Think Like a Contractor

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What I’m Reading: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni
February 19, 2019

A close colleague shared how she had once landed a contract job in the continuing education branch of a large university. Transitioning from a fast-paced full-time role at an advertising agency, she felt like she could do her entire contract job at the college in half the time it would take her team members to do a full day’s work. She loved what she was doing, was upbeat and enthusiastic in meetings. As a freelancer, she brought a take-it-or-leave-it attitude when presenting ideas, as she was simply focused on providing her clients what they needed.

She marveled at the piles of paper in employee inboxes and how each team member complained about their volume of work. She also noticed that, unlike at her advertising job, no matter how much work there was, the university workers went home at 5pm. They did what they could in eight hours and that was it. As a freelancer, she breezed through her days without getting mired down in office politics, organizational issues, or sub-optimal management dynamics.

During her contract, she enjoyed great success, loved what she was doing and established great work relationships. This led to being offered a full-time role, which she happily accepted. She laughed to realize that within 24 hours of doing so, she started hearing gossip and complaints from her fellow employees that she hadn’t noticed before.

Freelancer Mindset

Leaning over to her cubicle neighbor, who also had started as a contractor, she said,

“Please remind me to continue to think like a freelancer, so I can remain happy in this job.” She stayed on for six years and tells me that despite the issues she encountered, it ended up being one of her favorite places to work and she attributes it to her mantra of “thinking like a contractor.”

My colleague figured out how to stay positive. Prior to this full-time role, she had changed jobs frequently in the advertising industry. The university position was much slower-paced and offered job security, which was keenly important at this time in her career. Knowing this, she made a conscious effort to stay positive.

How To Stay Positive in Your Current Role

What can you do to stay positive in a role that has grown stale or where, like my colleague, you wish to float above the challenging work dynamics around you?

  1. Take on a project that gives you energy and provides a new perspective. This may include raising your hand for an existing project or initiating a new one based on an unmet need you notice in the organization.
  2. Find a way to keep energized outside of work. Take a class, pick up a new or old hobby or attend a regular event that is something you enjoy and look forward to.
  3. Teach someone something you know. Find ways to mentor others, either within or outside of the job and company.
  4. Delegate aspects of your work that are not an optimal use of your talents. You would be surprised how many professionals have made a compelling case for taking some aspects of work off their plate!
  5. Rearchitect your job to focus more on what you want to be learning and how you want to contribute. Review your job description to determine the areas you are most interested in contributing, and where your highest value to the organization resides. Work with your manager to find ways to focus your work priorities and spend more time working in those areas.

When you think like a contractor, it can enable you to approach the challenges in your full-time role with a sense of detachment and objectivity, providing freedom and focus.

What can you do now to stay positive in your current role?

 

Photo: istockphoto