Almost everyone wants to be a super star at work and most of us strive and work hard for that very status. But we all know someone who just seems to “get it.” There is something that these individuals understand that the rest of us cannot quite seem to grasp. Every decision these stars make, project they select and idea they share always seems to be the right one. As a result, these individuals get the recognition and the perks others are not privy to. We, too, want to be the one who receives recognition and the perks. So what is the missing piece? What is it that these individuals understand that the rest of us do not?
What super stars seem to “get” is the big picture of the company and how they, and everything else, fit into it. They walk, talk, live and breathe the vision, the mission, of the organization. They are so in tune with the goals of the company that all of their actions, decisions, thoughts and energy are put forth in the same direction. What they have is a different attitude and mindset. In this post I will show you how you can align with the vision of the company and live the attitude and mindset of a star.
What You Must Understand
Before we begin, the first thing you must understand is that you will not always agree with the entire vision of your company. Second, you must understand that everything is about perception. Any thing, situation, or person can be looked at in both a positive or negative light, but the choice is always yours.
For example, let us say you are in the sales department and you are put on a “special project” that does not fall under your usual umbrella of responsibilities. This special project will force you to spend 30% of your time helping supply chain improve their shipping process. You can look at this situation in at least one of two ways:
Negative: I am being put on a side project that takes my time and effort away from projects where I can produce results that I am actually evaluated on. I am evaluated on how much I sell and how much money I bring in for the company, but now I must spend 30% of my time working on a project that has nothing to do with sales or bringing in money. This is time I could spend by actually selling.
Maybe my manager does not think I bring in as much money as others on my team and sees me as “dispensable” and less valuable. Maybe this is why I was chosen for this other project. Or maybe my manager does not like me as much as I thought and is trying to get me fired or laid off. If I have less time to devote to making sales, I may be getting setup to bring in less money than my teammates. When layoff time comes around, I will be seen as the “slacker” and I will be cut.
Positive: While a large chunk of my time is certainly being taken away from doing the type of work I am measured against, I am happy I was chosen to work on this special project. My manager clearly believes in my ability to work on a cross-functional team and to represent my overall sales team. My manager chose me because he/she trusts in me and my abilities and sees that I have other valuable skills.
Working on this project will allow me to understand how sales fits in with supply chain to produce value for customers by providing product quickly, at the right location, in the right quantities and on schedule. Even though I am measured in terms of dollars, I am saving the company time, money and resources by helping them improve their processes. For all I know, my manager is giving me exposure to other areas so that I am better prepared for a promotion.
You will never be able to figure out anyone’s true motivations and intentions and as you can see from my example above, it is so easy to see things from either perspective. There just is not enough information to really know what is going on beneath the surface. You must make the choice on whether this situation is more positive or more negative.
How to Align
Taking our two lessons from above:
1) You will not always agree with the vision of your company in its entirety
2) Everything is about perception; everything is about the angle you choose to look from
Let us use another example to apply these two rules in our quest to align with our company, a consulting firm:
Consulting firms, like all other companies, are in the business of making money. Consulting firms do this by keeping existing clients and getting new clients to bill for the advice they provide.
As a consultant at this firm, you may not fully agree with the vision of making money. Yes, you enjoy making money to feed your family, but the idea of holding on to current clients and going out and scrapping for business with new clients might seem a little “scammer-ish” to you. You know that your clients are mentally capable to do the same work you do for much, much cheaper than the rate your firm charges them. Why does your firm get to charge your clients at premium prices for advice your clients can provide for themselves?
There is always a different way to look at things and you can certainly align with the company’s vision if you take a different angle. Instead of focusing on making money off of other people, focus on something else.
When you create deliverables and advise clients through your presentations and words you enjoy it because you feel like you are adding value. You know you are helping them. When you think about it, yes, your clients can think for themselves and can produce the same results you can. But they choose not to. They are swamped with doing the work needed to run the company and they do not have the leverage consultants have to make change within their organization. You provide value to your client in so many ways.
If you choose to align with the value you provide your clients instead of the money you are charging them, and you work every day to keep producing value and you tell potential clients of the value you have brought previous clients, you have aligned with the vision. You see, while your consulting firm’s goal is to make money by keeping old and bringing in new business, their goal is also to do this by providing value to their clients so that the client feels you are worth the spend and they continue to use your services.
Even as an admin at the organization you can align with providing value for clients and, therefore, growing business. You can do so by taking the initiative to send thank you emails and cards to clients, and making sure they feel welcome and relaxed and confident things are running smoothly when they visit your office – even if, in reality, the partners and managers are running around like chickens with their heads cut off.
It does not matter how you look at the situation as long you meet the following two criteria:
1) You find some way to believe in the vision
2) You get the same end result the vision is aiming for
Let us take another example. Say you are in an organization that was originally more hierarchical and now the culture expects that the organization be flattened. Whereas in the past you may have reported to a manager who reported to a senior manager who reported to a Director, today you, your manager and your senior manager all report to your Director.
If you are a senior manager, you may be very frustrated with the loss of your status. You worked hard to get here, put in your time and paid your dues. Yet you can still align with the direction of the corporation. You can align with the vision of more open and efficient communication, which a flatter structure will certainly provide. A flatter organization also fosters an environment that encourages more teamwork.
If you are an associate at this corporation you might not like this flattened structure either (Note: this may be a paradigm shift for some. You would think you would like this structure because you are now given more status) because there is not much for you to work towards in terms of career path. Whereas a manager in the old world actually managed people, in the new world only Directors manage. Your management opportunity has now raised at least three levels and you will not be getting much additional responsibility as you move up. The titles of manager and senior manager have become almost meaningless.
Keep it Big
Now that you know how to align with your organization’s vision whether or not you agree with the vision as a whole, keep in mind that we are aiming to get the “big picture.” When you are aligning with parts of the vision, make sure you are aligning with the broader ideas. You can do this by making sure you focus on at least one of the following four elements:
1) Company goals
2) Company vision
3) Company philosophy
4) Company strategy
For example, if you want to align with a clothing company that sells its garments to families and you work in the women’s department, it will not do you much good to focus only on the male portion of the market. Instead, focus on families as a whole or how the role of men interplays in the lives of families. If you narrow your focus too much you will lose sight of the bigger picture.
Other Benefits, Notes & Anomalies
When there are projects or situations at work that you do not agree with, aligning with the vision can help you focus on finding solutions that bring the vision closer to fruition. When everything you do is driven by the mission of the company you show others that you are a problem solver as opposed to a complainer.
If you provide suggestions that are truly inspired by the vision of the company you will have a much easier time presenting and defending your ideas. It is difficult to argue with something that clearly syncs with the corporation’s goals and is in the best interest of the company.
Of course, if you do not agree with the mission because something feels “off” or wrong or unethical, in those cases it is better to start looking for a better company to work for.
Everyone has a different perspective and yours is just as valid as any other. Regardless, you can still align with the vision of the company so that the big picture fits to who you are. Take a look at your company and understand its goals. You can do this by searching for your company’s mission statement or even by observing what goes on around you and those who set the tone of the company (usually C-Levels).
Sure, every business wants to make money, but dig deeper. Who is your company’s customer base and what do you value in those individuals? Are they your children’s age, your parent’s age, your age, gender? What values does your company hold dear? How do they want to make money – through better processes, quicker product delivery times, or unique products? Find something about the big picture that you can relate to; find an angle or perspective to your company’s vision that allows you to believe in the message. Once you find it, start aligning with it, let it grow into your vision for the company, and let it flow into everything you do in your role.
For more information on how you can better align with the company’s big picture, work on the top projects and receive more recognition, refer to my book, 25 Things They Don’t Teach in Business School.