Are You Filling a Role or Solving a Problem?

A good friend and I were enjoying dinner recently, and he asked me what I thought about personal branding as it relates to jobs.  As the CEO of his own company, he was interested in the people who did their job vs. those who did much more than was expected.   I had a lot of advice on the topic, but one thing became very apparent to me.  Employers have problems.  They have issues that they need help with.  But some people will fill an open role and some will see a problem that needs to get fixed.  The problem solvers are usually the best employees.  Instead of looking at a role myopically, problem-solvers don’t worry about their job or function, they worry about fixing the company’s problems as a whole.  They start to think more strategically and start to think of all the different types of solutions that could solve that problem.  In short, they think like the CEO.   

Instead of letting a role define what you do, allow yourself to innovate and define the position.  As an employee you need to be creative–you need to use your unique talents to figure out all the ways to get the most out of the problem you’re fixing.  Do not be afraid to step outside of your job description.  Ask yourself the right questions.  Step outside your role and ask yourself what’s the problem you’re fixing. 



4 thoughts on “Are You Filling a Role or Solving a Problem?

  1. There’s more than one very important caveat for a person who is thinking about solving corporate problems as a whole:

    1. Management has to embrace that there are problems that need solving — many managers are not into finding things to fix because they believe it reflects on their work (we know it’s not, but that’s out there…). Corollary: management has to believe that you really know what you are talking about and listen to the suggestion. There is a lot of “not invented here” attitude out there.

    2. One has to be very careful that the problem you are solving is your problem and not some other department’s issue. If all you do is try and solve other people’s problems and not you’re own, you will fail.

    3. One cannot problem-solve alone. One has to build consensus around the problem itself, the causes, and a solution in order to be successful. This greatly increases the chances of success; one cannot be a gunslinger in this role.


  2. These are really great points, especially considering that problem solving involves selling management and cultivating cross-team participation.

    I think having this mentality, regardless of the push-back, ultimately makes you a better business person as it keeps your from being a tunnel-vision employee.


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