I believe that most people wake up intending to do their best. For any reason, whether for work, or play, or exercise, or taking a day off from it all most of us are inspired to succeed for at least a short time every day we exist. Are you? What is it that makes this a reality, or does this fall short for you?

I am wired as a bit of an optimist, but I do my best to remember a few important things:

  1. I want to be good at something.
  2. I want to contribute something to others.
  3. I want to be written into the big picture. 

Your list may be slightly different, but in the workplace, #3 is one of the most powerful investments that any company can make by drawing out and communicating effectively, and where I believe most companies or organizations miss the mark. What is it, and how do you write yourself into the big picture?

Take a look at the “Top Down” before you just do the “Bottom Up.”

I have learned (in my corporate career and in my Infinite Green client engagements) that most companies communicate and approach challenges and tasks from a “bottom up” perspective, before they look at the whole situation from a “top down” view. Some leaders have a hard time sharing with their working teams WHY they are doing their work. Face it. It tends to be easier to fix one thing at a time than deliberately getting clear about the overall objectives, prioritizing, and then leveraging the right resources in the right amounts for broader benefits. Whether you cast the vision, or participate in the work, I guarantee that you think about why you are doing something more often than not. The company you are in right now has sales and expense goals, human capital and team goals, and maybe a few others, but have you asked yourself how and why you fit into those goals at an organizational or at a company level, or are you content knowing how you can get your bonus or your merit award? Personal performance is critical to company success, and knowing what makes your company flourish and have greater viability in the marketplace will not only benefit you and others in the short term, but in the long term too.

Wear a different hat for a change.

A number of years ago, my leader and someone very integral to my career success at Best Buy, Julie Owen, asked me to do something when we were in our broader meetings. She asked me to think about wearing a different hat, and not always being the guy who was first or second to say what I thought. She assured me it wasn’t that I was wrong (most of the time) but that my “speak your mind” hat tended to deter others to NOT speak theirs and did not encourage other more junior or less vocal to bring an idea to the table and to contribute. I learned not only to wait (which was really hard sometimes), but to actually help draw others into the conversation more before I said what I thought. I wanted others to share their ideas first, and learned to be comfortable in thoughtful silence so others could process the problem at their own pace. The benefit was that we came up with much better solutions, more of the team felt ownership of the work, and I learned valuable leadership lessons in team dynamics and personal humility in the process.  If you are always that person in the room, then I encourage you to try the other “hat” and see how your perspective and outlook changes. For you and for others.

Value your journey.

Since I have been out of corporate life and a small business owner, I have spent numerous hours with people who have been in various states of transition (physical, mental, or both) and either moving out of their current job due to downsizing or performance or just being dissatisfied with their current gig. I can easily count on one hand in over 100 conversations in the past 6 years when a person sat across from me was confident about their past being a great part of how they were going to go after their next job or career move. People and companies are complex systems, and being able to articulate what you have learned, where you are best leveraged for your talents, what culture best suits you, and where you have room to grow is the best conversation to have with yourself, your current leader or with a recruiter for a new company. It also helps you value your place in the big picture and get feedback on whether you are at a good place, or need to be challenged more.

I had a chance to share some of these thoughts with a few friends this week, and if nothing else, I hope you have a chance to affirm your place, or write yourself into the big picture above and beyond what is directly in front of you. From my personal and professional lens, I can honestly say that getting clear on a few of these things should give you more reason to wake up optimistic about your current situation, or give you the much needed energy to go find something new, with a new perspective or two, and it will be easier going forward to see and participate in the bigger picture wherever you are.