The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question “How do you go from a worker bee to a decision maker?” is by Joe Hyrkin, CEO of Issuu.
I was once asked to define the position of CEO in one word: equity. Yes, there’s more stock equity in being a CEO, but that wasn’t why I choose this word. As CEO of a company, I have equity in the product. I have equity in the customers’ reliance on the product. I have equity in our team. Given that each employee is spending more time with us at the office than anyone else, in many ways, I have equity in their family as well. And there’s a unique responsibility that comes with this kind of equity across an organization.
To grow from a worker bee to a decision maker (not necessarily the CEO) you have to want to think beyond the specific day to day details of your current job. This isn’t about gaining power, but rather looking at how your current role serves the company, the clients, and the product, beyond the specifics of the pay check you receive. As you start to become more aware about how your role fits into the larger context, you can begin to see how your efforts can help grow and expand the business. Are there areas that the company ought to expand in, but for which there doesn’t seem to be any resources? Are some people or areas of the business struggling, where you might be able to offer a specific solution that hasn’t been considered before?
In the mid 90s, I was a sales manager for The Economist Group in Hong Kong. The group had strong sales in Hong Kong itself, but wanted to expand to Beijing and China. I saw this as opportunity that would expand my responsibilities, and equally as important, I saw it as a critical need for the company–management agreed. My enthusiasm, interest, and willingness to try to open a new market out weighed my youth and lack of experience. I was offered the opportunity to take a few trips to see if I could drum up business in these two new locations. I ultimately ended up moving to Beijing to open The Economist Group’s first office in Beijing since the 1930s.
My point is look for the overlap between your capabilities and the needs of the company, especially where others might be hesitant. If you demonstrate an interest in creating something new or a willingness to fail, you often can create an area of expertise that becomes relied upon within the organization. In that way, you’re building equity and knowledge that will lead to larger responsibilities and authority.
Read all answers to the Leadership Insider question: How do you go from a worker bee to a decision maker?
The advantages of a tough boss by Sunil Rajaraman, co-founder of Scripted.com.
How to smoothly transition from a colleague to a manager by Nir Polak, CEO and co-founder of Exabeam.
4 signs you’re ready to be a manager by Dominic Paschel, vice president of corporate finance and investor relations at Pandora Media.