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Seth Godin invests a lot of thought into what makes a workplace great. He recently posted a piece on what he considers to be five essential roles on a team. He writes: “Each one matters, each is intentional, each comes with effort, preparation and reward.”
He goes on to say: “I’m not describing job titles, I’m describing a posture. When you decide what to do next, that decision reveals your sense of what’s the next best contribution you can make.”
Here are Seth Godin’s Five Contributions. Which one describes the work you’re best suited to do?
Leader: The pathfinder, able to get from here to there, to connect in service of a goal. Setting an agenda, working in the dark, going new places and tackling unknowable obstacles.
Manager: Leveraging the work of others, coordinating and completing, with a focus on taking responsibility. The leader can set an agenda, the manager makes the countless decisions to ensure it gets completed. It’s been done before, but you can do it better.
Salesperson: Turning a maybe into a yes, enrolling prospects in the long-term journey of value creation.
Craftsperson: Using hands or a keyboard to do unique work that others can’t (or won’t).
Contributor: Showing up and doing what you’re asked to do, keeping promises made on your behalf.
Some people may believe that these contributions come from innate qualities – you are what you are from the moment you determine what your work will be. But there’s also a pattern of natural progression for someone new to their role or their team.
You start out as a contributor. Watching, learning, filling in the gaps where the team needs a steady and reliable volunteer. You gain experience, both through your successes and your mistakes, and you learn how valuable – and rare – reliability is.
As you gain a skill, you become a craftsperson. You find your niche. Your years of deliberate practice pay off, and you become valued for the work you do (in addition to showing up, being fully present, and keeping promises.)
Next, you develop a true passion for the mission or the work, and you serve in the role of salesperson. There are two kinds of salespersons: the one who can sell anything, and the one who can only sell what she truly believes. If you’re not a true believer, you probably move from this contribution quickly.
As you learn what it takes to make a project successful, you move into a manager role, organizing contributors and craftspeople. Eventually, you have the opportunity to become a leader.
Where are you today? Are you contributing at your highest level?