responsibility for producing a weekly report or managing a small quality process. The following steps of the process will help you to document and present the value of the task you take on.

Tip: Remember that your added responsibility must not threaten your ability to deliver on your primary responsibilities.

5. Think Through Benefits

The benefits for the proposed expansion to you are obvious: new skills and experience. Instead, you need to think through the benefits from your manager’s perspective. For example, you may emphasize succession planning and vacation coverage. For example, by learning to how to do aspects of Jane’s role, then you will be able to perform those activities if Jane is away from the office.

6. Propose The Change To Management

Write up a one page proposal describing the change and meet with your manager to discuss it. After this meeting, you may have revise your plan to take account of your manager’s concerns.

Deliver and Report The Results

At this phase, we start to do the new work and report on our performance. Completing these steps demonstrate your attention to detail and professionalism.

7. Perform The Activity Three Times

Why three times? Completing an activity once may be an accident. Performing new activities (e.g. producing a financial report, making a presentation to an execution) is the beginning of a track record.

8. Collect Data On The Results

The data you collect to report on your work is critical to step 9 below. For example, you may take screenshots from a system to show an activity was successfully completed by the deadline. Alternately, your department may hav existing metrics that you can use. If there are no established measures, ask for a feedback email and then copy that response.

Tip: Create a file folder or an email folder relating to the new activity you are learning to store the data (e.g. “2015  Learning Financial Reporting”).

9. Report The Success To Management

Reporting your success underscores to your manager is the vital conclusion, especially if you tend to be shy about sharing your wins. In this short meeting, share the data on the results achieved (e.g. on time and met quality requirements) and how the company benefited. If you found the activity interesting, mention that point at the end.

Looking Ahead

Did you know that pushing boundaries once was enough? That’s not the case. Once you become capable at delivering thoses tasks, it is time to keep pushing.

10. Plan The Next Campaign

In planning your next campaign, you go through the steps 1-9 in this practice. Remember to connect your development activities to your medium and long term goals. Depending on opportunities and your confidence, consider taking on more challenging tasks in your second campaign.


    • bruce says

      Wendii, thanks for commenting. Manager Tools is an outstanding resource that I’m more than happy to recommend.

  1. Nik says

    Project managers can push the boundaries by finding new ways to see project management. Many aren’t consistently monitoring the factors that drive outcomes. (Anyone know their Sponsor Mgmt. Participation Level? Or, their Process Adherence Level?) If you don’t monitor the factors that determine the future…you can’t manage it.

    • bruce says

      Thanks for visiting and sharing your thoughts.

      Tell me more about the process adherence level concept. How do you use that idea to improve results?


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