GRAY STONE ADVISORS' BLOG

Leadership Essentials: Collateral Duties

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"Collateral duties." In the minds of some, these are two of the most dreaded words in the English language. Or certainly in business aviation.

But to others, these words have opportunity written all over them.

If you break out into a cold sweat or your knees start knocking when you hear these two words, you’d better read on.

business man looking at opportunities, taking on collateral dutiesBy Steve Brechter


Collateral Duties Defined 

The website “eHow” defines a collateral duty as “a task or tasks carried out by an employee that lie outside of his/her main role.” 

That’s a great definition, but I’d add, “ . . . and gives you a tremendous opportunity to advance your career and the mission of your organization.”

In an organization as small as a flight department—even a multi-aircraft operation—there aren’t always many ways to advance your career or to be recognized.

So it’s wise to jump on all the opportunities that you can. Here are five reasons for taking on one or more collateral duties in your flight department.

 

5 Reasons to Take on a Collateral Duty     

 

1.  It’ll Show Your Ambition

I once had a boss who told me he didn’t know what his highest performers looked like. Sort of a trick question, I thought, but I fell for it and asked why.

He said the reason was that they always had their noses to the grindstone, and all he ever saw was the backs of their heads.

They weren’t lobbying for anything or jockeying for position. They were hard at work.

That was great advice and I certainly heeded it, but if everyone was in the same mode, how was I to distinguish myself?

I did it by volunteering to lead the company’s United Way campaign. I knew the company was committed to the community and my boss was as well. Giving back to the community was something I was passionate about too, so it made sense.

As it turned out, we exceeded our company goal and the United Way campaign had a record year. So the community won, the company won and so did I.

Tip:  Look for collateral duties that align your own passions with the goals and objectives of the organization. You’ll never go wrong.        

 

2.  It’s Great for Your Development

In business aviation, we do a great job training our people (helping them excel in the jobs they have) but not so much in developing them (preparing them for tomorrow).

Sometimes you have to take your development into your own hands.

Align the collateral duty you choose with your Individual Development Plan. Pick a collateral duty that actualizes an element of your IDP and that gives you a skill that you don’t already have. The objective is to close a gap in your development plan.

Tip:  Make your collateral duty work for your own development to best advantage.     

 

3.  You’ll Get Compensated in a Far Better Way than Money

Oftentimes, I hear flight department members ask what they’ll get paid for taking on a collateral duty.

They answer is probably “nothing” in a monetary sense, but “a lot” in other ways. Most flight departments don’t compensate monetarily for collateral duties because they are considered development opportunities. That’s the payback.

My advice is to not seek monetary compensation for a collateral duty. There’s something far bigger in it than that.

Collateral duties are not forever. They’re meant to be rotated so that many people get the experience of being, for example, Safety Manager, Training Manager, Standards Captain or whatever the duty is.

What you’re getting is leadership experience, where you have to effect change by influencing rather than through formal authority.

That’s priceless. Plus, the experience looks pretty good on a resume.

Tip:  Don’t even mention compensation when you’re considering a collateral duty. Look at it as “money in the bank” and an investment in your future.    

 

4.  You’ll Get Exposure

You can expect that your leadership skills are being carefully observed during a collateral duty experience.

It’s often done through a concept called “leading from behind,” and it’s best illustrated by a quote of Nelson Mandela’s, from his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom.

Mandela likens leadership to shepherding. He writes that the astute leader “stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.”

Similarly, Harvard Business School professor Linda Hill writes that, “An ideal leader knows how to cultivate a setting in which others can step up and lead. This image of the shepherd behind his flock is an acknowledgment that leadership is a collective activity in which different people at different times--depending on their strengths, or 'nimbleness'—come forward to move the group in the direction it needs to go.”

Do you want to be seen as someone who can move the organization in the direction it needs to go? Then take on a collateral duty.

Tip:  You may be surprised where you can take “the flock” by taking the lead in a collateral duty assignment. Organizations are crying out for leadership at all levels.

 

5.  You Make Yourself More Valuable

Recently I heard a senior executive speak to the flight department about the department getting a “seat at the table” in the corporate planning process.

The executive was responding to a question about how the flight department could insert itself into the company’s strategic plan.

His response was simple, but profound. He said “you must bring relevance to the party to get a seat at the table.”

The statement stopped everyone in their tracks. In other words, don’t ask for permission, bring relevance forward and you’ll get the seat at the table.

How do you bring relevance to your flight department? Is it by simply sticking to the old “come in, fly and go home” strategy? Or is it by going the extra mile and creating relevance?

Tip:  Look for ways to make yourself more valuable to the flight department and the corporation overall. Taking on a collateral duty is perhaps the best way to do that.

 

Your Turn

How have you benefited from a collateral duty? If so, please share your experiences with us and we’ll share them in a future blog.           

 

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