Traditionally, the roles of employee and entrepreneur represent two completely different professional archetypes, each with their own ideal skill set. For example, success for an employee is often measured by how well they take direction from superiors, act within the scope of their job responsibilities or function, and reinforce the mission, vision, or values of the organization.
Success for entrepreneurs is typically determined by their ability to direct their own work and act without precedent, to expand and grow their job responsibilities and functions, and to envision and support a mission, vision, and set of values on their own. Another way to look at it is to think of the role of an employee as implementing the tactics of an organization–the individual actions that contribute to the success of the larger strategy. The role of an entrepreneur is to develop that larger strategy, and implement it themselves or oversee its implementation.
The number one complaint organizations have about their employees is their inability to act tactically but think strategically–or, as above, to act like an employee but think like an entrepreneur. This requires being a follower and a leader simultaneously, and knowing which hat to wear when. Understandably, employees who can pull off this nuanced balancing act are a rarity–to the consternation of organizations that need this combination of tactical and strategic thought to keep innovating, setting new standards, and adapting themselves to economic conditions. The result is that employees who can meet the requirements of their job while also contributing to and improving the strategic leadership of their organization are worth their weight in gold to their employers.
Talk to any independent business owner, and he or she will tell you that one of the best parts of the job is “being their own boss.” But while the self-employed enjoy certain freedoms — from operations, marketing to working hours — unavailable to those who draw a salary, every successful employee should be the “boss” of their own future and career advancement. Whether there are two or two dozen names ahead of yours on the company letterhead, it’s important to remember that no matter who you work for, you also need to be working for yourself.
I like to think about this in terms of a model I call “YouCo,” where each employee is CEO of their own job — not only their daily tasks and deliverables, but also their broader personal and professional goals. YouCo is a company within a company, and allows you to grow in your role by acting entrepreneurially to produce results for your employer and burnish your professional credentials. By placing yourself at the center of your personal one-person company, you’re also forced to confront important decisions about your career ambitions head on, and to devise short-, middle-, and long-term plans for attaining those goals.
But if you are super productive, all you’ll get is more work to do, right?Yes, and in more than one sense. You may be assigned more responsibilities and tasks, but you will also likely be offered more opportunity in the organization…as long as you make sure someone notices the effort. Like the proverbial tree in the forest, if a man works 80 hours a week and no one sees him, does he still get a raise? (No.)
This is why productivity, when combined with a great professional brand, is an awesome recipe for increasing your value within an organization. The point is to look at your job responsibilities and required skills from a place of ownership, initiative, and personal direction. Remember, it’s about strategy and tactics.
Check out my related post: How to position your self for a long term career?