Have you been offered an exciting new opportunity at work?

More responsibility that will take you closer to that promotion you want?

Do you feel excited?

Good, you should be. But before you accept this gift horse, you should read this post to see why you should inspect the horse’s mouth to see if it has bad teeth.

I jumped head first into a new opportunity

Early on in my career, my boss approached me out of the blue and he told me that I had done a great job with my functional area. Such a great job in fact, that he wanted me to start running another functional area that was not going so well.

Without a single question, I jumped at the chance with open arms.  What a great new opportunity I had landed.

My career was now growing at an exponential rate and if I turned this around, I would get that promotion I so badly wanted. I could even see it.

I went home and told my wife the great news and what it could mean. We were both now very excited.


The next few months were complete hell –

  • Unachievable project deadlines that had been committed to by senior management under the advice of the previous team leader.
  • Angry stakeholders that were unwilling to make compromises in scope or time.
  • A demotivated team in conflict with each other. Although funnily enough I always saw them drinking together and getting on like a house on fire when I left work late.
  • Clients from my successful functional area complaining that I was not paying them or their deliverables enough attention.
  • Late nights and weekends away from my family

It was in a fire fight and completely pinned down.

Advice I wished I had sooner

A senior leader that I respected from New York came and visited me in person during her trip to London. She was the senior relationship manager to the business users I now faced off to in my new role.

With a caring tone, she asked me how it was going in my new expanded role.

Even though she already knew, she wanted to hear it from me.

I carefully explained the situation to her and she then gave me a bit of advice that I will never forget.

She said that before accepting any new opportunity you should ask for some time to look at it in more detail. Your boss will wait; he wants you to take on the new role.

You should take a step back and work out what you need to make the role successful and negotiate.

Taking on new opportunity and failing fast will hurt your career more than turning it down.

She was right, even though I was turning things around, my delivery reputation had taken a hit.

Wrap up

I eventually turned the role around and gained the respect of my new clients.

My reputation improved over time and my promotion finally came.

But, I had learnt two very important lessons –

  1. Take time to evaluate new opportunities and insist on what you need to be successful.
  2. Take on mentorship from a more experienced leader. I took on mentorship from this senior relationship manager for many years after and learnt a lot from her advice.

I hope you found this post useful. If you did, please share it with your friends and colleagues.


Categories: Leadership