Have you ever been tasked something to perform by your boss, and you feel that you may not have any experience to carry it out? Will you succeed or fail?
It all depends on how you play your hand, or even respond to the event.
On 7th April 2011, New York City Schools Chancellor Cathie Black, resigned after only 3 months on the job. It was a turbulent 3 months as parents heckled at her during board meetings; various deputy chancellors leaving because they didn't have faith in her, as well as facing plummeting poll figures.
You see, Ms Black's background was in publishing. She was chairman of Hearst Magazines – a “superstar manager,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg had called her – but she had no experience in either education or government.
Nonetheless, she was backed by Bloomberg, himself from a publishing background too, to be the One to reform public education.
This move could mean either massive success or massive failure, and her resignation probably meant that his political gamble had failed.
Here are 3 lessons learned from this.
1) Voice out Your Discomforts
One thing for sure is that, you can't hide your inexperience for too long. So be honest, and tell your boss upfront on your discomforts. He may have his reasons for getting you to do the job, even as an interim.
What is important is that you have at least told him your challenges. This would help set the tone and manage the expectations. This would be better than not telling him, and than hide your weaknesses by smoking others out. Your inexperience will show up fast.
Then be really prepared to learn fast on the job.
2) Be 100% Committed
This is very important because if the decision is still for you to take up the position, be 100% committed. You may need to live, eat, breathe, that particular task. And it may be be best for you to under-promise, and over deliver. Without a 100% commitment or focus to the new job, you may not be able to learn a new skill fast.
That being said, don't be too hard on yourself. It would be ridiculous for you to be perfect when you never had any qualifications in say . . . branding and yet be tasked to take up the branding strategy in the business.
So any feedback that you get should spur you to improve yourself! In other words, you must be teachable. You need to learn from those around you fast enough so that you can make the right decisions.
Ms Black would be better off learning from her Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott, and seeking more ideas from him.
3) Always Set Someone Up For Success
Could the Mayor have done more to "coach" Ms Black? Absolutely.
Being in a political system where approval ratings could make or break a person, I personally find it all worthwhile for Ms Black to think thoroughly before speaking or even acting. So comments like "class room overcrowding can be solved by birth control" shows how flippant her ideas may be. She may be trying to be witty, but she angered parents with this comment.
Ms Black's own children studied in exclusive private schools and this wouldn't go down well with the public because she wouldn't be able to understand the challenges faced at the grassroots level.
It was a political gamble that could be avoided from the start because Bloomberg had at his disposal, other capable people who could carry it off. If he knew how to set others up for success, perhaps the gamble may have paid off.
That being said, the biggest lesson learned is that at least the public now knows that this would be Mayor's Bloomberg's final term, and they can now vote for better candidates. Hopefully.