We very often see and publish articles about leadership and what is expected from us in such roles. Less common are the articles about individual contributors and what is expected from them (us) in general. Do you consider yourself being a good Individual contributor?
Being an individual contributor doesn’t mean that we should act individually. It is empirically proved that we achieve greater results when we peer up and collaborate. Basis on that, we never stop being an individual contributor. Being a leader of others or leaders of leaders, we will still have peers. And, as member of a management team, we need to collaborate with them so our teams can deliver results which will support the overall business strategy. Yes, leaders are individual contributors.
So, what is expected from an outstanding ‘individual contributor’?
My mentor and I were discussing the key adjectives of top talents and on today’s post I would like to share what we have identified. This applies to everyone and mainly for those who aspires to escalated the ladder and grow into a leadership role (if not there yet) / greater responsibilities.
- They raise their hand: There are often tasks which nobody wants to do because it is either simple, boring or gives no learning or exposure opportunity. The thing is, the task is there (period). So, if nobody does it and unless it is not related to any business strategic goals, it will affect the larger objectives and business performance as result of that. Raise your hand to tasks nobody wants – this may hide a good opportunity.
- They speak their mind wisely: There are different ways to say the same thing. They speak their mind exploring opportunities and back the final group decision seeking the success of the business or project as a whole.
- They take responsibility and action: They make themselves available and take responsibility to deliver. They use their leverage smartly – subject matter or soft skills – to influence others and help the team and organization to deliver outstanding results.
- They work cross-functionally: Peers are lifelines. They support with their influence and knowledge on areas out of peers scope or domain and that is paramount to yield greater results in the business.
- They are good ‘Coachees’: Listening with purpose -to understand and to work on the feedback received will save you a lot of time. Unless you don’t want to receive feedback, listen and work on it. If the leader is giving his time to discuss your performance or concerns etc (whatever is in the agenda for such sessions), use the time wisely and openly. It is an opportunity to share your concerns, doubts as well as actions you have taken for the business to succeed.
- They are loyal: Leaders expect the team to be loyal and, at least on my view, loyalty is a two ways road. Best way to earn it is to show that you’re loyal. If you are loyal to your team you will attract loyal people to work for you. Be a loyal individual contributor, you will certainly find a loyal manager who will be genuinely interested in your development and career progression.
- They Walk the talk: There is nothing worse than say what people want to hear but having inside / do something else. If we expect our managers and leaders to be genuinely honest to us, this we better return the kindness. Stick to your words and values and that will be seen – so the opposite!
Leaders talk and share experiences with peers. In leadership team meetings, discussion about ‘talents’ and/or people who are making the difference in the organization (or not) is often part of the agenda. Those who deliver more are the ‘visible driving force’ and the ones who help the organization to succeed! They deliver outstanding service to its clients, reduction on operational costs and/or explore ways to boost overall efficiency – it depends which area they operate.
As said, Leaders are individual contributors when working with peers towards common goals and shared objectives – this is an ingrained part of the job. Conversely, individual contributors (without direct reports responsibility) playing leadership role is a decision the professional makes – even without having clear authority. Having the right attitude and knowledge, people will naturally follow them.
If you aspire to become a leader or grow, reflecting about these 7 aspects of what we believe a talent or an outstanding individual contributor means will place you in a strong position. The list can be much longer but those are the main aspects we have identified. If you focus and reflect on them, we believe your chances to be the person your organization is looking for to fill an outstanding opportunity will increase tremendously.
What are you doing to be the professional your company is looking for to give a great opportunity?
Picture: Stunning sunset from Richmond park. Picture from Leonardo Castilho.
What am I reading? Revisiting my notes from The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Sir Ken Robinson. This is a fascinating book by this great British educator. ‘The Element is the point at which natural talent meets personal passion.’
What am I listening? ‘The Anthropology of Achievement’ – by Og Mandino.
What discussions am I having? What is the most effective way to work on your (business) brand. This was part of a coaching session I offered to a friend who is a business owner.
Questions I am asking myself? On my post ‘Those (negative) thoughts’ the question I was asking myself was ‘How can we help someone who seems not wanting to be helped?’ – my subsequent post answered that question (I think). It takes commitment!