As we progress in our careers, finding true challenges that stretch and grow us seem to be fewer and farther in between. After you’ve “been there and done that” for a while, there isn’t much that surprises you or that feels out of your reach in terms of solutioning. It is easy to get bored and I see it in my practice with executive leaders.

But, here is what I want you to know (and what many of my clients end up discovering), you don’t need a messy merger to manage, or an opportunity to serve as interim CEO to keep spreading your wings and growing. While those may be really great developmental opportunities, how long might you wait for them to actualize? There are often growth opportunities right under your nose. But because we’ve created a very specific vision for what we think is next, we might be blind to what else is possible and perhaps even have mislabeled the growth opportunities as problems or inconveniences. And please be careful not to fall into the trap of only growing your resume. If you aren’t developing your leadership prowess in some rather discreet ways you won’t be successful in those bigger endeavors anyway!

Here are four places that big growth opportunities are often snubbed or avoided by leaders on the hunt for professional development:

Righting relationships. 

You know that co-worker everyone avoids because surely they’ll end up hanging themselves and getting fired for being such a (fill in the blank)? YET, they never get fired because they’re bringing something valuable to the table! You avoid them at all costs because they drive you insane. Well, what if your growth opportunity is leaning into that, developing some understanding and appreciating them for being different from you. THAT would be growth. If you can do that, you’ll be able to work with (and even leverage the gifts of) anyone you work with or manage.

Making something out of nothing.

Some of my greatest leadership growth has come from being given lofty goals with no direction and no resources. Sounds like a nightmare right? Only if you look at it that way! This kind of opportunity is the epitome of leadership, as you need to rally volunteers, build a business case for budget, and construct something out of nothing. Be the alchemist.

Managing an outsourced partnership. 

Outsourcing non-essential business functions is alive and well! Many thought these relationships would only peak during recessions, but time has certainly proved otherwise. Most leaders look at an outsourced partnership with annoyance and a lens focused only on what isn’t going right. If you can spearhead an outsourced partnership, learn how to do outsourcing well, understand how to be a fair and good partner, and make the business process hum…you’ll be money in the bank to any CEO. Because outsourced partnerships are, literally, money in the bank when you do them well.

A new tour of duty.

What have you never led that might compliment your aspirations? Think way outside of the box here! What business or focus area could you spend one to two years working on that would broaden your business acumen and strengthen your leadership prowess? Growth doesn’t always happen in an upward motion. Sometimes we need to grow “out” instead of “up”. If you’re a CFO, why not pull HR under your umbrella for a while and really come to understand that function? If you’re a VP of HR, get your hands in training and development or the contingent labor program (if it isn’t already part of your purview). You get the picture…this applies for any functional area. You just need to make a strategic request!

Those sometimes unattractive challenges are where you’re going to grow. But, it is ALL about perspective and creating a broader view of what is possible for your leadership development plan. Step back and make sure you’re not missing the forest for the trees.

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