From Art Gelwicks
First, let me be clear about something. This is NOT about being a sole-proprietor. This is NOT about being an independent startup. (If you’re looking for something specific around I’d recommend your search engine of choice since there are more of those articles than fish in the sea.) This is about being a force of one inside a company, whether as an employee or a contractor, and ACTING like you’re an independent. It takes a different mindset but can be very empowering and help you broaden your horizons.
But I’m not independent…
As a person who has been in the consulting field for a number of years (probably too many to be honest) viewing your job as a consulting gig can give you a fresh perspective on your work. For example, what if you stopped viewing your manager/supervisor/person you report to as the next level in your management chain and started viewing them as your customer/client? Puts a different spin on things doesn’t it? Now it’s not a matter of doing just what you’re told; it’s a matter of being proactive and looking for the greatest level of client satisfaction you can achieve. Emails with recommendations become sales proposals. Instead of coming in each day to just do your job, you start looking for opportunities; chances to push the envelope and move beyond what has been laid out for you.
Be of two minds
One of the first steps in doing this successfully is to realize you act as if you were two separate people. One side focuses on strategy, planning, and big-picture thinking. The other side executes those plans concentrating on details, quality, and success. Sounds complicated doesn’t it? It isn’t when you approach the problem the way you are likely already doing it. Here’s what I mean:
Your manager assigns you a project. You:
- Wait for your manager to give you all the requirements for the project and then execute on those requirements to the best of your ability.
- Interact with your manager to flesh out the details around the project so you can execute.
- Try to understand the big picture so you can ensure all the details needed for executing the project are covered.
Sounds familiar I bet. If you approach a project as if you were going to assign it to someone else who would have complete autonomy on execution and you wouldn’t see the project until it was complete, you would put extra effort into the planning stages now wouldn’t you? Now, what if the person you were going to assign the project to was you?
Stop complaining and start evaluating
Put on a consultant’s hat next time you feel like griping about your job. Ask yourself some questions:
- Is this problem resolvable?
- Is it under my control?
- Does it have to be escalated?
- Do I have all the information to understand this problem?
- Do I have ideas as to how it could be resolved?
As you ask yourself those questions (again, thinking like a consultant) put together yourself a plan of action as to your options to resolve the issue. Write it down. Work the details. Find the holes and missing information. Approaching problems from the mindset that you are going to provide a recommended solution rather than waiting for a solution not only empowers you, but it shows your “client” you are more capable than the others sitting around waiting for an answer.
Report to yourself
One thing I recommend to everyone: consultants, contractors, and employees alike is to start a work journal. Whether it’s paper or digital doesn’t matter…what does matter is you use your work journal as a way to hold staff meetings with yourself.
The work journal is your place to capture ideas, notes, thoughts, plans, and strategies for moving your “client” relationship forward and successfully developing your “consulting business”. This isn’t the place to document source code or capture your voicemail password. The journal is all about a place to have those discussions you would normally have with a strategic team when it comes to planning the future.
Acting in your own self-interest
I’m not one to advocate selfishness. However, we work in a world where, to paraphrase an infamous CEO, “at the end of the day we’re all nothing more than hired guns” is a prevalent mindset. Treating your job as a business rather than just a role you fill is likely to give you a greater feeling of accomplishment, and possibly real accomplishment will come along as well. Taking ownership and do for yourself rather than waiting and hoping a company will do right by you can change your perspective entirely. Now get moving…I think you owe your staff a latte. 🙂