Monday, April 16, 2012

Career Secret #6: Think Bigger

Keeping your eye on the big picture is an important part of advancing your career. But thinking big means more than that; it means staying at least three steps ahead of everyone else, every day.

Pay attention and look around.  You'll be amazed at how few people think beyond what's in front of them right now.  They're worried about tomorrow, next week and next month, carefully following a strategic plan to achieve their two years.

How very dull.

From the beginning, every idea, opportunity or event you pursue should be taken to the peak of your imagination.  Use your vision and enthusiasm to engage others to make great things happen quickly.  Strategic planning has its place, but it is no substitute for big, creative thinking.

When I worked at the hospital, my directors often came to me with good, solid ideas.  Rather than simply approving them, I always challenged my staff to use their ideas as a foundation for thinking bigger. For example, one leader had the idea to create training modules for physicians so they would know how to fully utilize the service he directed.  Okay, great.  Now what if he also measured patient and family satisfaction, published an article co-authored by an influential physician and gave a presentation as a topic expert at a national medical conference?

Now, he's more than a director who launched a successful project.

Now, he's a freakin' rock star.

Yes, I know, I know.

'But I'm not really an expert.'
'Physicians (or others in power) intimidate me.'
'What if no one publishes my article?'
'That sounds really hard'

A.  Cowboy up (Career Secret #4)
B:  Realize it takes very little extra effort to go from doing something valuable to creating something truly extraordinary

Seven tips for making the extraordinary happen by thinking big:

1)  Unload the details.  I've mentioned this before, but now it's absolutely essential.  You cannot lead and 'wow' the organization if you're stuck in your office working on an algorithm for the new billing process.

2)  Become the Pied Piper of ideas.  People naturally want to follow someone with vision and energy. Pursue ideas that sound outrageous even to you because that's what will keep you juiced. You'll be surprised at your own resourcefulness and creativity.  

3)  Work fast.  You're more likely to get  approval and support along the way if your solutions are coming quicker than anyone's objections.  This forces you to think ahead and allows you to control the outcome of your idea and gain influence in your organization.

4)  Tap into something your organization truly needs.  Is it money?  Customer satisfaction?  Prestige?  National recognition?  Find out, then target your idea toward this goal. 

5)  Let go of linear thinking.  You don't need to complete task A before beginning task B.  Save energy by bringing the low and high impact components of your idea together at the same time.  Using the example above, my director should write the article and form his presentation at the same time he's creating, implementing and tracking the training modules. 

6)  Get in front of people.  You will accomplish more in a five minute face-to-face encounter than you could in weeks of back and forth e-mail communication.  Plus, valuable, inside information will come your way if you get out of your office and talk to people.

7)  Nothing has to be perfect.  Perfectionism is a tool of the insecure.  The most important thing about a great idea is to make it happen. Tweak the process and learn as you go.  

Unforeseen Challenge:  As exciting as your idea might be to you, not everyone will want to keep pace with your energy.  Perhaps it reminds them of what they don't feel - or want - and they may find you annoying.  And, let's face it, your relentlessness probably is annoying.  Nevertheless, these same people can be valuable to the completion of your plan because they will be content to look after mundane details while surfing the web for fishing equipment.  You must be willing to stand alone in your enthusiasm.  Apologize to no one and simply keep doing what you do.

Thinking big means pursuing what others assume is impossible.  By now, you know your own abilities, and you're not afraid to challenge the status quo and  chase goals that no one else has even thought of yet.  So go ahead, engage your imagination, take action and ignite your career.

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