Do you want to grow in your career? Are you planning to reach a top leadership position inside your organization?
Robert Allen Iger — Robert joined American Broadcasting Corporation, in 1974, as a Studio Supervisor. The position was the lowest level of the career ladder inside the company. The job was of menial labor — A helper for all the TV shows. Robert had to show up whenever the production team needed him and do whatever task they asked him to do. He had to spend hours on the floor and had to endure strenuous physical work. He also ran errands.
Robert encountered abuses, disrespect, discrimination, and other things as he was on the lowest level of food chain inside the organization. Yet, by 1989, he became head of ABC entertainment at the age of thirty-eight. For the first time in the history of the company that the person running ABC Entertainment wasn’t from the entertainment world. Till that time, Bob had primarily worked only in sports — He had no knowledge about the entertainment part of the business — He never read a script — Suddenly, he found himself in charge of running daytime, late-night and Saturday morning shows and as well as managing the business affairs for the entire network.
Robert continued to grow in his career. In 1994, he was named president and chief operating officer of ABC’s corporate parent, Capital Cities. In1996, The Walt Disney Company purchased Capital Cities/ABC Television Network. On March 13, 2005, Disney named Robert Iger as the company’s CEO.
What a phenomenal growth?
Jack Welch joined GE as a junior chemical engineer in 1960. After a year of hard work, Jack decided to quit the company on account of bureaucracy that undervalued and underpaid him. However, his manager Reuben Gutoff persuaded him to stay and work.
By 1968, Jack Welch was elected vice president and head of GE’s plastics division — In 1973, he became the head of strategic planning — In 1977, he was named senior vice president and head of Consumer Products and Services Division — In1979, he became the vice-chairman of GE — And, in 1981, Jack Welch became GE’s youngest chairman and CEO.
What a phenomenal growth?
Lee Iacocca joined Ford Motor Company, in the year 1946, as an engineering intern. After a few months, he realized that he no longer enjoyed the engineering work. He asked the leadership team to shift him to the sales and marketing department.
Unfortunately, Lee had no knowledge or experience in sales. He struggled. Initially, Lee was anxious, tensed, and jittery while interacting with potential buyers.
Moreover, Lee didn’t have an outgoing personality, unlike his colleagues. Yet, he moved on and worked hard.
By 1960, Iacocca was named as vice-president & general manager of the Ford Division — By 1965, he became vice-president for car and truck group — In 1967, he was elected executive vice-president, and in 1970, he became president of the Ford Motor Company.
What a phenomenal growth?
Multiple factors indeed played its part in skyrocketing Iger’s, Lee’s, and Jack’s career. However, they all agree that one critical factor had played a pivotal role in their professional growth — It was their attitude of going above and beyond their job description in the earlier part of their career.
What could we learn from them?
WHO CONTROLS YOUR LIFE?
Research shows that people are happier when they feel that they are in control of their life.
Do you like someone controlling or directing your life? Jack Welch asks -If you don’t like somebody controlling your life, then how could you allow yourself to be content with working to meet the job expectations set by somebody else in the organization.
When you start working solely to meet the job description set by somebody, you are allowing them to change your goals and your future. The studies also show that when people persist with their goals against all the odds, they work harder and also find the job enjoyable. They are happier in life. So, do you want to let others change your goals?
By going above and beyond the job description, Bob Iger, Jack Welch, and Lee Iacocca broke the shackles and forced their managers to allow them to define the scope of their work. Unconsciously, they began to control their growth.
Going above and beyond your job expectations would slowly let you take back the control of your life to a large extent.
By just working to meet the job expectations, you could make your organization happy. In that way, you might be able to stay for years in the same company-Working perfectly with the script, like other colleagues. However, if you are a goal-oriented person and would like to rise quickly in the career ladder, you need to be different from your colleagues. You have to show your distinctiveness.
Just doing whatever you were asked by the manager to do would not get you any differentiation inside the company because every employee would do the same thing. Exceeding the job description is an opportunity to get out of the pile and differentiate yourself from others. It is a humble way to highlight your growing abilities, skills, knowledge, learning adaptability, and people management — The current job might not have enough scope to allow you to display those abilities.
Now, the critical challenge — How to go above and beyond the job description?
HOW TO GO ABOVE AND BEYOND THE JOB DESCRIPTION?
01. HELP YOUR COMPANY TO HELP YOURSELF
The first thing you should fix in your mind is that the primary reason for going above and beyond the job description is for the benefit of your company and not for yourself. It should be ingrained deeply in your mind.
You are doing it for the benefit of all stakeholders, including employees and customers. Your extra efforts should bring value to the company-It could be more money or reputation or satisfying experience for a customer or additional customers or cost-saving measures or something useful to the company that could result in increased profits. Adding value to the company should be the guiding principle-Don’t do additional work to impress the manager or owner or anybody else.
In 1988, ABC sports was covering Winter Olympics at Calgary. Roone was the executive producer for the program. He had been doing the sports telecast for years. He had also earlier worked as president of the Sports division.
Robert Iger was in charge of the intricate scheduling of all televised events and communication & negotiations with the Olympic Organizing Committee. He is more like a back-end supporter, dealing with logistics.
Unfortunately, as the days passed, the Winter Olympics began to face problems — Strong winds streamed in on one night, rising the temperature — Snow and the ice on the mountains melted. The Olympic committee had to cancel most of the games — Even when the event happened, cameras struggled to capture anything through the fog. Roone was upset. Every night, the ABC team struggled to show anything that could sustain the interests of viewers.
Robert also felt painful to see the condition. Like others, he also could have waited for the situation to turn normal. But, he thought about the company. ABC Sports had paid a substantial amount of money for the coverage of Olympics — The company was also losing money on the prime-time slots — It was clear that ABC Sports was staring at a massive loss — Robert also thought about the people working in the organization — Soon, the company’s losses would affect their lives. It would be a catastrophe.
Remember that nobody would have blamed Robert even if he didn’t take any action to solve the quandary. He might not be losing his job too. However, if you want to grow as a leader, these problems are an opportunity.
PROBLEM OR OPPORTUNITY -One of Robert Iger’s vital strengths is to see every problem as an opportunity. He was not afraid of staring at the obstacles from multiple perspectives. He saw the Olympic situation as a puzzle that needs to be solved.
Robert’s analysis showed that he should rely on more than a couple of ideas to solve the problem.
Motivate -The first step, Robert took, was to motivate his team as they were worried about the situation. He communicated clearly and made them realize their earlier achievements and efforts. He gave them confidence.
Alternatives -Next, Robert spent time with Olympic Committee members to change the schedule of games so that the company could show something during the prime time.
To fill the remaining prime time slots, Robert sent a team of producers, each day, to uncover compelling human stories. The team created inspiring stories -Eddie, The Eagle, and Jamaican Bobsled team were some of those stories.
The Result -The television network picked up the ratings. Robert Iger averted a major disaster for his company and saved many people’s lives. He had not only found a way to entertain people but also helped his company to retain the reputation.
Robert Iger proactively shaped his job output that not only delivered value to the company but also they were personally meaningful, rewarding, and consistent with his strengths.
02. THINK FROM THE SHOES OF YOUR MANAGER/OWNER
We already saw that Jack Welch joined GE as a junior chemical engineer in 1960. He was in charge of the company’s latest chemical concepts in the newly formed Plastics Division. One day, his boss Reuben Gutoff asked him the total cost and physical property analysis of GE’s new plastic versus every other competing product offered by the DuPont, Dow, and Celanese.
One of the ways to go above and beyond job description is to approach the work as if he/she was the manager or an owner of the company. This thinking would show ways to make one’s work more effective and beneficial to the company, managers, and other employees.
What did Jack do?
Anticipate Their Needs -Jack thought from the shoes of his manager — He deeply pondered what his senior managers would do with the data he provides — how they would use the data and what other information they would need. He anticipated his manager’s needs. Jack used that perspective to judge his ideas, thoughts, and action. Think higher than the questions posed to us.
Jack provided whatever details Reuben asked but also added the projected long-range product costs of nylon, PP, acrylic, and acetal against GE’s new products. Thinking from his manager’s shoes had helped him to append additional details to the report.
When Jack presented the work, Reuben was pleasantly surprised. It was unusual to see such work from a person working in the research department. Jack’s additional work had simplified many of Reuben’s tasks and helped him in swift & effective decision-making. Jack provided his manager with a fresh perspective. Reuben took note of him.
When you go above & beyond the job description, your supervisor would automatically recognize you. As expected, within a few months, Reuben offered Jack a leadership position.
Thinking like an owner/manager is central to one’s effectiveness in his/her job. It would also boost one’s confidence.
03. LEARNING TO ANTICIPATE PROBLEMS/SITUATIONS
One of the ways to go above and beyond the job description is to anticipate potential problems in a job and take preventive measures. It is one of the most useful approaches to solve the problem.
The ability to anticipate problems and prevent them from occurring is a key leadership trait.
- Anticipating problems and acting on them develop a proactive mindset. It benefits not only you but your colleagues and the company.
- Being proactive strengthens your differentiation inside your organization and reputation at work. People would find you reliable. Trust builds. It brings loyalty. Greatest leaders are trustworthy.
We saw earlier that ABC Sports got the rights to cover the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. During the preparation phase, Robert Iger reviewed the game schedules. He observed that the draw of the hockey tournament had the United States playing two of the toughest teams in the world in the first two games.
What If -One of the ways to anticipate problems is to think about What If scenarios -ask What If questions -Consider various situations that might occur and how would you manage them if it happens. Integrate scenario planning into your job description.
Rober Iger asked himself — What If the United States loses both the games? The viewers would lose the interest & the ratings, and the advertisements revenue would plummet, affecting the company’s earnings and future.
Should Robert wait for the game results or plan things to control situations, in case those failures happened? Once the country loses the games, it would be too late to solve the problem.
Again, It was not Robert’s job to find solutions for that possible future scenario. Yet, he was thinking about the ways to prevent the problem. The problem was not about the United States losing the game but sustaining the viewer’s interest for more days.
What could Robert do? What’s in his power to influence? Proactive people don’t allow themselves to drown in a feeling of powerlessness. Robert pondered his available options. As a part of his job, he was already interacting with the Olympic Committee. He thought that changing the dates of those games would be the best option to sustain the viewer’s interest. Robert lobbied them. He showed the committee how the Olympic Association would also benefit from the change in schedule. He spoke about their benefits, not about his company’s interests. The committee finally agreed to change the draw dates.
Robert got involved, took the initiative, and became a part of the solution. His ability to anticipate the potential future problem prevented a situation that would have affected viewers, employees, and the Olympic Association. He also saved future spending of resources, time, and cost. Robert took timely, effective action.
Robert Steven Kaplan writes in his HBR article, “The secret to career success is Learning to Anticipate. Being able to anticipate situations in your own job as well as that of your manager's job can go a long way toward helping you stand out in the crowd.”
04. ELIMINATE EXCUSES
Going above and beyond your work also means that you should follow the ‘No Excuses’ strategy as much as possible. It’s quite natural that people are going to face different types of obstacles in their jobs. If you want to grow fast in your career and reach a leadership position, then you need to find a way to overcome those impediments. ‘No Excuses’ is one of the ways.
The 1979 World Table Tennis Championships were about to be held at Pyongyang, North Korea. Ronne, ABC Sport’s president, called Robert Iger and said, “This is going to be interesting. Let’s cover Table Tennis on Wide World of Sports. Get telecast rights.”
Robert thought that Roone was joking. Unfortunately, he was not. It’s impossible to secure the rights to an event in North Korea.
A Manager Who Hates Excuses -Roone never liked to hear any excuses — He would shout at people when somebody says a reason for not finishing his/her work. It forced people under him to find a way to accomplish their tasks. That’s the thought we also should have -Imagine that whatever excuse you say, your company/manager is not going to accept. Now, what would be your options?. It would force you to think and find solutions whenever you come across an obstacle in your job.
Robert, having worked under Roone, developed a habit of not saying any excuses. He would always try to overcome the barriers and accomplish the given responsibilities. Unfortunately, in this scenario, Robert was staring at an unobtainable goal.
Stretch Yourself -As Roone was serious and Robert also didn’t like saying excuses, he began to ponder different ways to achieve the goal. If you don’t see any solution to the new problem, then it could also mean that you need to stretch your borders, reach an unfamiliar territory, and gather additional information that could help in finishing the tasks.
Robert Iger decided to stretch himself and reach for the unknown territory for the benefit of his company. He met the head of the World Table Tennis organization and sought their help. As he couldn’t get permission to travel to North Korea to discuss the rights, he met the NK Table Tennis contingent in Beijing. By that time, the Asian desk of the U.S State Department called Robert and warned him that his activities were illegal and violation of strict U.S sanctions against doing any business with North Korea. Robert was upset. Still, he was not ready to back out, using the latest impediment as an excuse.
Robert searched for other ways to accomplish the task — He met experts and discussed the laws and the implications — Soon, he came to know that the State Department wasn’t opposed to ABC Sport’s team entering North Korea. The critical impediment was that the American companies were not allowed to pay the North Koreans or enter into a contract with them. It means that Robert could solve the problem if he could work around the laws.
Finally, Robert Iger secured the rights not through the host country but through the World Table Tennis Federation after a series of meetings to convince both the groups. Roone’s team became the first U.S media team to enter North Korea in decades.
‘No Excuses’ strategy helped Robert to gain new knowledge and experience. It boosted his confidence.
Initially, Robert thought that securing broadcast rights was beyond his capabilities. Yet, ‘No Excuses’ strategy helped him to develop new abilities.
You don’t know what you are capable of when you follow the ‘No Excuses’ strategy.
‘No Excuses’ strategy also showed Robert’s persistence -An essential leadership trait.
05. GROWTH MINDSET
To go above and beyond the job description, the person should have one critical trait -Growth Mindset.
We saw earlier that Lee Iacocca, after a few months as an engineering intern, got shifted to the marketing & sales department.
- Unfortunately, he had no sales experience. He also knew that he had no natural talent for marketing.
- Lee found it difficult to observe, listen, and understand the customers.
- Lee also struggled with communication. He was an introvert and found it hard to establish conversations with customers. He became anxious, tense & jittery whenever he interacted with potential buyers. He strove hard to control his emotions.
Yet, within three years, through his hard work and deliberate practice, Lee grew into a role where he taught the dealers on the art of selling the product to customers.
The reason for his turnaround -Lee thought that a good salesman is not born but made. He believed that one’s skills, abilities are not fixed and can be changed or developed through dedication, determination, consistent commitment, hard work, and deliberate practice — which is nothing but The Growth Mindset.
Whenever we try to go above and beyond the job description, we would be entering unfamiliar territory. We might not have the required skills, knowledge, abilities to manage those alien scenarios. So, it was essential to have ‘Growth Mindset’ — We have to believe that we could develop all those required abilities.
Growth Mindset forces a person’s mind to see every problem, not as a challenge but an opportunity. It will also save him/her from falling into a negativity trap.
When you go above & beyond your job description, you develop new skills, gain broader experience, gather more extensive knowledge, gain reputation, and make a positive difference not only for your own life but also for others. Putting a little something extra effort daily into whatever you do in your workplace is going to make a massive difference.
References: The Ride Of A Lifetime by Robert Iger, How to Motivate Employees to Go Beyond Their Jobs by Mark C. Bolino, Anthony C. Klotz, To Become a Leader, Think Beyond Your Role by Robert Steven Kaplan, To Be a Great Leader, You Need the Right Mindset by Ryan Gottfredson and Chris Reina, Jack, Straight from the Gut by Jack Welch, IACOCCA -An Autobiography by Lee Iacocca, Mindset by Carol Dweck.