Who tells you what to do?

As I was reading my RSS feeds this morning I stumbled across a recent post by Steve Todd, a long-time friend and mentor of mine.  He made a great point which I had to quote and comment on:

I am also of the opinion that if your manager disagrees with this approach, well, they’re not watching your every move now, are they?

I’ve written before about how it’s your own career you have to be managing first, and that includes sometimes acting in ways which your immediate manager might not approve of.  I’m not suggesting you act contrary to business directives in furthering your own career.  But I am suggesting that while your management tells you what you need to do, you shouldn’t limit your contributions to just that.  If you go asking for permission for everything, many managers will quite happily expand their control over your day to fill all your working hours plus some.  So don’t.

Of course, to pull this off well requires taking another piece of Steve’s advice.  Exceed your manager’s expectation of you, every day.  Do what you’re asked to do and do it better than expected, and ideally you’ll find the freedom you need to do the things your manager didn’t ask you to do (whether he or she knows about them or not).