Keep One Foot In The Clouds And The Other In The Trenches

Rising professionals face a big conflict: putting one foot in the clouds while keeping the other in the trenches.

When you excel as a practitioner, your success lands you in managerial and administrative roles. With “senior-manager responsibilities,” you rightly begin to focus on things like strategy and performance, and team and resource management.

Those are important things, to be sure. But they remove you from the everyday practice and nuances of the tactile problems you were solving in the first place. The more your attention goes to organizational or abstract problems, the less attention you have left for hands-on immersion, closest to the point of impact of why your business exists. You tend to sacrifice your craft.

You see this phenomenon happen in all sorts of professions, such as hard sciences, computer programming and marketing, in areas like product development, sales and customer service. It affects middle management, and it can really manifest in senior management. Some call this “empty-suit syndrome.”



Leaders -- not managers -- think big and with purpose. Yet they also maintain passion and practice with the tactical expertise that scored them credibility in the first place. They may have risen through the ranks to build and sustain a movement, but they still yearn to get their hands dirty in the trenches.

Keeping a foot in the trenches has many benefits. First, it keeps you more sensitive to operations and impact -- beyond the abstraction of spreadsheets, presentations and dashboards (which are also important, of course). Second, it keeps you humble and culturally aligned with the people who spend all of their time there. Third, it rekindles your love for the domain and craft that is your foundation.

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