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When You’re Not The Boss, How Do You Create Change?

No matter what you are, you can change anything.

Full disclosure: this isn’t me.

Throughout my career, I have done everything from being a bathroom cleaner to encapsulating herbs and gelatin capsules, from building mini trampolines to digging ditches, from negotiating cross-country treaties to chairing industry level boards. Now I manage organizations that do hundreds of millions of dollars of turnover.

Along the continuum, I’ve done it all and there is one quote that has stuck with me the whole time. It’s carved in stone on a castle in Scotland and says “What-E’er Thou Art, Act Well Thy Part.” Translated to today-ism, it means whatever you are, do it really well.

The tablet from that castle in Scotland. I need one for my own house.

It can feel difficult to make meaningful change in an organization or business when you aren’t the leader. The truth is that the best way to make change is by doing what you do extremely well.

“Act Well Thy Part.”

If you are the receptionist, then be the world’s best receptionist, or the best receptionist you can be. If you are a middle-manager, then be the best middle-manager you can be. It’s not a question of being better than the other guy or the other gal, it’s a question about reaching your full potential. If you have the ability to be a 10-out-of-10 whatever, then be a 10-out-of-10 whatever. And if you’re selected or chosen for a particular assignment or job, then you have that potential by definition.

When you do well in the sphere to which you are assigned and you have taken ownership of it, something obvious and natural will occur. Number one, people will see the value you’re adding and the difference you’re making in the sphere to which you’re assigned, even if that is cleaning the bathrooms. Number two, they will want to give you more authority and power by virtue of the good job you’re doing in that sphere. That’s how you begin to make a difference to the organization.

I probably didn’t do this good of a job.

If you clean the world’s cleanest toilets, that will get noticed in time. When you do what you’re assigned to do well, that gets noticed and it grants you upward mobility. What defines “well”? Doing your assignment on time, on budget, to the best of your effort, and delivering excellence at the finish. The literature is replete with people who have begun at the bottom of the food chain and worked their way up.

My advice to people starting out in their careers is to not worry about the job or the organization. Focus on getting yourself into the kind of organization that operates in the field you want to join, and just get a job there. Then, demonstrate your excellence, your work ethic, your abilities, and you’ll be able to move your way up that food chain by virtue of your excellence. This will change the organization through your personal vertical ascent, and the example it sets for others.

When you are on a quest for excellence, you produce excellence and you serve others, those acts work together to create a ripple effect throughout the organization. I’ve seen it all too often. In small organizations, in large organizations and in departments of large organizations, the culture is transformed by one person striving to do whatever they’re asked to do with excellence, on time, on budget, to the best of their ability.

That intention is transformational.

Remember, too, that there is nothing beneath you, no matter what your assignment is. I love it when CEOs or C-suite executives just do what needs to be done, because it needs to be done. They don’t play the game of “that’s not in my job description.” There is nothing beneath you. You pack boxes, because boxes need to be packed. This builds a culture of participation and teamwork and excellence around what’s happening.

Everyone’s job description is to do whatever is required at that moment to move the ball forward. Even though your job may be ABC at the very highest levels, if the best use of your time now is XYZ at a lower level, then you do it. If the low-level team is struggling to meet a deadline and doing all they can, you come down and you help them. You do what needs to be done.

Part of leadership and management is doing the work with, for and around the team. Whatever role you have to move the team forward, play up, play down and play sideways. Be an example and of assistance to those in the 360 degrees around you. The cultural shift that occurs when you do this can be transformational.

So just start. Get inside the right organization. Do what you’ve been asked to do with excellence. If you do it on time and you do it on budget, then you set that example for those around you and enable them to improve themselves. You will build a reputation as someone who gets stuff done with excellence and someone that, therefore, is accretive to those around you.

Remember that “What-E’re Thou Art, Act Well Thy Part.”

Aaron Webber is a serial entrepreneur and CEO of Webber Investments LLC, as well as a Managing Partner at Madison Wall Agencies.

If you liked this post, please press the like button and leave any questions or comments below.

Check out my Quora, & LinkedIn pages for more.

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A creative think-tank specializing in disruptive ideas. Ideaology is where imagination is born.

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Aaron Webber

Aaron Webber

Chairman and CEO, Webber Investments. Partner at Idea Booth/BGO.

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