I attribute much of my career success by creatively solving significant problems, which garnered the attention of senior executives. Organizations have many problems waiting to be solved. The way to stand out and get noticed is to be an excellent problem solver, especially the problems that keep your boss up at night. I call them TO-GET-TO problems.
Don’t assume that TO-GET-TO problems are necessarily complicated problems or beyond your pay grade. They can be little problems that your boss doesn’t have time to solve or is so busy she has not even voiced her frustration. But I assure you the problems exist. Every successful person I know has this nagging “TO-GET-TO” list. So how do you identify which problems are on the “TO-GET-TO” list?
Start with asking your manager this question. “I’m curious to know what it’s like to be you and what keeps you awake at night?” This is a great question if you are a budding professional. The curiosity and thought to ask alone will impress. If you are more seasoned, you can drop “I am curious to know what it’s like to be you.” The answer may surprise you.
If someone asked me this question today, my TO-GET-TO problem would be how can I grow my business? If you brought me a list of unique and potentially viable ideas for growing my business, you would be top of mind among my employees and you may become my new “go to” person in my organization. If nothing else, your initiative would positively influence my opinion and the likelihood to think of you to solve other problems or be assigned key projects. This is not insignificant. For business owners and those who manage others, having team members who are always thinking does help us sleep better at night. Focus on your boss’ TO-GET-TO problems and you will get to where you are going whole lot faster.
There is a difference between being good at your job and having influence on your team. To be an influencer, you must have unique solutions or approaches to solving problems.