Each of us has a primary duty, a main effort, and a set of responsibilities. Many times we are not the only person executing tasks associated with each, but often times we are. The tasks we execute in support of our duties/responsibilities are usually visible to others and our ability to deliver outcomes is the measure people use to assess our performance. What often isn’t visible is what we do behind the scenes to influence those outcomes. I believe that in today’s world, what we do behind the scenes is the primary reason for any success (or lack thereof) when the curtain is up. And those behind the scenes activities fall into three areas: personal development, relationship building, and side-projects.

We were hired for a job, assigned a project, or given specific responsibility based on past performance, credentials previously earned, and/or reputation. In essence, each decision is based on who we were at one time and who we are perceived to be now. It is the rare occasion that we are employed based on who we may become as a result of the opportunity (note: I have benefitted from such assignments and do my best to provide others with the same). In the absence of that rare occasion, it is paramount that we invest in ourselves by making our growing body of work visible, expanding our resume of credentials, and giving others a reason to advocate on our behalf. Merely taking required courses, doing our job, and accepting our reputation as a constant is a strategy of great risk and one destined for a life of missed opportunities. Personal development behind the scenes is critical!

I’ve long believed that we are only as good as our network: our family, our friends, our colleagues. Given that we have no influence on our family make-up until we choose a partner and grow a family of our own, the only real variables in this area are our friends and colleagues; but they are significant variables. Sometimes our friends choose us, sometimes we choose them; sometimes they are friends for a short period, sometimes they are friends for a lifetime; sometimes they outgrow us, sometimes we outgrow them. Our friends influence how we think, they influence what we choose, and they influence how we grow as people. Our choice of friends is vitally important. The main reason being that they challenge us to be better, they enjoy our company, and they make us smile (we have a responsibility to reciprocate on all three). When we join a team, we join their team. Our new colleagues are in their positions and we were chosen for ours, each for a reason…some more deliberate than others. Regardless, it is on us to shape that relationship, to help them understand who we are and what we bring to the table, and to make everyone on the team stronger. Too many of us don’t see relationship building as a personal responsibility. It may not be a primary duty, but it is is the bedrock of getting anything done. We are only as good as the team we build on our own time. Developing and strengthening relationships with our family, friends, and colleagues behind the scenes is critical!

Like many of you, I love what I do. Even when I am not professionally fulfilled by my primary job (and I have found myself in that situation), I find fulfillment on the side. That is to say that at any and all times, I have a few side projects going on (this blog is but one). These projects serve as vehicles for me to experiment and grow, for me to develop/strengthen relationships with colleagues from across the globe, and for informal teams to contribute in creative and meaningful ways. In fact, I freely admit that the contributions to my profession of which I am most proud happened on the side. It is what we do on the side that separates us from (or solidifies our bond amongst) our peers; it is what we do on the side that allows us to shape what will be (while others focus on what is); it is what we do on the side that ensures we succeed in the execution of our primary responsibilities. Taking on side projects behind the scenes is critical!

What we do while on stage is important and is the measure of success that many use. But it is what we do behind the scenes that ensures we are able to perform at high levels.

  • How are you investing in yourself?
  • How are you developing/strengthening relationships?
  • What side projects are you working on?
  • What are you doing behind the scenes?