• Paul Rutherford

THE GREAT JOB TITLE CHASE #1


‘The Great Job Title Chase’ started for me at Xerox.

At the time the company had split the UK into six regions. ‘Regional Directors’ held the local resources and the collective responsibility to achieve total revenue targets.

Simple and straightforward, except for its largest customers.

Financial, pharmaceutical, manufacturing, retail - companies that had the temerity not to fit into the Xerox regional structure. Companies with multiple sites and multiple functions across multiple regions.

The unit spinning these multiple plates was Corporate Accounts; a group of the most experienced sales managers, negotiators and relationship builders.

With all the responsibility and none of the resources.

And out of the blue, I was offered the chance to run the sixteen Corporate Account Managers.

The promotion, the move up and out from a staff role, the revenue responsibility… and a big title.

GENERAL MANAGER.

How important did that sound!?

The role reported to Sam, the most senior of the six Regional Directors (possibly cause-and-effect; maybe the most senior Regional Director because he had the Corporate Accounts function – and therefore national responsibility - reporting to him).

Of course, all the nuance and politics passed over my head. I was swimming in a pool of possible self-importance.

So imagine the surprise when I received the offer email saying ‘Corporate Account Team Manager’.

What happened to GM??

When he put his mind to it, Sam could be rather intimidating, so I thought long and hard about calling him. It took much of a day to pick up the ‘phone.

After a couple of beats of social nicety (and I knew from the first syllable that he knew exactly why I was calling), I told him that I was disappointed that the offer carried a different job title.

“Why does it bother you?” he asked. As direct as a bullet.

I wished I'd thought of that before the call.

The conversation bounced as I tried to make my case. Unconvincingly.

I ended with: “The title gives a message to our customers – our most senior corporate customers – that if their Account Manager needs to escalate an issue, they will be doing so to a senior member of the management team.”

There was a pause; at least this rationale had given the Regional Director something to think about.

Then Sam asked me a killer question:

“So is accepting the job dependent on the title?”

I swallowed. Who’s calling whose bluff?

“Of course it isn’t. It’s a great opportunity with so much that I don’t know and so much to learn. The title is the icing on the cake. But it’s the cake that really matters.”

A longer pause.

“Good. All that matters is if you have what it takes to make a difference.

“I’ll send you a revised offer, with the GM title. And you’d better live up to it.”

My first year performance was dreadful, air covered by the Regional Director.

Then in the second we overachieved all our numbers.

And whether awful or outstanding, the GM job title never mattered. Because a job title very rarely does. Possibly never.

But I didn’t get it at the time – as you'll see in Part 2.

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