Career Tip #5: Take Initiative Outside Your Triangle


If there’s one piece of advice I’d give anyone in any job who wants to be considered a ‘rockstar’ it is to take initiative. Be entrepreneurial. See opportunities to improve before you’re told to improve them. Look for new opportunities. Think outside your responsibilities. Mistakes are easily forgiven when you have an employee that is going to be ‘making plays’.

Think about the expectations of your role and responsibilities as a triangle.

Now, if you put a circle inside the triangle, representing what you accomplish, then there are some unfilled spots, and your performance is below expectations:

If you fill the triangle you are meeting expectations, and are a “good” employee:

But if you take that circle of accomplishments outside the triangle, outside what’s expected, outside your responsibilities, you are exceeding expectations. You become a rockstar, potentially an A player, and someone who will be considered to take on more responsibility:

So what should you take on? Think about it this way: “do your boss’s job”. Consider taking initiatives in areas your boss has focus. Make sure these initiatives that will clearly make an impact, are measurable, are visible and helpful to others as well (they should if your boss is focused on the right things). In other words, if you go outside the boundaries of your responsibilities, choose to work on things that matter most to your company: your boss, your customers, and impact to the P&L.

4 Responses

  1. rogers says:

    Nice pages here. Great information. Will visit again and recommend.

  2. Don’t you think that some bosses would be threatened by such activity? Obviously that isn’t necessarily a bad thing – but how do you handle that? Given they can make your worklife much harder with a great deal of ease…

  3. Sam Decker says:

    Good question Johnny. Yes, bad managers are sometimes threatened by employees who take initiative. I’ve had those managers. What I did is first make my job intersect with as many other functions and my boss’s peers as much as possible. Once you build up relationships with your boss’s peers or boss’s boss, you have the opportunity to idetnify and get support for new initiatives from others. Your boss would have a difficult time not supporting ideas with support elsewhere. Otherwise, other executives will get to know you and will want to hire you next.

  4. David says:

    Not enough teaching is done through visual representation. Well done on this effort.

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