We all start someplace. In our careers, most of us began working as individual contributors. This is not a manager or leader of other people, just a worker who is responsible for only themself. Butcher, baker, candlestick maker, we all start here. And then after a few years of performing our individual roles at a high level, we want to move up into a manager role. But how do we make this happen? Are there some strategic steps that we can do to set ourselves up for success? Our series of books provide processes to help make this goal a reality. Let’s look at this starting by looking through the lens of our book, Speed of Purpose.
In Speed of Purpose, we describe three “Drivers” and nine “Accelerators” that help make the most of a clear and compelling purpose. It is by looking at each of these elements that you will be able to set the ball in motion to advance your career. Below are the steps to follow that can help you make the most of your time as an individual contributor and put you in a good position to be considered for that next big role.
Define your career purpose. What do you want to stand for? How can it tap into your life’s goals and objectives? It is critical to define these elements in specific terms to ensure that you are working toward them.
What people are involved in helping you achieve your goals? What people should be involved that are currently not a part of your support group? Define these people and follow the accelerators below to leverage them.
· Role- Define specifically the role you desire. Ensure that you have clarity about the role’s responsibilities.
· Rituals - Develop specific activities to gain the knowledge and skills to perform that role.
· Rhythm - Put those activities into practice with consistency. Ensure that you have a mentor that can provide feedback.
What levels of performance would help the team win? Define the metrics that measure how you are doing in the pursuit of your purpose. Look at how you can contribute to the overall organization at a high level Define the performance levels of your efforts to gain clarity around the level of execution needed to be a top performer.
· Expectations - Define the expectations for the new role. Gain clarity from other leaders and refine them to blend in with your own expectations for yourself. Set the bar for yourself higher than it is currently.
· Execution - Execute your own current role at a high level. Exceed current expectations. Gain an understanding of what high-level execution would look like for the leadership role that you seek. Know what it would look like.
· Excellence - Set your bar higher than everyone else. Do your current job better than everyone else. Proactively seek out ways to help and support others. Be the biggest cheerleader on the team. Remember that you are always establishing your professional and personal brand through your behaviors and results.
Define the processes of the new role. Know what the daily structure looks like. Clarify all technical steps of which you are unaware.
· Structure - Establish a structured methodology for performing your current role. All steps should be defined. Look at the structure of the desired role. Do you have clarity around what that looks like?
· Systems - Define what current systems you follow to execute effectively and efficiently. If no current systems are in place, seek out ways to develop them. Partner with your boss or coworkers to develop systems together to demonstrate your ability to work as a team.
· Simplicity - Look for ways to simplify your current responsibilities. Avoid taking shortcuts, but rather seek out methods that can be adjusted to deliver better results while minimizing roadblocks. Look at the desired role and share any discoveries you may have that can simplify things while improving results.
Always begin by looking at your own performance within your current role. Ensure that you are producing the best results you can while being the most friendly and supportive team member in your workgroup. This alone will make you stand out in your peer group and give you a big edge when your next dream job opens. Do this while analyzing that next role to understand the expectations and job duties. Then do everything you can to watch, observe, and ask questions, all with the goal of growing your own skills and knowledge so you will be prepared when the next opportunity arises.